EAGLE ROCK, Calif (16-May) -- Jack Kemp Stadium on the campus of Occidental College here may have been dimly-lit tonight, but Rachel Schneider and Aisha Praught-Leer shined brightly in the women's 5000m, running world-leading times of 15:06.71 and 15:07.50, respectively, at the USATF Distance Classic. Both women surpassed the 2020 Olympic Games qualifying standard of 15:10.00, and were comfortably inside of the softer 15:22.00 qualifying standard for the 2019 IAAF World Championships. Both marks were personal bests, and Praught-Leer set a new Jamaican record.
Schneider and Praught-Leer, who both represent Under Armour, took full advantage of the smooth pacemaking of reigning world steeplechase champion, Emma Coburn, who trains with Praught-Leer in Boulder, Colo. From the gun, Praught-Leer stayed right behind Coburn who was clicking off laps in the 72 to 73-second range. She didn't want a gap to develop.
"She committed right from the start," Coburn said of Praught-Leer.
Schneider ran the early laps slightly off of the lead following Lauren Paquette and Jessica O'Connell of Canada (who would later drop out). But with three laps to go, both Paquette and O'Connell had drifted back leaving only Praught-Leer and Schneider on Coburn's tail. Coburn would soon step aside, leaving Praught-Leer and Schneider to battle for the win. Schneider led by a fraction of a second at the bell, and her closing lap of 68.2 seconds was about half a second faster than Praught-Leer's and that was the difference at the line.
At the Payton Jordan Invitational at Stanford University two weeks ago Schneider finished second to Jenny Simpson in the 5000m, clocking 15:21.44. That meant she already had the IAAF World Championships qualifying mark and could afford to take a chance here tonight and go for a faster time. The weather was perfect --cool, dry and still-- and she knew that Coburn would be a terrific pacemaker.
"It was perfect," Schneider said of Coburn's pacemaking. "I can't miss out on this opportunity. So, every 5-K I've run up to this point was super conservative, so I wanted to do the opposite, go out aggressive. If I blow up, I blow up. It was really great that they paced it so smooth and so even, exactly what they said. I figured I could kick off of that and try to get the Olympic standard."
Both Paquette (15:14.64) and Stephanie Bruce (15:17.76) also made the World Championships standard. Paquette's mark was just off of her personal best, while the 35-year-old Bruce smashed her career best time by 31 seconds. Miler Helen Schlachtenhaufen made a very good debut, finishing fifth in 15:30.83. In all, 14 women broke 15:45.
Lawi Lalang of the U.S. Army team won the men's 5000m by three seconds over Josh Kerr of Great Britain and the Brooks Beasts. However, Lalang's time of 13:25.14 was just off of the world championships qualifying time of 13:22.50, and that disappointed him. He ran the last half of the race alone. Kerr, a miler, only narrowed the gap in the last two laps.
"It wasn't easy," Lalang told reporters. "You have to push yourself." He continued: "I wish someone else was there to run with me."
Nikki Hiltz of adidas and the Mission AC won her fourth race since April 13th here tonight, running a personal best 4:07.71 in the 1500m. She edged Karissa Schweizer of the Nike Bowerman Track Club in a homestretch sprint; Schweizer was clocked in 4:08.51. Germany's Konstanze Klosterhalfen of the Nike Oregon Project was third (4:09.16).
"I think I came out here wanting to PR, but I think more importantly I just wanted to win because winning is so much fun," Hiltz told Race Results Weekly. "I've kind of gotten addicted to it."
Hiltz's time was about a second off of the World Championships qualifying time of 4:06.50.
Sweden's Kalle Berglund had the fastest time out of three sections of the men's 1500m, clocking 3:37.84. His time was well off of the World Championships qualifying standard of 3:36.00.
The best marks in the 800m were achieved by Clayton Murphy of the Nike Oregon Project (1:46.10) and Kate Grace of the Nike Bowerman Track Club (2:02.95). The steeplechase races were won by Jordan Mann in 8:30.99 and Courtney Barnes in 9:59.82.