By Chris Lotsbom, @ChrisLotsbom
Gebremeskel, True Impress In Elite Races
SOMERVILLE, Mass., USA (17-Jun) -- For a meet that was filled with Olympic medalists and global stars, it was high school junior Kate Murphy who had the most jaw-dropping performance here at the first adidas Boost Boston Games. Only 16 years-old, Murphy stormed to an upset victory over Katie Rainsberger in the adidas Dream High School 1500m, posting a time of 4:07.21. The mark is the third-fastest ever by an American high school girl, and was even quicker than the winner of the women's professional race here tonight.
"Ummmm wow," said a speechless Murphy when told that her time was better than Corey McGee's 4:08.65, posted to win the women's pro race. It also qualified Murphy for the U.S. Olympic Trials. "I was trying to race fast... I don't know [what to think]!"
McGee's response was apropos: "I wish I was in the high school race! Wow that's fast!"
Murphy, a native of Burke, Va., burst onto the scene last year when she won a Penn Relays wheel and ran 4:16.98 to win the USA junior title. Improving steadily, she didn't think a time like 4:07 was possible today. She simply wanted to run against her competition.
"Coming in I knew I needed to get it done, this field was not joking around," she said. "When I went out I felt really good and this was one of my last shots at getting [the Olympic Trials standard]. I was just trying to be really brave and I pushed the pace because I knew I didn't want to come through with one lap and close really, really hard. So I just felt really, really good."
Facing Rainsberger, who will attend the University of Oregon next fall, Murphy kept her focus lap after lap and completed her final circuit in 62.05 well out ahead of the field; she'd win over Rainsberger 4:07.21 to 4:14.12. For her efforts and winning time, Murphy earned both the Champion's Belt (similar to what a world-class boxer would don) and a starting spot for the U.S. Olympic Trials in Eugene, Ore., in July.
"It feels amazing. I've been patient over this whole season, and I feel like it really all came together," she said. "My number one goal was just to come out and compete.... The goal was to compete and really just be brave."
Murphy's time ranks only behind Mary Cain (4:04.62 in 2013) and Alexa Efraimson (4:07.05 in 2014) on the all-time USA high school list. Exhausted from the effort and still gasping for air some 30 minutes after her race, she was elated and still trying to comprehend the effort.
In the professional section, McGee held off Rachel Schneider and Mary Cain in a tough, tactical race. McGee's time was 4:08.65, with her competitors 4:09.29 and 4:10.84 respectively. Though not as quick as Murphy, McGee took confidence from the performance.
"It's fun to win, so I'm definitely excited about that," said McGee, who trains in the Boston area. "I think it will take faster than what I ran today to get into the [Olympic Trials] final. I'm not too worried about it, I know it will come."
Mary Cain did not speak to the media after her race, telling Race Results Weekly that she had to go quickly to do a workout elsewhere.
A pair of Olympic medalists in Dejen Gebremeskel and Meseret Defar took to the track for 5000m seeking times good enough for Olympic selection by the Ethiopian federation. One would succeed, while the other likely faltered despite giving her all.
Gebremeskel and countryman Hagos Gebrhiwet traded the lead multiple times lap after lap, keeping the tempo consistent on 13:00 pace. Knowing that they'd need to run 13:00 or better to jump into the top three on their national descending list, the pair used the crowd's roars to their advantage. Standing in lane five, the crowd clapped and screamed the competitors onwards.
Through 3000m in 7:50.98 and hitting the bell lap with 12:02.42 on the clock, both Gebremeskel and Gebrhiwet picked up the pace as much as they could, rounding the track in 57.48 seconds. They were rewarded with times of 12:59.89 (Gebremeskel) and 13:00.20 (Gebrhiwet), good enough for second and fourth in the world this year (not to mention second and third fastest among Ethiopians).
"This was really fantastic, a really nice race," said Gebremeskel, the reigning Olympic silver medalist at 5000m. "They ran 13:03 [in Stockholm at yesterday's IAAF Diamond League meet] but we run 12:59.89, so I am so glad to run this meet in Boston.
"I came four times to Boston and I win four times," Gebremeskel said, reflecting on his success at the B.A.A. 5K, B.A.A. Invitational Mile, and New Balance Indoor Grand Prix. "In my mind, I feel I can win and will win when I come to Boston. I always come to run fast in Boston... Before I came I say that I could run under 13-flat and a world lead and I came here and run that [under 13 minutes] and I am so happy."
Gebrhiwet, who sported sleek red adidas sunglasses he got here in Boston, was pleased as well. In halting English, he noted that working with Gebremeskel helped him very much, and that he was extremely happy to be among Ethiopia's top three athletes at the moment.
As for Defar, a 15:06.96 winning time would not be enough to crack into the top 20 globally. Dealing with a pair of calf injuries that flared up mid-race, Defar hung tough to earn a commanding, six second win over Americans Marielle Hall (15:13.66) and Abbey D'Agostino (15:22.29). Running most of the race alone, Defar drew an ovation from the crowd.
"I am not satisfied with the time," Defar said. "It is a difficult time for me now because the Olympics is too close, the deadline is maybe only 25 days [away]. I don't know what happens after this, but I will try my best. This is a difficult moment in my athletics career."
Trying to enter this year's U.S. Olympic Trials without any pressure, Hall stuck to her plan and got another step closer to making her first Olympic team.
"It's not about training anymore. The people who make the team are the one's who think they are going to make the team, you know," Hall said. "I'm going into it confident and positive. I'm just going to trust my coach, trust the advice that he gives me, and on race day put myself in it. I know I'm good enough to compete with the best, and that's what I'm going to do."
D'Agostino was grateful to be healthy and fit with three weeks to go until the Trials. After a tumultuous year and a half of injuries, she's making the most of every day running.
"I'm really thankful and I know that more work can be done in the next three weeks," she said. "I'm on the track and back to normal now."
Sadly, Britain's Jo Pavey just missed the Olympic 5000m standard of 15:24.00, running 15:24.74. If it weren't for a brief stumble on the rail near the finish, she may have had the mark and a ticket to her fifth Olympic Games.
Not known as a miler, American long-distance ace Ben True stole the thunder in the men's 1500m, recording the fastest time by an American this year (and an Olympic qualifying standard) of 3:36.05. Though he didn't win, True's mark was by far the most impressive of the contest. Kenya's Collins Cheboi prevailed in a sprint to the line over Nick Willis, winning 3:35.82 to 3:35.95.
"Man that was quick!" True proclaimed after the race, smiling at media members track-side. Having not raced a 1500m in years, True got the most of dropping down in distance; his race was over in the blink of an eye.
"I was a little surprised," True said of his time. Now primarily healthy (though still dealing with occasional nagging pain in his Achilles), he is gearing up for the Trials distance double. Though first he'd test his speed. "Two years ago I did a time trial on the Dartmouth track by myself and ran 3:37; my training partner at the time Sam Chelanga held the stopwatch for me. So I knew I was a little bit faster than my PR from I don't know how many years ago indicated. But no, I did not think that I was going to have the strength that I had."
True says he'll race both the 5000m and 10,000m at the U.S. Olympic Trials, though if he was to qualify for both he'd chose the 5000m. Calling the 5000m a 'whole different animal' compared to the 1500m, the Dartmouth alum did think that this was a good indication of his fitness.
Ajee' Wilson and Molly Ludlow both dipped under the 2:00 barrier in the women's 800m, finishing a stride ahead of the field. Wilson took control of the slow pace after the bell was hit in 59.44, and went on to win in 1:59.72 to Ludlow's 1:59.93.
"I wasn't sure how the race was going to go," Wilson said. "I definitely have gotten better since my last race. My coach and I have tried to time this perfectly [peak-wise] and I think we are on the right track."
Jack Salisbury of Rhode Island won the adidas High School Boys' Dream Mile, overtaking favorite Thomas Ratcliffe steps from the line. Their times were 4:04.20 and 4:04.41.
"I knew I could pick off kids, I knew I was probably going to run a PR, but I didn't know I could win," said Salisbury. "Honestly I didn't know I could win until 80 or 90 [meters] to go."
The adidas Boost Boston Games continue tomorrow, as sprints take center stage in downtown Boston as part of a street meet festival.
PHOTO: High school junior Kate Murphy of Burke, Va., wins the high school 1500m at the first adidas Boost Games in Somerville, Mass., on June 17, 2016 (photo by Chris Lotsbom for Race Results Weekly)
PHOTO: Dejen Gebremeskel and Hagos Gebrhiwet of Ethiopia competing at the 5000m at the first adidas Boost Games in Somerville, Mass., on June 17, 2016 (photo by Chris Lotsbom for Race Results Weekly)