By Rich Sands, @sands
NEW YORK (08-Jun) -- On a morning with near-perfect weather conditions in Central Park, Sara Hall won a thrilling battle for the USATF Women's 10-K Championship, using a devastating kick to pull away from fellow Flagstaff, Arizona, resident Stephanie Bruce in the final 100 meters.
The event was held as part of the 48th edition of the NYRR New York Mini 10-K, the longest-running women's-only road race in the world.
PHOTO: Sara Hall wins the 2019 NYRR New York Mini 10-K in 32:37, her seventh USA title (photo by Jane Monti for Race Results Weekly)
Five minutes before the open race began, a field of 28 American professionals set out for the national title under comfortable temperatures (68F/20C) with moderate humidity and a slight breeze. Emma Bates, winner of U.S. titles in the marathon and 25-K in the past sixth months, took the early lead as the pack raced up Central Park West for the first mile (5:20), with Jordan Hasay and Carrie Dimoff a step behind. As the race moved into the park a few minutes later, Bruce inserted herself just behind Bates, while Hall began to move up through the tightly-bunched group.
Shortly past 2 miles (10:28), a pack of five began to pull away, including Bates, Bruce, Hall, Aliphine Tuliamuk and Sally Kipyego. Laura Thweatt soon reconnected to the leaders and those six women climbed and descended the steep north hill in the park together through 3 miles (15:34) and 5-K (16:11). In the fourth, uphill mile Bates finally gave up the lead and appeared to be dropping back, with Thweatt and Kipyego taking turns controlling the pace.
"It was an honest pace the whole way. I couldn't believe how fast we came through 5-K, which is mostly uphill," Hall told Race Results Weekly. "There was always someone else would get in the lead and start pushing any time it slowed down."
At the 4-mile mark (21:02) Bates had worked her way back into the mix, with Bruce and Thweatt now leading the group of six. Shortly past 8-K (26:02), the pack passed Sara's husband and coach, Ryan Hall, cheering on the side of the course.
"I could tell she was relaxed," the two-time Olympian said. "She smiled at me when she came past me. I was just telling her to collect herself on the downhill. When you're at that point in the race, everyone is screaming at you and you have to just relax, take a deep breath, collect yourself for the finish."
Moments later the 36-year-old Hall began a surge to the front, running side-by-side with Bruce, and Kipyego a stride back. With a little more than 400 meters to go, Kipyego lost contact as Bruce and Hall were powering uphill to the finish. At 6 miles (31:25) it was still tight, before Hall unleashed a powerful sprint over the final climb to the tape adjacent to Tavern on the Green (the same iconic finish line as the TCS New York City Marathon).
Hall opened up her entire five-second margin of victory in the final 100 meters, clocking 32:27 to Bruce's 32:32. Kipyego (32:35) held on for third as Bates (32:41) rallied past Thweatt (32:43) to finish fourth and fifth, respectively. The win was worth US $20,000 for Hall, part of a $75,000 purse for the national championship division.
"This one means a lot, because truly the best 10-K runners in the nation were here," said the durable Hall, who has now won seven national titles from one mile to the marathon. "Any time you get a field like that it's such an honor to be able to come out on top. American women's distance running is the best it's ever been right now, so I'm going to savor this."
Bruce, the defending U.S. champion in the 10-K road race, was pleased with her effort.
"I always say, if I can't pull off the win, at least we gave the crowd something really exciting all the way to end," she said as her two young sons, Riley and Hudson, playfully tugged on her and demanded to hold her finisher's medal. "I've been through this finish line so many times.
I've run the marathon here. I'm a strength runner and I knew I could kick uphill or downhill, but Sara is quick and she just got the best of me. I wanted to make sure that whatever the results were it was as close as possible." (Bruce's next race will be the USATF Outdoor Championships in Des Moines, Iowa, where she will run the 10,000 meters in the hopes of earning a spot on Team USA for the IAAF World Championships in Doha, Qatar.)
This was the latest in a series of close races between the two veterans.
"I knew it was going to be tough all the way to the end," said Hall, who only resumed running on March 1 after battling a series of injuries over the winter. "Thankfully Steph Bruce is someone I run with up in Flagstaff sometimes and it felt good to be running stride for stride out there, she feels like a teammate to me." She was disappointed in her 15th-place finish at the Boston Marathon in April, but has finally regained her groove. "I'm really excited to keep building from here," she said, with the Gold Coast Half Marathon in Australia in July next on her schedule. "I think having that long break will pay off later."
Belaynesh Fikadu, an Ethiopian who lives in the Bronx, was the first of nearly 9,000 finishers in the open race, clocking 34:36. Susannah Scaroni of Champaign, Illinois, won the women's wheelchair division by 1 minute and 39 seconds, setting a world 10-K best of 22:22 to win the event for the second year in a row and grab a US $2000 prize.
PHOTO: The top-3 finishers from the 2019 NYRR New York Mini 10-K (left to right) Steph Bruce (2nd place), Sara Hall (1st place), Sally Kipyego (3rd place) (Photo by Jane Monti for Race Results Weekly