Newton Girls, Baddeley, Uceny big winners in second annual event.
Professional Mile Races
By James O’Brien and Barbara Huebner
If one had to come up with something to make Boston Marathon weekend even better, it could only be...more races! So, that’s what the Boston Athletic Association did. Better yet, they made the series of invitational road miles - instigated in 2009 - even more alluring by drawing the fields for the middle school and scholastic races from the eight cities and towns along the Boston Marathon course. Icing on the cake, were the world class athletes who arrived to contest the elite men’s and women’s races.
Chilly temperatures and a steady drizzle did nothing to minimize the intensity of the competition which generated as much heat among the hundreds of vocal spectators in the bleachers as it did on the slick, three lap course - starting on Boylston Street near the Marathon finish line, and finishing at the famed line itself.
The Elite Men’s Mile held all the drama that one would expect when a gang of world class middle distance men get together to compete for a $3,000 first place prize. Though the slick under-foot conditions gave some cause for concern, none of that was evident as the group of seven launched themselves around the first two laps.
It was only in the home straight that matters were definitively decided, which seems to be the way it should be in a road mile of this caliber. Charging into the straight, Markos Geneti of Ethiopia held the lead, but with Great Britain’s Andrew Baddeley, winner of the 2009 Fifth Avenue Mile, immediately on his shoulder. Geneti charged hard for the tape, but Baddeley was the man with the wheels. As they fought for the line, the Briton eked a distinct advantage, stopping the clock at 4:08.6 to the Ethiopian’s 4:08.8. Ireland’s Alistair Cregg took third in 4:09.04. On the women’s side, Morgan Uceny sat in second place after the first lap of the B.A.A. Invitational Mile, three laps around the heart of Boston’s Back Bay neighborhood. She sat in second after the next lap, too, tucked in behind the right shoulder of leader Erin Donohue.It was right where she wanted to be. “I was trying to save some energy in the first couple of laps, just relax,” she said. “In the last lap I was kind of antsy and wanted to push it.”
So she did. Uceny, the reigning US 1,500-meter indoor champion, went on to win the 2nd annual Invitational Mile in 4:43, just a blink ahead of Mammoth Track Club teammate Sara Hall (4:43.7). Marina Muncan of Serbia was third (4:44.8). Hall, runner-up in the professional mile whose husband, Ryan Hall, was among the spectators, perhaps best summed up the morning. “Hopefully we could provide some inspiration for the marathoners out here watching,” she said. “I felt like that was our role today.”
Scholastic Mile Races
By James O’Brien and Barbara Huebner
The Boys' Scholastic Mile (grades nine to 12) was similarly intense. Ben Groleau from Framingham took the lead from the gun, but he was closely shadowed at every step by Ezra Lichtman and Yuji Wakimoto, both from Newton. With one lap completed and two remaining, and a split of 1:36, Groleau still held the lead, though with his two shadows still paying very close attention. Around the second lap, things changed little. The clock showed a split of 3:12 and the leaders held tight formation. Closest to the action was Tim Robinson from Wellesley, eight meters back; but, with only one lap remaining, for him to get on terms with the frontrunners would have taken a super-human effort.
As the finish line swept into sight, Groleau lifted his stride and injected a kick to which nobody had an answer. As he broke the finish tape, his time of 4:40.3 gave him almost a one second advantage on Lichtman (4:41.1) who was comfortably ahead of Wakimoto (4:43.7).
In the Girls’ Scholastic Mile, Newton struck the jackpot - with Melanie Fineman surging past Newton teammate and defending champion Margo Gillis on the final turn to win in 5:10.44 to Gillis’ 5:10.89. The pair came into the race with the two fastest personal bests for the mile: Fineman’s 4:57 came at Nike Indoor Nationals, while Gillis has a 5:00 on her resume. Gillis shot out to a quick lead, but at lap two, Fineman had pulled even, with Sarah Bowhill of Framingham right behind. Gillis and Fineman traded leads on the final lap, while Bowhill took third.