NEW YORK (27-Feb) -- Running in a small invitational college meet at the Armory Track & Field Center in Upper Manhattan, New Zealander Kim Smith rolled to the second-fastest 5000m in the world this year: 14:39.89. Shattering her own national record by more than ten seconds, she is now #4 all-time at the distance indoors, displacing Romania's Gabriela Szabo.
"It was a PB for me so I'm really excited," said the 27 year-old athlete who finished ninth in the Beijing Olympics at the 10,000m. "I wanted to post a time before World Cross Country."
Smith had pacemaking assistance by the New York Athletic Clubs's Lesley Higgins for the early stages of the race. Higgins took her through the first 1000m in 2:57.3, keeping her from going out too quickly.
"Definitely," said Smith when asked if Higgins's pacing helped her stay within herself. "Mostly to get the pace right."
After that, Smith had to navigate her way past the other ten women in the race who would finish nearly three minutes behind her. Lapping the field so many times meant that Smith ran farther than 5000m. She didn't mind.
"It was good to have them because I could look ahead," said Smith who used the other packs as a way to stay focused during the race.
Smith picked it up in the second kilometer, splitting 2000m in 5:52.2, then set an Armory record at 3000m in 8:48.6 (a time confirmed by three watches). The small crowd, mostly college athletes here to compete or cheer on their teammates, began to cheer loudly as track announcer Ian Brooks kept them abreast of the splits.
Staying smooth, Smith hit 4000m in 11:44.6 then held her form to the finish, squeezing a little sprint out in the final 50 meters. It was harder than it looked.
"I was getting pretty tired in the last laps," said Smith, who represents Reebok. "I thought my legs were going to fall off."
Smith said that her training for last November's ING New York City Marathon gave her the additional strength for her track campaign this year, which she hopes will culminate with a top finish at the IAAF World Championships in Athletics in Berlin at 10,000m. She, and coach Ray Treacy, knew she was ready for a real test after a strong workout last week.
"I knew I was pretty fit," said Smith still dripping with sweat. "I did a workout with a 4:30 final mile."
New York University coach Nick McDonough set up the race for Smith, incorporating it into his NYU Fastrack Invitational meeting. A hands-on meet director, McDonough was on the infield giving Smith her lap splits.
"We always love to have elite athletes come anytime we can help them achieve their goals," said McDonough.