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Monday Morning Run: Taking aim at records

Monday Morning Run: Taking aim at records

| On 07, Jul 2014

With no major championship in 2014, much of the drama of the outdoor track season revolves around chasing records – personal records, national records, perhaps even world records. Several of those records came under direct challenge or were threatened by ominous performances last week.

Asbel Kiprop: When the long, tall Kenyan ran a personal best of 3:27.72 in the 1500m in Monaco last summer, much of the story centered on Mo Farah’s 3:28.81 in the same race. Farah’s impressive range upstaged Kiprop victory and third-best all-time performance. Perhaps then, it’s only appropriate that Kiprop showed his own range in another French arena to serve notice that the 1500m world record is indeed under threat.

Moroccan legend Hicham El Guerrouj ran 3:26.00 in Rome nearly 16 years ago, which makes it the second oldest men’s track and field outdoor world record on the books (newer only than Kevin Young’s 400m hurdles record of those events competed at major championships). On Saturday, Kiprop showed just how fast he is when he kicked from 300 meters out and held off Nijel Amos in a world-leading 1:43.34.

Granted, there was no David Rudisha or Mo Aman in the race, but those two would likely have only pushed Kiprop to run faster, even if he may not have won. He’ll need great pacing and the right conditions, but Kiprop has to feel he is as close as he’s ever been to taking down El Guerrouj.

Jenny Simpson: The American record-holder in the 3000m steeplechase has targeted Mary Slaney’s 1500m American record of 3:57.12. Her ability to push the pace off the front put her in the mix at the Prefontaine Classic where she ran a personal best of 3:58.28, though was passed with 200m to go by Hellen Obiri and Abeba Aregawi and then in the final 50m by Faith Kipyegon.

After cruising to her first U.S. title in Sacramento last weekend (4:04.96), she took aim at Slaney in Paris on Saturday. Simpson was the leading non-pacer virtually from the start until the 1200m mark. She went through 800m in 2:07, 1100m in 2:55 and 1200m in 3:10.

The rest of the field – including the presumptive world-best female milers in Aregawi and Obiri – were left in Simpson’s wake. Only naturalized Dutch runner and former Ethiopian Sifan Hassan was able to hang with Simpson, finishing in a world-leading (and Dutch record) 3:57.00. Simpson came through in 3:57.22, a tantalizing tenth of a second shy of Slaney’s record.

Obiri finished third, Shannon Rowbury broke through the 4:00 barrier with a 3:59.49 fifth-place finish, and Aregawi faded to 10th (4:03.46). Morgan Uceny was just 12th (4:04.76), but at least she didn’t fall, perhaps thanks to a hand from Tim Howard.

Emma Coburn: Simpson’s training partner in Boulder is attempting to take away her American steeplechase record of 9:12.50. Coburn was the shock winner of the steeple in Shanghai when Sofia Assefa and Hiwot Ayalew claim they thought she was a second pacer and let her go. Coburn ran strong from the front and won by nearly six seconds in 9:19.80. Coburn then finished third at Pre (behind Assefa and Ayalew) in a personal best of 9:17.84 and dominated to win at USAs in 9:19.72 on a scorching afternoon in Sacramento.

Saturday night in Paris, Coburn basically took over the role of pacer when the designated one dropped out after one kilometer. The Colorado alum took the women through 2000m in 6:10 and maintained the lead until the final lap when Ayalew finally passed her. Coburn was able to split Ayalew and Assefa for second in 9:14.12, less than two seconds back of Simpson’s mark.

Galen Rupp: The Olympic silver medalist has already chopped time off of his own 10,000m American record this season, and he’s taking aim at Bernard Lagat’s 5000m American record of 12:53.60. The field was set up to create a fast race – Yenew Alamirew, Edwin Soi, Caleb Ndiku, Paul Tanui, Hagos Gebrhiwet, Thomas Longosiwa, Ibrahim Jeilan (albeit in his season debut), Ben True were all there – but it never truly materialized, thanks in part to mediocre pacing but mostly due to a seeming unwillingness to go at it by the main contenders. Alamirew in particular took the lead at one point only to visibly slow.

This is not to say, though, that the race was slow. Indeed, it featured the fastest winning time of the season, with Edwin Soi running 55 seconds in the last lap to become the first man under 13 minutes this year, winning in 12:59.82. Still, when the target pace was something around 12:50, it was a disappointment.

Rupp led late in the race and tried to kick from about 600m out but never looked convincing. He finished fourth in 13:00.99, with both Alamirew (13:00.21) and Tanui (13:00.53) coming between the American and Soi. True was 11th in 13:13 as he attempted to break through the 13-minute barrier. Gebrhiwet finished 12th in 13:20; the 2013 Worlds silver medalist hasn’t hit his form yet this year. 

Bohdan and the Boys: The hot field event of 2014 has been the men’s high jump where any of a half-dozen jumpers appear ready to challenge Javier Sotomayor’s two-decades-old world record of 2.45. The latest attempts came in Lausanne on Thursday where Bohdan Bondarenko and Andriy Protsenko both cleared 2.40m. Bondarenko took aim at 2.46, but never really troubled that height on this night (though he did get a conciliatory hug from an anthropomorphic cow after his final failed attempt). He and Mutaz Barshim both came closer to the record in New York, but now Protsenko has become the fifth man to clear 2.40 this year (Ivan Ukhov and Derek Drouin are the others), and that doesn’t count Eric Kynard, the Olympic silver medalist, who has cleared 2.37.

Big Names Up and Down

Several of the sport’s biggest names are on the comeback trail, be it from injury or suspension. Many of them competed — or were supposed to — last week with mixed results.

The Good

Sanya Richards-Ross looked terrific in the 400m in Paris. She started fast, eased off in the second hundred and then took the last curve hard, kicking past a struggling Amantle Montsho and nicking the win ahead of Jamaicans Stephanie Ann McPherson and Novlene Williams-Mills in 50.10.

Allyson Felix didn’t come up with the win in the 200, but she looked very good in finishing second in 22.34 to the impressive Blessing Okagbare (22.32).

The Bad

Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce finished fifth in the same race as Felix. Her turn was good but she quickly ran out of gas.

Yohan Blake had the look of a guy who was ready to run fast but not the legs of one. He finished sixth in the Lausanne 200m in 20.48, nearly a quarter of a second behind fifth place. He ran slower than future FSU freshman Trentavis Friday (great name) did in the 200m heats at the USA Juniors (see more from that event below).

The Ugly

Tyson Gay got something less than a hero’s welcome in Lausanne for his return from a one-year doping ban. He did run well, finishing in 9.93, ahead of U.S. champ Michael Rodgers (who would go on to win the Paris 100m) and behind a world-leading 9.80 from Justin Gatlin.

Asafa Powell was also set to return from his own ban, but he pulled out of the Paris 100m with an apparent hamstring injury. Had he been there, he would have had to wait even longer to race thanks to Nickel Ashmeade’s petulant response to a false start.

Elsewhere…

Usain Bolt will race — at some point: Both Bolt and struggling Fraser-Pryce were named to the Jamaican national team for the Commonwealth Games, to be held in Glasgow, Scotland, at the end of the month. Both are expected to run only in the 4x100m relays. Bolt indicated through a representative that he will race in Europe after the Commonwealth Games. The jig is up.

Peachtree Road Race: On the road, Amy Hastings won the 10K road race (elite entries reserved for Americans only this year) in a personal best of 32:16, 12 seconds ahead of Sara Hall. For the men, Sara’s husband Ryan pulled out due to a flare up of recurrent hamstring issues, though he was not expected to contend for the win. Ultimately, Christo Landry took the win in 28:25, five seconds ahead of Tyler Pennel. More than 50,000 runners participated in the Atlanta event, and Meb Keflezighi passed 22,780 of them, more than his stated (seemingly arbitrary) goal of 22,500.

Edmonton International Track Classic: There were some good names in this strong meet and at least one surprising result — Aaron Brown topping Warren Weir and Wallace Spearmon in the men’s  200m in 20.25. LaShawn Merritt (44.30), Francena McCorory (50.43), Duane Solomon (1:44.92), Jeneba Tarmoh (11.11 in 100m, 22.82 in 200m), Justin Gatlin (10.05, -2.2) and Derek Drouin (2.32m) were winners in decent albeit unspectacular times/heights. Complete Results >>

USATF Junior Championships: The World Junior Championships begin on July 22 in Eugene, and the USA Juniors were there this weekend. Trayvon Bromell, who recently set a world junior 100m record while running for Baylor at the NCAAs, won comfortably by two-tenths in 10.07 (+1.2). Mary Cain won the 3000m in 9:15.81, more than 12 seconds ahead of second place. Kendell Williams, the multi-eventer from the University of Georgia, set an American women’s junior record in the 100m hurdles with a 12.87 (second fastest ever for a junior). In the highly anticipated women’s 1500m, phenom Alexa Efraimson led from the front and defeated fellow-phenom Elise Cranny by a half-second in 4:16.87. The rest of the field was nine seconds or further back. Complete Results >>

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