By Chris Lotsbom, @ChrisLotsbom
Jenkins Upsets Centrowitz in Men's Race
NEW YORK (03-Sep) -- A pair of scintillating races captured thousands of spectators' attention here at the 2016 New Balance 5th Avenue Mile, with a mere one-tenth of a second separating winners Jenny Simpson and Eric Jenkins from their nearest challenger. For Simpson, it was a record fifth title in six years, won in a blazing 4:18.4, the fastest winning time since PattiSue Plumer's event record 4:16.68 in 1990. For the men, 10,000m man Eric Jenkins snatched the win away from Olympic 1500m gold medalist Matthew Centrowitz in 3:49.4.
Jenny Simpson Caps Memorable Win With Family And Friends On Hand
PHOTO: Jenny Simpson leads the women's pro field at the 2016 New Balance Fifth Avenue Mile (photo by Jane Monti for Race Results Weekly)
Olympic bronze medalist Jenny Simpson had one race left in her season, and she wanted to make it count. Arriving here from Zürich fewer than 24 hours before the race began, Simpson had to battle jet lag and a strong field if she wanted to win again. The 30-year old had an extra advantage on her side: motivation.
"I really want to win. No, I really, really want to win," she told Race Results Weekly at the airport yesterday. That drive to win only increased Friday night, when members of Simpson's family surprised her at dinner here in Manhattan. Among the friends and family to drive more than 12 hours for the race were her sister and newborn nephew, whom Simpson was the godmother of and had never met before.
With the added motivation, Simpson sprinted from the line with fury, passing the clock at a quarter mile in just over 60 seconds. The effort was intentional, as Simpson wanted to break a majority of the large field early.
"I went out, like, let's get this mile over with," Simpson said. "I really wanted to run my fastest time here."
One woman who wouldn't budge from her shoulder was British star Laura Muir, fresh off an IAAF Diamond League title earned in Zürich on Thursday where she had beaten Simpson in the 1500m. At half way, Muir gained the slightest edge on Simpson, taking the midway bonus of $1000 by a step with 2:11 on the clock.
On the downhill stretch towards the finish, the pair established themselves as the ones to beat. While Amanda Eccleston, Heather Kampf, and Morgan Uceny all moved into position behind them, none of the three could overtake Simpson or Muir out front. When the three-quarters split read 3:15, everyone knew the pace was hot and they were destined for a fast time.
Simpson and Muir dug deep for a minute and change of pain out front, going to the final gear as the crowd's cheers grew.
Passing 1500m in a blistering 4:01, it was anyone's guess who had the best 100 meter sprint. That's when Simpson's motivation --in particular that from her family-- lifted her. She'd win by a hair, 4:18.3 to Muir's 4:18.4.
"Coming down the last quarter mile, I wanted it really bad. As the crowd got thicker and thicker and people are cheering, I just felt like my sense of being home and the sense of tradition elevated and elevated all the way to the finish. It just felt so good," said Simpson, accompanied by husband Jason.
Simpson glanced around her and emphasized how special the scene was. Not only was her family there, but Jason Simpson had run what was believed to be his own lifetime best mile earlier in the day as well. After planting a kiss on Jason's cheek, Jenny talked about the support from her family and friends. The win was dedicated to her youngest fan, her infant godson.
"To have him, the first race he ever gets to see of me, his auntie won! It's just like a fun family memory," she said.
Muir was pleased with her runner-up spot, especially as it caps a fortnight where she set a British record and world lead 3:55.22 for 1500 in Paris on August 28 and earned the Diamond League trophy in Zurich on Thursday.
"It was really, really quick. That's what I wanted, I wanted to push the pace and I tried to pace it as well I could, but Jenny just got there in the end. I'm just really happy how we won," Muir said. "I knew this was going to be a tough one, but I just dug in there as hard as I could. The legs just weren't there the last little bit."
Behind Simpson and Muir, Kampf managed to snag third in 4:19.7 --her first time making the podium here-- followed by Eccleston and Kate Grace in 4:20.6 and 4:22.7. Olympic steeplechase bronze medalist Emma Coburn was ninth in 4:23.8. Seventeen women broke 4:30.
Magnificent Move By Eric Jenkins Gains Him Glory On 5Th Ave
PHOTO: Matthew Centrowitz and Colby Alexander lead the men's pro field at the 2016 New Balance Fifth Avenue Mile (photo by Jane Monti for Race Results Weekly)
For some 1500 meters, Eric Jenkins was steps back from the lead and overshadowed by Olympic gold medalist Matthew Centrowitz. Yet it was Jenkins who took all --including Centrowitz-- by surprise when he passed on the west side of the roadway for the win in 3:49.4. The winning move was one of the most brilliant in recent race history.
Olympian Ben Blankenship took the lead from the gun and was aiming to get the halfway prime, passing the quarter mile in a fast 55 seconds with Olympic 800m bronze medalist Clayton Murphy on his tail. Yet Murphy played spoiler, kicking ten meters from the midway point to snatch the $1000 from Blankenship's pocket.
As if the move angered him, Blankenship surged on the downhill third quarter, increasing the tempo just enough to worry Centrowitz. In swift fashion, Centrowitz matched the move and grabbed the second spot with relative ease.
Like on the track, Centrowitz wanted to have the lead with 400 meters left. He seized control after hitting 3/4 in 2:51, and was a bit alarmed by what the clock read.
"Once I saw that three-quarter mile mark I knew it was really fast," Centrowitz told Race Results Weekly. "I thought to myself this is super quick and I don't think, if I can keep pushing right now, I don't think anyone could hold with me."
Despite his solid reasoning, Colby Alexander managed to creep up on Centrowitz's left shoulder. The New Jersey/New York Track Club and Hoka One One runner was in perfect position to potentially pull off the upset, until Centrowitz casually glanced to his side and saw the approaching Alexander in his traditional white headband. Centrowitz increased the tempo again to fend off Alexander, all the while unaware a sly Jenkins was encroaching on the other side.
As so often happens at this event, a surprise pass in the final 100 meters serves to be the dagger for one's dreams and the magic potion for another. The one celebrating this time would be Jenkins.
Jenkins' perfectly timed pass with steps remaining gave him the slightest victory in 3:49.4 over his Nike Oregon Project teammate Centrowitz, 3:49.5. Jenkins's time was the fastest winning time here in 21 years. Alexander was a close third in 3:50.3.
"I felt really great, so I started to try and close, and then with 200 to go I tried to make that even closer," said Jenkins, holding his American flag tightly. "I'm a very dramatic guy."
"Centro and Colby looked like they were battling for the last 200 meters, and I was just trying to get in, get in, get in," Jenkins recalled. "I remember Centro was looking over on his left to see where Colby was and I managed to sneak by on his other side. I tip-toed right by him, he didn't even hear me coming."
Just as Jenkins described, Centrowitz was caught off guard. He said Jenkins ran a sound race from start to finish, all the way through the line.
"I didn't look over right and Eric just kind of stormed right by and I couldn't respond. It was obviously a great race for him," Centrowitz began. "Sneaky little guy."
The win was a relief for Jenkins after finishing a heartbreaking fourth at the USA Olympic Trials over 5000m. Not making the Olympic team had been a major down, and this win served to rekindle his spirit.
"It's so much different to win and feel that competitive juices flowing and the energy you get right after crossing the finish line for the win. It means a lot to me, especially a race like this against the field. It does a lot for my confidence," he said.
Behind the three podium finishers, prime winner Murphy took fourth in his first Fifth Avenue appearance in 3:52.3 followed by Canadian Charles Philibert-Thiboutot (3:52.5) and Briton Chris O'Hare (3:53.0). Ford Palmer, Blankenship, Leo Manzano, and Kyle Merber rounded out the top ten in respective times of 3:53.3, 3:53.9, 3:54.4, and 3:55.3.
Seventeen of the 19 elite men broke four minutes.
Both Simpson and Centrowitz won $5000 for their victories. Unofficially, Simpson, Muir, Kampf, Jenkins and Centrowitz received additional $5000 bonuses from T-Mobile CEO John Legere for breaking 4:20 and 3:50, respectively.