Lukas Verzbicas was a close second.
Written by: Chris Lotsbom
(c) 2011 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved. Used with permission.
BOSTON — Photo timing was needed to determine the winners of both the men’s and women’s divisions of the B.A.A. Invitational Mile here on the streets of Boston. The races were part of the activity-packed weekend leading up to the 115th Boston Marathon, which will be run on Monday.
As the sun began to peak through the clouds, the men’s elite field of five athletes, ranging in talent from a high school stand-out to 2008 Olympian, toed the line on Boylston Street. Run on a course which is a little over three laps of a city block, the race saw the pack of five pass through one lap (522m) in 1:36, led by defending champion Andy Baddeley of Great Britain. Slow from the start, everyone seemed concerned about the four 90-degree turns and the slippery pavement, wet from rain an hour before the race began.
The lead would change before the group passed the finish line on Boylston for a second time, as Craig Miller, the eight-time all-American at the University of Wisconsin, took the lead. University of Oregon-bound high school senior Lukas Verzbicas was off of his shoulder, making his presence felt in the elite field. Verzbicas, who won the mile, 2-mile, and 5000m at the New Balance Nationals-Indoor meet last month, was not about to let the professionals run away from him.
As the field turned onto Dartmouth Street with 400m to go, Verzbicas made a bid for victory. The confident senior took the lead, knowing he had to start his kick early in order to have a chance at defeating Baddeley –a 3:49.38 miler– and the rest of the field.
“I did not know what to do,” said Verzbicas. “I just ran just to run, because I was in a position I didn’t think I would be.”
Baddeley approved of Verzbicas’s tactics. “Down the back straight when he made the move, I was thinking ‘Right, this is good. It will stretch out a bit and not be so physical.’”
As the two turned the corner together, with the rest of the field on their heels, the crowd in front of the Boston Public Library came to their feet, awed by the thought of a high schooler beating all the pros.
The two ran stride for stride down the short stretch, with Verzbicas gritting his teeth, looking like he wanted the win more than anything. A step in front of the line, Verzbicas’s right arm reached out, as if he wanted to block Baddeley from taking the win. Emotional and extremely competitive, Verzbicas natural reaction was to grab the tape across his chest and throw it to the ground in frustration. Shortly after, before a winner was announced, the two went over to a photographer and asked to see the close finish. While watching the finish, Baddeley was pronounced the winner in 4:16.7, with Verzbicas second in at 4:16.8.
Asked after the race if he was trying to block or push Baddeley, the experienced Briton answered before Verzbicas could even respond, making sure to put any thoughts of a violation away.
“My take on that was that he was celebrating. Or maybe just excited,” said Baddeley, who had trained for the last four and one-half weeks in Kenya. “It’s such a short finishing straight, and I thought I had learned from last year. I was very keen on it not being that close at the end, but that’s how it turned out.”
The women’s race was just as close, with Anna Pierce, Marina Muncan, and Treniere Moser all battling for the win in the final straight.
After Charlotte Browning led the first two laps, the field began to pick it up, tired of the extremely slow pace. With the finish in sight, Muncan took the outside, Moser the middle, and Pierce the inside. The three would stay three-wide until after the tape. Similar to the men’s race before, fans, athletes, and reporters had to wait to hear who was the victor.
Eventually it was announced Muncan had won in 4:58.7, with Pierce and Moser a tenth of a second behind. The 28-year-old Muncan’s win marks her third of this year in Boston– indoors she won the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix, as well as the 800m in a national record at the Boston University Valentine Invitational.
“I guess you could say this is my lucky city,” said Muncan.
The high school mile races were won in opposite fashion, as Newton’s Kathy O’Keefe and David Melly took the girl’s and boy’s races, respectively. O’Keefe, a senior, will run for Boston College next year.