Smith Defends Distance Medley Crown
For the second consecutive year, Olympian Smith asserted her dominance at the B.A.A. Half Marathon, claiming victory in a course record time of 1:09:14. The 31-year-old resident of Providence, R.I., led from start to finish, going on to successfully defend not only her race title, but also the B.A.A. Distance Medley crown.
With her win, Smith becomes only the second women’s champion in race history to win the B.A.A. Half Marathon two years in a row.
“It’s really cool!” Smith said moments after breaking the finish tape. “Living in Providence and coming up here to race was an easy choice… It’s just amazing.”
Shortly after leaving the start in Boston’s Franklin Park, Smith found herself out front with Ethiopia’s Aheza Kiros and Kenya’s Alice Kimutai tagging alongside. The three would pass five kilometers in 15:52, then five miles in 25:39.
Running in her first race since June’s B.A.A. 10K, Smith came into today’s event holding a one minute, eleven second advantage in the B.A.A. Distance Medley standings. Knowing she would have to push the pace for her chance at the $100,000 grand prize, Smith kept her foot on the gas pedal, leading every step of the early miles.
“I just tried to set a pretty decent pace and drop them,” Smith said. “The first 10K was pretty fast.”
Together through 10 kilometers in 31:48.7, it appeared Smith and Kiros would race neck-and-neck through the final half of the contest. But moments before reaching the seven mile mark, Smith put any thoughts of a duel to rest. Pumping her arms ferociously, the three-time Olympian eased away from Kiros. A five second lead soon became ten seconds, then 34 seconds at the nine mile mark.
“Once they dropped off I knew they must be tired, and I felt pretty good at that stage. I thought ‘I think I got it,’” Smith said.
Watching from the lead vehicle, Smith’s manager Ray Flynn noted that Smith was well under her pace from a year ago, when she won in 1:10:57.
“That’s gone,” said Flynn, speaking of Caroline Rotich’s course record time: 1:10:52.
Smith wound up being one minute and 38 seconds ahead of Rotich’s mark, breaking the tape with 1:09:14 reading on the clock. Though she easily secured the course record, Smith said it was never on her mind.
“I knew I was running pretty fast going through 10K. I didn’t really worry about course records. I just wanted to win,” she said. “I was just running and felt pretty good.”
Defending her race title and picking up the B.A.A. Distance Medley victory was a thrill, Smith added.
Behind Smith, Kiros would finish second in 1:10:03, with Kimutai third in 1:10:37. Kristen Fryburg-Zaitz was the top American in fourth, timing 1:13:12.
“It’s always great when you can be the first American,” said Fryburg-Zaitz. “I’m thrilled to be at this race and be here for Boston. With what happened in April, this is just a great opportunity to prove how strong American distance runners are.”