BOSTON (07-Feb) -- She didn't win the race, but as far as the capacity crowd of 5000 at the Reggie Lewis Track Facility here was concerned Shalane Flanagan was indeed this year's Reebok Boston Indoor Games' true champion. Finishing just a hair's breadth behind Ethiopia's Sentayehu Ejigu after a wild sprint to the tape in the 5000m, Flanagan smashed Marla Runyan's eight year-old American indoor record by some 20 seconds. Both she and Ejigu were given the same time, 14:47.62, and Runyan's mark of 15:07.44 had been smashed.
"I thought I had it," said Flanagan of the win. She added, jokingly: "I thought they were supposed to give the win to the hometown girl."
Flanagan, who grew up in nearby Marblehead, now has the unique privilege of holding all four USA distance records on the track at the same time: 3000m and 5000m indoors, and 5000m and 10,000m outdoors. She set both of her indoor records on this moderately banked Mondo track, and she credited her recent altitude training in Mexico, and the spirited competition against Ejigu for allowing her to break Runyan's mark.
"I was appreciative of the fact that she hung in there and made me work for it," said Flanagan. "It takes more than one person to set records."
Serbia's Marina Muncan handled the pacemaking expertly, taking Flanagan, Ejigu and Ireland's Mary Cullen through the first kilometer in 2:57.99 and 2 km in 5:56.11. After ten laps, Muncan stepped aside and Flanagan towed her two rivals for the next five laps until Cullen finally let go of the pace (she would finish third in 15:18.34). For the last ten laps, Ejigu drafted Flanagan lap after lap, the pair going through 4 km in 11:54.15 and nearly assuring Flanagan that the record was beaten. She was then focused on getting the win.
"I wanted to win in front of my hometown, in front of my home crowd," she said. "So, there's no better motivator than that."
In the 3000m, Kara Goucher got the victory which Flanagan didn't, holding off a credible challenge from Texas Tech's Sally Kipyego, 8:46.65 to 8:48.77. But the 30 year-old athlete, who is also here to train for the Boston Marathon, had hoped to run just a little faster.
"I would have loved to have run under 8:40 but it's O.K. that it didn't happen," said Goucher who will do a 20 mile long run on the Boston Marathon course tomorrow morning. "I knew that I could run negative splits but I knew that 8:40 wasn't going to happen, but it would have been nice."
Nick Willis won the best of the five one-mile races contested here tonight. In the meet's closing event, Willis ran just slightly off of the pace, timing his effort in the final lap, perfectly. The New Zealander who has an Olympic bronze medal was running fourth behind pacemaker Adam Perkins, Mexico's Pablo Solares and American mile record-holder Alan Webb through the quarter in 57.6 seconds, and the half in 1:56.6. Solares spurted ahead when Perkins retired, and was leading at three-quarters (2:56.7). But Willis stayed cool.
"I think there's a temptation when you get into the pros... to go behind the rabbit," said Willis. "Something my wife has continued to emphasize to me is, use your strengths. You're not a front runner. You close well and you always run well when you are slightly within yourself. That's something I did today."
Showing by far the best closing speed, Willis turned a 27-second final lap to overwhelm the field and win in 3:53.54, almost a full second up on Solares (3:54.52). Webb faded to fourth, passed by his sometime training partner Chris Lukezic.
Lindsey Gallo was the upset winner in the women's mile. Off of a 2:15 half-way split, Gallo overcame a powerful move by Mestawot Tadesse with 150m to go, just edging ahead of the Ethiopian in the final meters to win her first race since 2005, 4:27.90 to 4:28.18.
"I am like in shock," said Gallo. "It feels really good to win again." She said that she knew if she reacted quickly she could beat Tadesse because her best weapon his her final kick. "You know you've got a fast last 50 so you've got to turn it on right now," she recalled telling herself during the race.
Mac Fleet of University City High School in San Diego, Calif., won the boys junior mile in a three way sprint against Rhode Island's Andrew Springer and Alabama's Patrick McGregor in 4:09.06 (four boys finished in a half second span). Fleet was shocked when Springer and McGregor let up in the last 20 meters.
Jessica Parry of Ontario, Canada won the girls junior mile in 4:51.62 and Ohio State's Jeff See won the men's college mile in 4:01.17.
Also impressive tonight was USA Olympic Trials 800m champion Nick Symmonds, who won the 1000m race by breaking from the pack on the backstretch, running wide, and holding off all challengers in the last 50m. He clocked 2:20.52 in his debut at the distance, indoors.
"I really didn't want to wait until the last 50 which is what I was doing last year," said Symmonds. "There's not enough room indoors."
Bekana Daba won a two-man battle with American collegian Galen Rupp in the men's 3000m, 7:41.88 to 7:44.69. For the 22 year-old Rupp, the reigning NCAA cross country champion, it was the fastest 3000m he had ever run, indoors or out.
"I was just trying to focus on my form and not falling apart," said Rupp. "Whether I was going to get him or not was kind of irrelevant." Obviously pleased with his time he added: "Yeah, good race. Not bad."
Off of the track, Australia's Steve Hooker overwhelmed the competition in the pole vault, clearing 6.06m to become the second-highest indoor jumper of all-time behind the legendary Sergey Bubka. He took three attempts at a new world record 6.16, and came close on his third attempt. Jenn Stuczynski won the women's pole vault in 4.82m, beating Stacy Dragila who jumped 4.42m.