Ethiopian takes the title nearly a minute ahead of her closest competitor.
(c) 2013 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved. Used with permission.
NEW YORK — With clouds giving way to sunshine and early morning rain having moved out of the city, Ethiopia’s Mamitu Daska charged her way to victory here at the 42nd Oakley New York Mini 10-K on Saturday. Breaking the tape in 31:47, Daska became the first Ethiopian champion in event history, and collected the winner’s check of $10,000.
“When you work very hard and get the fruits of your labor, it feels very good. I am very happy to have done that,” said Daska moments after the win, still clutching the green, yellow, and red flag of Ethiopia. “This is my first time running this race, and I am very happy to have won it on my first try.”
Taking off from the majestic start in Columbus Circle with about 5,600 women behind her, Daska immediately asserted herself at the front of the elite field. Less than seven blocks into the race, the 29-year-old swiftly gapped all others, leaving two-time Mini champion Linet Masai back with the chasers.
Recognizing that the early move — in just the first kilometer — could be the most decisive of the race, the Kenyan Masai gradually reeled in Daska as the athletes made their way up Central Park West. Through the mile in 5:08, the leading pair had a 12 second lead on Burundi’s Diane Nukuri-Johnson and Britain’s Gemma Steel, both of whom were pulling the chase pack along.
Daska and Masai, wearing matching pink Nike tops, would run together through five kilometers, passed in 15:54. Up and down the hills of Central Park went the East African pair, exchanging the lead periodically.
Passing five kilometers, it seemed as if the duo were destined to remain together through the second half of the race. Both appeared strong, arms pumping and no signs of fatigue visible.
That’s when things changed dramatically. Approximately 17 minutes into the race, Daska’s Nike racing flats clipped the heels of Masai. Still on her feet, the taller Masai immediately turned and wagged her index finger back and forth as if to say “don’t do that again.”
Daska, irritated by the gesture, soon surged and dropped the 2009 IAAF World 10,000m Champion. Though it was her pre-race plan to increase her speed at halfway, Daska said the incident provoked her to create a gap.
“I think I accidentally touched her. It wasn’t something that I did on purpose but she was annoyed by it and told me off. That bothered me a little bit because it wasn’t something I did on purpose so I just decided to take off,” said an apologetic Daska through a translator.
From then on, Daska extended her lead with every stride taken. At four miles it was roughly 10 seconds; by five miles (8 kilometers), Masai was out of sight.
With less than a mile remaining, Daska glanced back ever so briefly to see if Masai was returning. She was not. Despite running all alone with the win presumably in her pocket, Daska continued to push the pace through the final hills and up to the finish. Her final (uphill) 400m was run in 65.1 seconds, according to race officials
“I am happy for my country and it is great to raise my country’s flag,” said Daska, whose finishing time of 31:47 was a new personal best.
A whopping 59.47 seconds behind came Masai in 32:46. After opening the race with a 15:54 5km split, Masai wound up running 16:53 for the second half.
“Today was not good,” said Masai, extremely quiet and visibly dejected. “I didn’t run the hills like the other time,” she said, talking about her wins in 2010 and 2011. In those races, Masai broke from the field over the undulating hills.
Rounding out the top three in 32:59 was Great Britain’s Steel.
“I just felt really comfortable from the word ‘go,’ really,” said Steel, enthused about her debut performance in the United States. “I knew when it came to the hills it would be a crunch but I did it well and pulled it off. It was my day today.”
The battle for top American honors turned out to be a great race, as Mattie Suver, Stephanie Rothstein Bruce, and Desiree Davila ran together until the final mile. The trio would finish fourth, fifth, and sixth, respectively, all within eleven seconds of one another.
“Stephanie, Desi, Brianne [Nelson, who finished eighth], and I — maybe a couple of others — were all in a good group,” said Suver, who competed for Team USA at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships. “They pushed me along the whole way and it’s pretty exciting to do that.”
Crossing in 33:11 just three seconds ahead of Rothstein Bruce, Suver earned a total of $7,500. The 25-year-old said a portion of the money would go towards refurnishing the kitchen in her new, Colorado Springs home, on which she and husband Curtis just closed last week.
The Oakley New York Mini 10-K was Olympian Davila’s first completed race in nearly a year, having been hampered by a femoral stress fracture that forced her to not finish the London Olympic Marathon. Davila was pleased with her race execution and finishing time of 33:22.
“I am pretty happy with it. Honestly just getting out here and getting a result and knowing where I am at was great,” said Davila. “I think where I am at is a good spot. I know there’s a lot of things to work on, but it’s a good place to be starting at. We have a whole season to build.”
For previous Competitor.com coverage of the New York Mini 10-K, click here.