By Barbara Huebner
After finishing as runner-up the past two years, Heather Kampf came into the 2016 B.A.A. Invitational Mile as the heavy favorite to win the Professional Women’s division. Kampf, 28, is known as the “Queen of the Road Mile,” and for good reason—she’s a three-time USA 1-Mile Road Champion.
Brook Handler, who graduated from the University of Michigan in 2015 after an All-American career at 1500 meters, may be angling for the crown.
Handler, 23, earned the biggest win of her young pro career when she shot in front of Kampf as they catapulted around the final turn of the three-lap course in Boston’s Back Bay, hitting the tape in 4:49.6 to Kampf’s 4:49.8. Emily Lipari of the B.A.A. High Performance Team was third in 4:50.8.
“I got lucky that I was able to keep doing a few road miles last summer because they have so many in Michigan,” said an elated Handler, who earned $3,000 for the win. “It was nice that this wasn't my first one.”
She also had the good fortune earlier this week to bump into Ron Warhurst, the former University of Michigan coach who has led Nick Willis to a 2008 Olympic silver medal at 1500 meters and two victories in the Professional Men’s Mile here.
“He said, ‘You have to go on the backstretch [on Newbury Street] because you’re not going to change position in the last 80 meters,’ so I made my move there, and I was very lucky that I did,” said Handler.
Handler was a step behind Christy Cazzola of Atlanta Track Club after one lap, and shoulder to shoulder with Team USA Minnesota’s Kampf after the second before gradually ratcheting up the pace. As the two duked it out around the final turn, Kampf stumbled a bit, and Handler took control to the finish.
Both Handler and Kampf observed that they obviously had the same race plan.
“On the backstretch when I’m like ‘OK, this is when I go around everyone,’ I went outside,” said Kampf. “She was already in the break position inside, and we were battling for that spot.”
If Kampf was surprised, so was Handler.
“I’ve never come close to beating Heather,” she said. “I look up to her a ton. I wasn’t expecting to come away with the win even when I was 20 meters from the finish.”
In the Scholastic Girls’ Mile, made up of two-woman teams representing the eight cities and towns—Hopkinton, Ashland, Framingham, Natick, Wellesley, Newton, Brookline, and Boston – along the Boston Marathon course, Rebecca Grusby of Newton South High School took control on the last lap to win in 5:29.1, with Kelsey Walak of Natick second in 5:30.9 and Eve Driver of Wellesley third in 5:33.0 to lead Wellesley to victory in the team competition.
Grusby, the 2016 Division 1 state champion indoors at two miles, is a three-time consensus Boston Globe and Boston Herald All-Scholastic athlete. Her 5:02 personal best for the mile was the fastest in the field.
“I wanted to go for it,” said Grusby, a senior competing here for the first time. “This was my only chance to win.”
Driver, who is headed to Harvard University, brought the second-fastest personal best (5:11.09) into the event, but she also brought some doubts: She didn’t compete indoors this winter, and hadn’t raced since November.
“I had no idea what to expect,” she said, pleased and excited to have finished as runner-up in “the best-attended and most hyped-up race I’ve ever done.”
Winning the Girls’ Middle School 100 Meter Run in 3:22.7 was Allison Sibold of Wellesley, followed by Caroline Fleming of Natick (3:27.3) and Schuyler Gooley of Hopkinton (3:31.4). Brookline took the team competition.
“It was a cool feeling to be running across the same finish line as so many great runners before,” said Sibold.
One of those great runners, four-time Boston Marathon winner Catherine Ndereba of Kenya, was among those watching the proceedings.
“I think this is a great idea,” she said of the scholastic and middle-school races. “It will motivate them in the future to run the Boston Marathon.”