Willis, Martinez Win B.A.A. Mile Titles

New Zealand's Nick Willis celebrates his win in the B.A.A. Invitational Mile. Photo by PhotoRun.net
New Zealand's Nick Willis celebrates his win in the B.A.A. Invitational Mile. Photo by PhotoRun.net

Nick Willis and Brenda Martinez took commanding wins at the BAA Mile on a cool, overcast Sunday morning in Boston, each pulling away from small, competitive fields to win the mile for the first time.

In the men’s race, steeplechaser Ben Bruce jumped to an early lead and drew the field through two of the three laps. As the pack of seven passed over the finish line on their way to lap three, Bruce faltered and ceded first to Great Britain’s Ross Murray took charge, a 22-year old with a 3:52 mile best. Murray quickly established a 5-meter gap and accelerated into the turn down Dartmouth Street, but Willis, who had been lurking with South Africa’s Peter Van Der Westhuizen and former Indian standout Desean Turner, surged clear and began his chase. He caught Murray on the backstretch down Newbury Street, then pulled away without a challenge. With no one in sight on the final 50-meter straight to the finish, Willis had plenty of time to wave to the crowd before crossing the finish line in 4:03, good for a 5-second margin over Murray.

Willis, the 2008 Olympic silver medalist, finished a disappointing ninth in the 1500 final at the London games and said he plans to structure his 2013 summer track season differently than in recent years. “I’m so sick of training through races, never showing my true self,” he said. “I’m not presently capable, based on the training I’ve experienced in the past few years, to race week-in and week-out for six months.” Instead, he will race a handful of times in North America this spring, including June’s Pre Classic, then take a break before the World Championships in August. He has already qualified for the meet with a 3:34.68 1500 that he ran in Sydney, Australia in March.  “Whatever happens at the World Championships happens,” he said.

Martinez didn’t need a five-second wining gap over second, but her performance was no less dominant. Martinez ran with the field of six women as they virtually jogged the first two laps.  The 2012 Fifth Avenue mile champion, she is coming off a breakout season last year and has already notched a 4:08 1500 this spring. She has been working on her strength this winter, she said after the race, and, running the BAA mile for the first time, just hoped she’d have enough left for the final kick. She did.

With the pack still bunched together down Newbury street, Martinez and Gabriele Anderson, the fourth-place finisher at last summer’s Olympic trials 1500, both launched their kicks than 200 meters to go. Martinez’s acceleration was stronger, and by the final turn onto Boylston she was clear of the field and on her way to a 1.3-second win in 4:51.4.

“Brenda is known for her great kick,” Anderson said. “You come around that turn and the race is pretty much over.”

The closest action of the morning took place in the boys’ and girls’ high school miles. Hopkinton, Mass.’s Melissa Lodge ran 5:23 to win the girls race by two tenths of a second, while Newton runner Gabe Montague won a close three-way battle down the stretch to take the boys’ mile in 4:34.

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