BAY SHORE, N.Y. (04-Sep) -- Reigning NCAA 5000m champion Morgan McDonald made his first-ever professional track race on U.S. soil a memorable one, overwhelming the field at the fifth annual Hoka One One Long Island Mile here in a personal best 3:54.63. The former Wisconsin Badger, who will represent Australia in the 5000m at the upcoming IAAF World Championships in Athletics in Doha, shot away from the field with about 250 meters to go and was never challenged. The Under Armour-sponsored athlete won $3000 in prize money.
Running a savvy race, McDonald stayed tucked in the pack in the early laps, holding back when pacemaker Rob Napolitano ran the first quarter in a quick 55.2 seconds. Andy Bayer and David Ribich committed to that pace and were close behind Napolitano. The pace cooled to 60.2 for the second quarter, and after Napolitano retired the third quarter was even slower at 61.9. McDonald had passed Ribich and through the bell he was just steps behind Bayer. He knew he had to act.
"It went out hot, and on that third lap I probably should have gone a bit earlier, but I was a little uncomfortable and a little bit scared. When I went I knew I had a lot left. I just went for it, you know."
Indeed, when McDonald launched his long drive for the finish on the backstretch, he left the rest of the field flat-footed. There was no response, and McDonald was just running on feel. He ran his last quarter in 57.2 seconds, and his time was the second fastest winning mark in the history of the event.
"I didn't know what my time was, but I felt pretty good," McDonald said breaking into a smile after a reporter told him he had run 3:54. "That's all right. That's not bad. I'll take it. I'm really happy with that."
Robert Domanic won a three-way sprint for second, finishing in 3:57.41 to defeat Riley Masters (3:57.59) and Dillon Maggard (3:57.76). Bayer, who was leading at the bell, faded to finish 11th in 4:00.59. Nine men finished under four minutes.
McDonald, who will also run the New Balance Fifth Avenue Mile in nearby New York City on Sunday, said that he was using these mile races to help him prepare for Doha.
"I've been racing (only) a little bit; I've just been training," he said. "This is prep for Doha; it's good to get out there and have a hit-out like that."
The women's mile was a more conservative affair. Pacemaker Kenyetta Iyevbele went through the first quarter in 67.6 seconds, and slowed for the second in 69.9. Her closest followers were Lauren Johnson, Heather Kampf and Katie Mackey. After Iyevbele dropped out, the pace slowed to 70.5 for the third quarter and the field bunched up. Six women were still in contention, including Amanda Eccleston who had won this event back in 2015. Eccleston kept her powder dry, waiting for the final bend to run wide and pull away from Kampf and Mackey and win in 4:32.58.
"It felt good to be back out there and be in it, and remembering how to move and remembering how to race," said an emotional Eccleston who has battled injuries over the last two seasons and hasn't broken 4:10 for 1500m since 2017. "I'm really excited now, I'm just really happy."
Kampf finished second in 4:32.79 and Mackey was third in 4:33.28. Johnson faded in the last lap to finish 12th (and last).
In a special 5000m race for women, training partners Molly Huddle and Emily Sisson traded the lead after pacemakers Annika Sisson and Millie Paladino dropped out, splitting 3000m in 9:12.6. They were looking for a hard effort to help them prepare for the IAAF World Championships where they will both run the 10,000m.
"We were going to do a time trial in Providence coming down from altitude," explained Huddle. "We just got down a few days ago. We thought it would be good to make it a race if we could find one. We debated going to Europe, but we didn't think it would be good to travel back and forth before Worlds. So we e-mailed Kyle (Merber, the meet director) and he was gracious enough to put on a 5-K for us."
After a slow 74.1-second lap through 3000m, the duo picked up the pace and ran 72.9, 73.3, 72.3 and 71.8 through 4600m before Huddle pulled ahead to win with a 65.1-second final lap. She ran about 15:08-flat, with Sisson a few steps behind, but their official times were not immediately available.
"We wanted to go a bit faster, but we knew we had to be flexible today because you don't know how you're going to feel coming down from altitude and racing for the first time in a while," said Sisson. She added: "It was good to get a rust-buster in."