Jenny Simpson Returns To Competition With A Win

Jenny (Barringer) Simpson won her first race of 2011 after a hip injury which sidelines her for most of last year. PhotoRun.net

Jenny (Barringer) Simpson won her first race of 2011 after a hip injury which sidelines her for most of last year. PhotoRun.net

She had been sidelined for seven months.

Written by: David Monti

(c) 2011 Race Results Weekly,all rights reserved. Used with permission.

NEW YORK — Jenny Simpson’s seven month layoff from competition due to a hip injury appeared to have no ill effects on the 24 year-old athlete at Sunday’s 16th New Balance Games at the Armory, a meet in which athletes posted four world-leading times.

Simpson, who competed in the invitational mile, let pacemaker Lesley Higgins do the work for the first four laps, running a few strides behind when Higgins hit halfway in 2:16.3.

After Higgins retired, Simpson simply held her position in the second half of the race, holding off challenges from Villanova alums Carmen Douma-Hussar (4:30.88) and Frances Koons (4:31.53 PB) to win easily in a world-leading 4:28.60.

“Just like any season opener we went out a little easy,” said Simpson, who had never competed before at the Armory. She continued: “When she (the pacemaker) stepped off the track I was like, alright, this is where the race starts. I really wanted to negative split, and I’m really happy.”

Last year’s NCAA 800m champion for Tennessee, Phoebe Wright, didn’t run a world leader in the invitational 800m but she came close. Off of a 58-second opening 400m, Wright held off Heidi Dahl in the final meters to run a USA-leading 2:00.39. She ran the last 200m in 30.6 seconds.

“It was a really good effort,” Wright told reporters. “I’m really pleased with it, pleased with how it felt. I’m pleased with the result.”

Dahl (2:01.80) and LaTavia Thomas (2:01.81) both clocked personal best indoor times in second and third place, respectively. Maggie Vessey finished fourth in 2:03.40, and high-schooler Claudia Francis ran 2:10.08 in eighth place.

Craig Miller, the former Wisconsin Badger, won the men’s invitational mile in 3:59.10, this season’s first sub-four effort. Miller passed Canada’s Taylor Milne with 300m to go to take the lead for good, splitting the final 200m in 28.3 seconds. “It was my first race of the season, so I wasn’t really sure what to expect,” Miller said. “But I know I was in good shape based off of my training. So, I just wanted to go out there, follow the person in front of me, and not think too much.”

Milne finished second in 3:59.34, an indoor personal best, former Stanford runner Garrett Heath got third in 3:59.58, and fourth place Rob Novak scored his first ever sub-four finish in 3:59.70. Milne may have run his way into the Millrose Games because today’s mile winner earned an invitation to the Wanamaker Mile, provided he broke four minutes.

Miller, who soon leaves for Australia, can’t accept the invitation so the spot is Milne’s for the taking, according to the Armory’s Jack Pfeifer.

In other action, the invitational 400m races were won by Amy Hastings in a world-leading 52.29, and Michael Courtney in 47.19. The high school miles, in which the top-2 finishers earned Millrose Games berths, were won by Chad Noelle of Green H.S. (4:11.64) and Angel Piccirillo of Homer Center H.S. in 4:56.52. The elite men’s 1500m, essentially an overflow race from the invitational mile, was won by Kyle Miller in 3:41.99, another early world-leader. In addition to the invitational events, some 5000 high schoolers competed in the meet’s open sections which lasted some eight hours.

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