Track Battles Abound In The Big Apple

There’s plenty of races worth watching at the adidas Grand Prix meet in New York this weekend.

Written by: Mario Fraioli

While the much-anticipated 100-meter sprint showdown of Bolt vs. Gay will have to wait another few weeks, there are plenty of distance races on the undercard worth keeping an eye on this Saturday at the sold-out adidas Grand Prix meet at New York’s Icahn Stadium.

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The women’s 1,500 meters will pack quite the punch, as the field will feature a slew of Olympic medalists, world champions and national record holders, including the 2008 Olympic gold medalist in the event, Nancy Langat of Kenya. The rest of the who’s who on the starting line will include multiple 3,000 and 5,000 meter medalist Meseret Defar of Ethiopia, her countrywoman Gelete Burka, Kenia Sinclair of Jamaica, as well as the impressive American delegation of Jenny Barringer, Shannon Rowbury, Shalane Flanagan, Anna Pierce, Morgan Uceny, Treniere Moser, Erin Donohue and Christin Wurth-Thomas. Langat, Burka, Barringer, Pierce and Wurth-Thomas all have sub-4:00 credentials, and a winning time in that range on Saturday is a likely scenario.

On the men’s side, Bernard Lagat will be dropping back down to a distance he is very familiar with, as the newly-minted American Record Holder in the 5,000 meters headlines the field in the men’s 1,500. Lagat, the only entrant in the race with a sub-3:30 clocking to his name, would be wise to sit back and let his experience, and superior finishing speed, work in his favor. The always-aggressive Lopez Lamong will likely string out the field, and Kenyans Peter Kemboi and Shedrack Korir — both sub-3:34 runners — along with world championships finalist Leo Manzano and sub-13 minute 5,000 meter man Matt Tegenkamp, should keep the pace honest.

In the men’s 3,000-meter steeplechase, Kenyan Paul Kipsiele Koech will try to challenge his own meet record of 8:01.85 set two years ago. The top seed in the field, Koech has run 8:06.69 this season and will likely be the best over the barriers on Saturday. His countryman, Patrick Langat, ran a personal best of 8:09.12 at the first Diamond League meet in Doha earlier this season. Brimin Kipruto, the reigning Olympic gold medalist in the event, is on the start list, but has only run 8:18.13 so far this season. Americans in the field include Steve Slattery, Bill Nelson, Brian Olinger, Dan Huling, Scott McPherson and Olympian Anthony Famiglietti, who is making his first foray into steeplechasing since the Olympics in Beijing.

The women’s 5,000 features a star-studded field, headlined by the world record holder in the event, Tirunesh Dibaba. Dibaba is making her season debut and may have her hands full with countrywomen Sentayehu Ejigu and Sule Utura, who have both already pocketed personal bests this season with 14:30.96 and 14:44.21 clockings, respectively. There are seven women in the field of thirteen with sub-15:00 bests to their credit, including three-time U.S. Olympian Jen Rhines.

Dropping down in distance,  the men’s 800 meters is loaded with talent, led by Kenyan Asbel Kisrop, the reigning Olympic gold medalist in the 1,500 meters, who has already posted an impressive 1:43.45 this season. Mbulaeni Mulaudzi, the reigning world champion in the event from South Africa, isn’t far behind with a season-best of 1:43.78 to his credit. American Nick Symmonds, a sub-1:44 man, is making his season debut and will look to challenge for the win on his home soil. This race is worth keeping a close eye on after last week’s battle between Kenyan David Rudisha and Abubaker Kaki of Sudan in Oslo. Rudisha ran a world-leading 1:42.04 and was followed closely by Kaki in 1:42.23. A sub-1:43 clocking or two this weekend in New York is not out of the question.

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