By James O'Brien
Boston Marathon weekend used to be all about a single 26.2 mile race on Patriots’ Day. That event, of course, remains the focal point for all who flock to Beantown in mid-April. But, these days there are other events to also attract the world’s attention and stoke the competitive fires on Boston Marathon Weekend. The B.A.A. Invitational Mile attracts middle, high school, and professional athletes from around the globe. That's just the way it is.
Twelve months ago, Scotland's Chris O'Hare – the European Championships indoor and outdoor 1500m bronze medalist-- had fallen victim to the withering turn of pace of Ethiopia's Dejen Gebremeskel. This year, the latter had returned to his premier event - winning the B.A.A. 5K earlier in the morning - leaving the way open for O'Hare to move up a step on the podium.
Nothing was pre-determined, though. Certainly O'Hare had the wheels and the course experience, but a perusal of the field made it evident that so did just about everybody else. Frezer Legesse had placed third here in 2015 and was a renowned front runner. Julian Matthews represented New Zealand in the 1500m at last year's World Outdoor Championships in Beijing. Duncan Phillips was a five-time All-American. Certainly, O'Hare's 3:52.01 personal best was enough to send a shiver up the spine of the most battle-worn miler.
Legesse was the aggressor from the gun, towing the field around the first of the race's three laps. O'Hare hung close, alongside Jamaica's Kemoy Campbell. But, a blanket could have covered the entire field. Lap two saw few significant changes other than an upping of the ante. But the gang was all there with Legesse still holding the pole position.
The start of lap three was where things began to happen. O'Hare surged to the forefront, spurring a flurry of response, all of which was inadequate.
"I had planned on waiting until the back straight," he commented, "but I could sense that there was a lot going on."
O'Hare's move may not have been predictable, but it was decisive. Campbell worked hard around the final half lap, but he did not have the speed to match the flying Scotsman. At the line, their respective times were 4:10.2 and 4:10.6, with the fast finishing Trevor Dunbar closing hard to steal third in 4:11.0.
"I didn't want to go 110% at this time of the year," stated the winner, his sights firmly set on this summer's British Olympic Trials and the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. "But I also didn't want to get stuck behind people that I've beaten before."
The second placed Campbell has already got his place on Jamaica's Olympic 5000m team pretty well sewn up. "I'm more of a 5K guy," he smiled. Having only moved to Boston three days previously to train with his coach, Mark Coogan, Campbell had ample cause for satisfaction. "I'm actually really proud of myself."
World class middle-distance running siblings are rare, though plentiful enough that all track fans can name a handful. But how about world class twins? That's a whole other proposition. But pay attention to your stats books in the coming years; the next set of sub-four twins may be on their way.
That's an easy conclusion to draw following the dominant display of Wellesley's Matt and Thomas D'Anieri in the B.A.A. Scholastic Boys' Mile. Coming into the race with respective PRs of 4:17.79 and 4:19, not only were they the top ranked competitors in the field by more than 10 seconds, they set out to prove so in demonstrable fashion.
Coached by former world class 5000m runner Tim Broe (who also coaches Ben True, second in today’s B.A.A. 5K, the seniors took control from the outset and never gave any indication of relinquishing it.
Commented Matt, "At the end of the first lap, it was time to switch gears."
In other words, it was time to decide this race once and for all. Along the Newbury Street back stretch, Matt pressed, Thomas covered and inexorable daylight opened. After two laps, the gap was more than 10 meters, and the result was in. The only question remaining was, which D'Anieri would take the title (and could we tell them apart)? As it evolved, the outcome was a tie. Matt and Thomas surged toward the line, both comfortable, both crossing shoulder to shoulder in 4:33.1.
"I knew we would be our own best competition," asserted Thomas. "We didn't really need to go to the well today. We're both on a DMR team in four days time. Our plan was to work together and just separate from the others."
Third place went to Alex Montague from Newton, who crossed the line in a time of 4:40. Asked about his race, he commented, "I'm just happy there's not a triplet so I could make the podium."
Comprising an almost-two-lap course, the B.A.A. Middle School 1K begins on Boylston Street and finishes beneath the fabled Boston Marathon arch. It's a thrill, no matter how far the race, and the field of 16 middle schoolers responded to the occasion with a down to the wire finish worthy of an Olympic final.
Bolting from the starting line, the first lap saw the field racing as a tight knot, though with Jackson Lake from Newton, Henry Richard from Boston, Ian Cann from Hopkinton, Joshua Troutman from Ashland and Leo Windels from Newton fronting the field. Through the finish line for the first time, the lead group held its ground at the forefront of the bunched pack, though that scenario was set to change, and quickly.
Along the Newbury Street back straight, Wendels injected a turn of pace that opened the field and allowed him to gain precious daylight. Turning left onto Exeter Street and back into the home straight, he held his advantage, but it was never quite enough to ease off the gas and relish the win. At the line, Wendel's time of 3:06.0 saw him with a 1.2 second margin over Lake, who crossed in 3:07.2. Cann closed hard to take third in 3:07.8.
Wendels was, rightfully, delighted with his win, though hardly effusive. "I got tripped at the beginning," he stated, though it clearly was no impediment. Lake and Cann were similarly thrilled and contained. "I just wanted a podium spot," said Lake. "I just wanted to stay close," said Cann.