By James O’Brien
The blustery, wet conditions that swept through Boston in the early morning eased by the time Saturday’s B.A.A. Invitational Mile races got underway adjacent to the Boston Marathon finish line. A full slate of races was capped off by the Invitational Women’s race, which came down to a photo finish as Nikki Hiltz out-leaned Emily Lipari for the victory. For the Invitational Men, Robert Domanic took the victory in his professional debut.
A four-woman sprint for the line drew loud cheers from the crowds, as Lipari, the 2018 U.S. road mile champion, sprinted alongside three-time B.A.A. Invitational Mile runner-up Heather Kampf, last year’s second place finisher Shannon Osika and former Arkansas standout Hiltz.
A conservative first two laps was led by Osika and Lipari. Kampf inched ahead at the end of lap two, with still no indication of how things would unfold. Along the final back straight Lipari injected a surge, but with the final left turn approaching it was Osika who held a lead of mere inches.
Into the home straight for the final time, Osika, Hiltz, Lipari and Kampf were side by side, charging full force for the line and the $3,000 winner’s prize. Osika and Kampf were the first to weaken, just as Hiltz and Lipari gained another gear. Ultimately Hiltz and Lipari – wearing identical uniforms – crossed the line side by side in a photo finish. Though the timekeepers awarded both the same time - 4:40.1 - Hiltz was adjudged the winner. Ironically, Hiltz and Lipari are training partners, coached by Terrence Mahon.
“Every lap, if you had asked me, I would have said, ‘No, I’m not going to win this race,’” explained Hiltz. “I just wanted to be close enough to give myself a shot.”
The men were first to toe the line, racing around the three-plus lap course. After a relaxed first circuit, German national champion Sam Parsons drifted to the forefront, shadowed by New Zealand’s Julian Oakley and Scotland’s Chris O’Hare, the 2016 B.A.A. Invitational Mile winner. He was closely followed by Robert Domanic, a former Ole Miss star who entered with the second-fastest mile personal best of the field.
Approaching the final turn onto Boylston Street and towards the finish line, Domanic held the lead, an advantage he would not relinquish. Surging towards the line, he held off the hard charging O’Hare, 4:06.4 to 4:06.9. “This is my first race as a pro,” Domanic enthused. “There were so many people around the course. There was no place to let up. I knew I just needed to be up front with 400m to go.” Domanic was quickly engulfed in a hug from coaches and teammates upon breaking the tape.
The B.A.A. Scholastic Girls’ Mile featured prep runners from each of the eight cities and towns along the Boston Marathon route. The race proved to be an exercise in dominance for Natick’s Grace Connolly, holder of the course record (5:04.8 in 2017). “The record was in my mind, but I didn’t put a ton of pressure on myself,” Connolly asserted. Assuming control from the first lap, she cruised away from the field, stopping the clock at 5:07.5, over 10 seconds up on Hopkinton’s Schuyler Gooley (5:18.2). “This race really embodies the running community of Boston,” enthused Connolly.
The B.A.A. Scholastic Boys’ Mile was the opposite of the Girls’, evolving into a duel between Brookline’s Lucas Aramburu and Colby Zarle from Wellesley. Aramburu was the aggressor throughout, a tactic that proved effective despite a spirited home straight kick from Zarle. At the line, Aramburu prevailed by less than one second, 4:29.5 to Zarle’s 4:30.3. “I was just running for my life at the end,” commented the winner.
The day began with the B.A.A. Middle School 1,000-meters. In this curtain raiser, it was Newton’s Amelia Everett who prevailed, courtesy of a late-race surge that brought her a five second victory over Brookline’s Camille Jordan and a course record of 3:15.3. “It’s the best outcome I could have hoped for,” commented Everett, who clipped 1.3 seconds from the old mark, set by Charlotte Kouroriez in 2018.
The Boys’ Middle School 1,000-meters was no less exciting, with victory also going to Newton, courtesy of Tyler Tubman who, on the second circuit, injected a surge along the Newbury Street back straight that brought him a comfortable four second win over Sam Burgess from Framingham, 2:55.0 to 2:59.8.
The B.A.A. Relay Challenge, featuring nearly a thousand student runners from the Greater Boston community, closed out the day of races on Boylston Street.