Molly Huddle continues her streak of impressive performances on and off the track.
Written by: Sam Grotewold Copyright 2011 Race Results Weekly.
All rights reserved. Used with permission.
SAN FRANCISCO — Under a blanket of typical San Francisco fog that faded throughout the morning but never completely went away, American 5000-meter record-holder Molly Huddle and Ben Bruce of the Oregon Track Club won the women’s and men’s races, respectively, at the Bay Area Cross Challenge on Sunday, a new event organized by the Bay Area Track Club and sponsored by New York Road Runners. The event gave athletes a tune-up opportunity before the USA Cross Country Championships on February 5 in San Diego.
Huddle, who has been training in the warmth of Arizona since the beginning of 2011, seized the lead in the opening strides and ran alone on her three circuits of the 2 km loop around Golden Gate Park’s Polo Fields, winning the 6K race in 19:19. For Huddle, whose 19th place finish helped Team USA to the bronze medal at the 2010 IAAF World Cross Country Championships, the meet was a perfect opportunity to test her fitness before the USA Championships in three weeks’ time. “I wanted to get a race in around now, and this was an easy trip from where I’m training [in Tucson],” said Huddle, who lives in Providence, R.I. “I think the USA Championships will be a little faster, so I still have some sharpening to do.
Following Huddle were reigning USA indoor 3000-meter champion Renee Baillie (19:31) and 2008 Olympian Magdalena Lewy Boulet (19:32). Lewy Boulet, who lives in nearby Oakland, is a member of the Bay Area Track Club, was also part of the meet organizing committee. In contrast to Huddle’s relatively easy victory, the men’s 8K race was only decided in the final centimeters. Steeplechaser Jon Pierce, who attended college at nearby Stanford University and now trains with the Mammoth Track Club under coach Terrence Mahon, led the race through halfway before beginning to fade. The lead was quickly assumed by three-time World Cross Country team member Max King, along with Bruce and his Oregon Track Club teammate Kevin Chelimo.
Although Bruce had a one-step lead when the group disappeared from view on the ultimate lap, the trio turned onto the 300-meter finish straight side-by-side, with no indication of who might win. Sprinting at top speed through a particularly muddy patch 200 meters from the finish, Chelimo inched ahead of his rivals, but King and Bruce quickly pulled even. It was not until the final three meters that Bruce edged ahead just enough to be given the win after a lengthy review of the finish line photo. All three athletes were given the same finishing time of 23:12, and Bruce’s margin of victory over runner-up Chelimo was .07 seconds. Like Huddle, he picked up $2,000 for winning the race, part of a $9,000 total prize money purse.
Bruce, who didn’t know he had won until well after he had crossed the finish line, was motivated by a similar experience that didn’t go his way a few months ago. “I thought I had it won at the USA 5K Championships last fall, and [Robert Cheseret] got by me in the last 10 meters, so I just wanted to keep driving and not celebrate until I hit the tape,” the steeplechaser said. A San Diego native, Bruce will look to qualify for his second consecutive World Cross Country Championships team in his hometown next month.
Nobody was more satisfied after the meet than 2009 World Championships 1500-meter bronze medallist Shannon Rowbury, who along with three-time national champion David Torrence and Olympian Bolota Asmerom led the organization of the event.
“We knew it was going to be a lot of work going into organizing this meet, but I’ve been really amazed by the energy, talent and work ethic of my teammates at the Bay Area Track Club in putting this meet on,” she said. Rowbury, who ran many cross country races on this same Golden Gate Park circuit during her high school career, is still in early training mode for her 2011 track season and did not compete.
The meet recorded 109 total finishers in the junior, women’s and men’s races.