The race pits Olympians against world champions.
Written by: Sharon Ekstrom
(c) 2011 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved. Used with permission.
NEW YORK — The 2010 defending champions, Amine Laalou of Morocco and Shannon Rowbury of San Francisco, Calif., will take on a truly impressive roster that includes eight Olympians and four 2011 World Championship medalists at Saturday’s 31st Fifth Avenue Mile. While Laalou and Rowbury failed to advance to the 1500m finals at the World Championships in Daegu, South Korea they will seek redemption on Fifth Avenue.
Headlining the women’s field is Rowbury, the two-time defending Fifth Avenue champion, 2009 World Championships 1500m bronze medalist, and second-fastest American miler of all time, who is excited to be back.
“I love the road mile because there is a level of adrenaline you get which is different from the track since it’s up close and personal,” Rowbury said in an interview Thursday at the fashionable 21 Club restaurant. “Track tends to be very predictable, sometimes before the race, you already know how it plays out from lap-to-lap. For the Fifth Ave Mile, they do a great job. There’s a truck with your time, plenty of markers on the road and an unpredictability with a field of specialists from different distances.”
Despite training through an Achilles injury at the start of the racing season, Rowbury competed three months this summer in good health without much of a base, and proved she could still hang with the best in the world, such as the 2011 World Champion in the 1500m Jenny Simpson of Monument, Colo. This versatile runner has competed in the 800m, 1500m, 3000m, 5000m and the 3000m steeplechase where she is the American record holder and an Olympic finalist.
“Running the different distances exposes you to different race plans and different tactical scenarios,” said Simpson, who is also the reigning USA indoor champion at the mile and 3000m. “On Saturday, you never know; you have Vessey and Montano who excel in the half-mile and you have girls doing longer distances. It’s my first road race and will be an exciting experience to see how the transition will be.”
Rowbury and Simpson will be joined by 800m specialists Alysia Montano (2011 USA 800m Champion, fourth at World Championships 800m) and Maggie Vessey (sixth at the World Championships 800m), miler Morgan Uceny (2011 USA and Diamond League 1500m Champion) and Sally Kipyego (2011 silver medalist at the World Championships 10,000m).
Although a 10,000m runner now, Kipyego should not be ruled out in the mile. She has a strong 4:27.19 mile personal best from her indoor track days at Texas Tech when she dominated the NCAA ranks.
“It blew my mind,” said Kipyego of her silver medal in Daegu. “Ten months ago I didn’t think it was possible realistically, especially with such a strong Kenyan team; but at every meet I just got better at each stage and things were falling into place.”
While she followed up her championships performance in Zurich with a second-place personal best finish in the 5,000m (14:30.42), longer distances may be still fresh on her mind, but not something to affect her road racing debut on Saturday.
“This is exciting for me,” she said. “A mile and 1500-meter is out of my comfort level and I feel challenged. And I like the challenge.”