(05-Mar) -- Emily Sisson and Nico Montanez scored convincing wins today at the 45th Gate River Run in Jacksonville, Fla., the traditional home of the USATF 15-K Championships. Sisson, who represents New Balance, successfully defended her 2021 title in 47:28, collecting her fifth national title across all distances and surfaces. Montanez, who trains with the Mammoth Track Club and represents Asics, clocked 43:10 to collect his first national title in any discipline.
While both athletes earned $10,000 in prize money, Sisson won an additional $5,000 for winning the race's gender challenge. The women were given a six-minute head start and Sisson crossed the finish line one minute and 42 seconds ahead of Montanez.
In typically humid Florida conditions, Sisson led the elite women's race right from the gun. In the early kilometers she had company from both Emily Infeld (Nike) and Emily Durgin (adidas), but by the 5-kilometer mark (15:38) she already had a six-second lead. Running her first race since placing tenth in the 10,000m at the Tokyo Olympics last August, Sisson found herself in the same position as last year: running alone and against the clock.
"It's my first race back from Tokyo, so it's just good to push my body that hard," Sisson told Chris Nickinson of USATF.tv in her post-race broadcast interview. "I haven't done that in so long now."
Sisson, 30, who lives in the Phoenix area but has been training recently at high altitude in Flagstaff, Ariz., checked her watch a few times as she clicked off her kilometers in the 3:10 range. Her splits were showing that she had a chance at Shalane Flanagan's American record of 47:00 set at the same race in 2014. But ascending the 141 foot (43m) high Hart Bridge which begins at about 13 km, Sisson lost too much time and had to settle for the #4 USA performance ever, behind only Flanagan and Olympic bronze medalist Deena Kastor who ran 47:15 in 2003 and 47:20 in 2007.
"It felt good to get out there and hoping this is a good springboard for the rest of the year," Sisson added.
Emily Durgin was a clear second in 49:17 and Emily Infeld got third in 49:46.
Montanez, 28, who is coached by Andrew and Deena Kastor, stayed tucked-in to the men's lead pack for nearly the entire race. Two-time Olympic medalist Galen Rupp (Nike) led for more than two thirds of the race, splitting 5-K in 14:27 and 10-K in 28:52 with steeplechaser Hilary Bor (Hoke One One) on his heels. Montanez waited for the incline on Hart Bridge before attacking the field. He quickly opened a big lead. Montanez said that his move wasn't spontaneous.
"It wasn't a moment like that where I'm like, oh, I had the lead and time to go," Montanez said in his post-race broadcast interview. "This thing was planned, it was maneuvered, it was thought out, it was prayed for. This is something that has been on my mind. This is Andrew and Deena Kastor, both of my coaches. This is their recipe."
Montanez crested the bridge with none of the other men still within striking distance and was able to enjoy the final kilometer to the finish. Behind him, Leonard Korir, a 2016 Olympian, out-sprinted Bor for second place, although both men were given the same time: 43:14. Rupp, who is also running the United Airlines NYC Half on March 20, faded in the last two kilometers and finished seventh in 43:31.
Todd Williams's championships, race and national record of 42:22, which was set in 1995, stood up yet another year.
The Gate River Run was never cancelled due to the pandemic. It was held on March 7, 2020, just before the initial pandemic shutdown, and race director Doug Alred was able to stage the race in 2021 early in the USA mass-vaccination process by cutting the field size in half to about 6700 finishers and employing social distancing. The event has hosted the USATF Championships since 1994.
The Gate River Run is part of the USATF Running Circuit. The next event is the USATF 1 Mile Road Championships to be held in Des Moines, Iowa, on April 26.