2009 Champion and Course Record Holder Anna Pierce Leads the Field
Story by Barbara Huebner
If Anna Pierce looks familiar but you can’t quite place the name, rest easy: your memory is fine. When she last ran the BAA Invitational Mile, in 2009 – becoming the first-ever champion of the race, in its inaugural year – she was Anna Willard.
A native of tiny Greenwood, Maine, the 27-year-old who competed for Brown University and the University of Michigan has since married former Stanford All-American Jon Pierce, who will be running the BAA 5K. But that which we call a rose by any other name would be just as fleet, so Pierce comes to Boston well-prepared to reclaim her title from two years ago.
Pierce’s big win here in 2009 helped propel her to a breakout professional season that emphatically expanded her portfolio. Already a 2008 Olympian, in the 3000-meter steeplechase, Pierce finished the 2009 season ranked No. 2 in the world at 800 meters and No. 6 at 1500 meters. She is the reigning U.S. champion at 1500 meters outdoors, and returns as the fastest miler in the field, with a personal best of 4:28.4.
Known for her ever-changing hair color – she welcomed the gathering at Friday’s press conference to call it magenta, although she acknowledged she wasn’t sure – Pierce had praise not only for the three-loop course but for the spectators who line it.
“I thought it had really great energy,” she said. Thinking that crowds would be sparse away from the start-finish line, she was delighted to be mistaken. “I actually got on the other side of the block and people were going nuts,” she recalls.
Making her BAA Invitational Mile debut will be another U.S. 1500-meter champion who not long ago acquired a new name. Treniere Moser, nee Clement, won the U.S. 1500-meter title and was ranked No. 1 in the country for three consecutive years (2005, 2006, 2007). A 2007 World Championships semi-finalist at the distance, she married former Villanova distance runner Paul Moser in October 2009. Her personal best for the mile is 4:29.93, making her the second-fastest woman in the field.
Among the other women running the Invitational Mile for the first time will be 24-year-old Brie Felnagle, who won the 2007 NCAA 1500-meter title as a University of North Carolina sophomore, and 23-year-old Erin Bedell, a 2009 NCAA steeplechase finalist out of Baylor University.
Racing on the same three-loop course as the professionals will be 16 athletes in the Girls’ Scholastic Mile, with two runners from each of the eight cities and towns – Hopkinton, Ashland, Framingham, Natick, Wellesley, Brookline, Newton and Boston – along the Boston Marathon course. Newton has won each of the last two years and looks strong again as Margo Gillis, the 2009 champion and last year’s runner-up, returns and is joined by Kathy O’Keefe, a Globe All-Scholastic who ran a personal best 4:52.68 indoors last month.
“Everyone on the team is talking about this [race] this week,” said senior Gillis, who plans to run for Georgetown University next year. “They’re all planning to come.”
But the Newton duo will be challenged by an experienced field, which finds 10 girls in addition to Gillis returning from last year’s race, including third-place Sarah Bowhill of Framingham and both Kim Bolick and Kellie Lodge from Hopkinton, last year’s fourth- and fifth-place finishers.