Fast Times At Payton Jordan Invite

Ben True's 2014 season is off to a great start. He finished second at last month's BAA 5K and ran a huge 5000m PB at Stanford Sunday night. Photo: PhotoRun.net

Ben True wins a stacked men’s 5,000m; Molly Huddle runs second-fastest 10,000m ever for an American woman. 

(c) 2014 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved. Used with permission. 

PALO ALTO — In wonderfully cool and dry conditions for distance running, athletes achieved fast times—including four world leads—at the Payton Jordan Cardinal Invitational Sunday night at Stanford University.

In the much-anticipated men’s 5000m, former Dartmouth standout Ben True came away with a narrow victory in a world-leading 13:02.74, a personal best. True, 28, who runs for Saucony, stayed near the front of the 25-man field which was paced by steeplechaser Dan Huling through 3400 meters. True kept his eye on Bowerman Track Club teammates Evan Jager, Lopez Lomong and Chris Derrick who were all in the lead group, but wasn’t as focused on the Oregon Track Club Elite’s Hassan Mead.

But after Jager took the bell, Mead started to assert himself and pushed into the lead at the top of the backstretch. True knew he needed to react quickly if he wanted to win the race.

“He’s quick,” True told Race Results Weekly about Mead. “I was trying to battle Chris (Derrick), Jager and Lopez and he comes blowing past. I was like, oh no! I’ve got to find another gear.”

True, who grew up in Maine and also competed in cross country skiing, found that gear and managed to get around the charging Mead who finished second in a huge personal best 13:02.80, just 6/100ths behind True. Mead, who said he had trained hard under coach Mark Rowland all winter, said he was ready for tonight’s race.

“You know, I know I was fit,” said Mead as he took off his Nike spikes. “Coach and I knew what I had been doing all winter. I mean, 13:02 is nice, but I knew anything inside of 13:10 would be very reasonable.”

Lomong got third in 13:07.95, Derrick fourth in 13:08.18, and Jager fifth in 13:08.63. Seventeen men ran 13:30.00 or faster, by far the most of any race in the world so far this year.

The women’s 5000m played out in a similar fashion. Twenty-one year old Sifan Hassan—who represented Ethiopia until last November but now runs for the Netherlands—won an all-out last-lap sprint against another former African, Meraf Bahta of Sweden (originally from Eritrea). Following the strong pace set by American Laura Thweatt, the two Europeans both turned a sub-62 second final lap, with Hassan getting the win, 14:59.23 to 14:59.49. Hassan’s time was a world-leader.

“I’m happy,” Hassan told Race Results Weekly, trying to catch her breath.

Behind them, both Katie Mackey (15:04.74) and Thweatt (15:04.98) set big personal bests, as did Britain’s Emelia Gorecka in fifth place (15:07.45) and Stanford’s Aisling Cuffe (15:11.13). Mackey was particularly pleased with her performance.

“This is something I’ve been trying to do for a couple of years, have a breakthrough race in the 5K,” Mackey told Race Results Weekly. “I’ve felt like my fitness has been there, I feel like I’ve been able to do it. But, you have to get in the right race on the right day with the right ladies. Honestly, I was super-excited coming into the race tonight.”

In the women’s 10,000m, there were also world-leading marks. Kenya’s Sally Kipyego, also part of the Oregon Track Club Elite, made a largely solo run to win in 30:42.26. American Molly Huddle trailed Kipyego through the entire race, but keyed off of her and clocked a personal best 30:47.59, making her the second-fastest American of all-time behind Shalane Flanagan’s 30:22.22 from the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Both Kipyego and Huddle had built up strong endurance in the winter, and finished first and third, respectively, at the NYC Half Marathon in March.

“I was trying to run 73′s throughout, and close hard. But today, it was kind of hard to get that,” Kipyego told Race Results Weekly. “I didn’t feel as sharp as I would like to have felt. I just felt a little bit rough.”

Huddle was satisfied, but saw that she could improve further. “I was hoping to get up and stay up with Sally at some point rather than float in the middle, but it was just a little hard too early for me,” Huddle explained. “I tried to find my pace and keep her within reach.”

Finishing third was former Iowa State star Betsy Saina, who also clocked a career best time of 30:57.30. Former Oregon Duck Jordan Hasay was fourth in 31:39.67, also a personal best. Eight women broke 32 minutes.

The other world-leading time came in the men’s steeplechase, where Olympian Billy Nelson—now sporting a full beard—clocked 8:28.49.

The men’s 10,000m turned out to be more of a tactical affair, with no pacemaker and a slow 2:50 opening kilometer. But things picked up in the second half, especially in the final lap. With about 250 meters to go, Italian Olympian Daniele Meucci made a big move for victory, surging to the front. But, he was quickly overtaken by Mexican Olympian Juan Luis Barrios, who dusted the field in the last 200 meters to win in 27:34.40. Canadian Olympian Cam Levins got second (27:36.00), followed by Belgium’s Bashir Abdi (27:36.40). Meucci ended up fourth in 27:36.53.

“When I got to 5K I saw the time, and it’s for 27:30,” Barrios told Race Results Weekly. “In the end, the last 200 meters, I feel so good and I take the race.”

In other middle and long distance events, Middle Tennessee State’s Eliud Rutto recorded the fastest time in the men’s 800m: 1:45.37. Canada’s Karine Belleau-Beliveau had the fastest women’s time in the two-lap race: 2:01.46. The top sections of the 1500m were won by Kate Grace in 4:07.35 and Riley Masters in 3:38.42. In the women’s contest, high schooler Elise Cranny ran the second-fastest time by an American prep athlete: 4:10.95.

“I was looking around 4:10, so it was right there,” Cranny told Race Results Weekly. “It was hard. When I got to 800 I was like, oh gosh, my legs are getting a little tired. But, it was good.”

Shalaya Kipp of the University of Colorado won the women’s steeplechase in 9:39.12.

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