Men’s pack, 2011 Fifth Avenue Mile, by PhotoRun.net
Here is how our correspondent, Elliott Denman saw the races:
By ELLIOTT DENMAN
NEW YORK – Thirty years.
That’s a lifetime, by track and field’s what-have-you-done-for-me lately standards.
The longest-enduring mark on the women’s standard-event world-record
list is Jarmila Kratochvilova’s drug-clouded 1:53.28 800 meters in
1983; leading the way in the men’s antiquity division is Jurgen Schult’s
74.08 / 243-0 discus throw in 1986.
But Sydney Maree’s clocking of 3:47.52 has stood the test of time –
and more so – as the men’s Fifth Avenue Mile record ever since 1981.
Once again, the ace recruiters of the New York Road Runners assembled a
star-studded field for their annual dash “down the Avenue, Fifth
But the best of these best couldn’t come close to nudging Maree’s 3:47.52 off the top position on their charts.
USA’s Bernard Lagat (3:50.5) fought off Morocco’s defending champion
Amine Laalou (3:51.7) and American “comer” David Torrence (3:52.4) to
win his first Fifth Avenue crown (he’d run second in 2010, fourth in
2009 and second in 2008), but Maree’s record was never in danger.
Twelve more men broke four minutes – led by Americans Jeff See
(3:52.9), Craig Miller (3:54.4) and Jon Rankin (3:54.7) – and the
15-total sub-4 performances may have set an all-time record for sub-4
Just three of the 18 starters failed to beat 4, one of them USA 800 champion Nick Symmonds.
Fifth in the Daegu World Championship 800 final but 17th in this one
in 4:04.9, Symmonds expressed no love for the mile distance. “This was
my own New York Marathon,” he said. ,
There’s plenty of endurance on the women’s side of the Fifth Avenue Mile record list, too.
The all-time Fifth Avenue mark of 4:16.68 was set by PattiSue Plumer
in 1990. Just as the 2011 Fifth Avenue men couldn’t come close, so too
was it with the women.
Jenny Simpson, Hannah England, 2011 Fifth Avenue Mile, photo by PhotoRun.net
The top ladies ran a much closer race than the top men – Jenny
Simpson at 4:22.3 and Sally Kipyego and Hannah England both at 4:22.6 –
but Plumer’s mark was never threatened, either.
Morgan Uceny, Jenny Simpson, 2011 Fifth Avenue Mile, photo by PhotoRun.net
Al three are past NCAA champions – Simpson at Colorado, Kipyego at Texas Tech, England at Florida State.
Next over the line were Norway’s Ingvill Makestad-Bovim (4:24.6),
the Netherlands’ Susan Kuijken (4:25.5), and USA’s Morgan Uceny (4:26.2)
and Shannon Rowbury (4:27.0.)
Rowbury had won this event in 2010 (4:24.12) and 2009 (4:23.3) but was
nowhere close to that pace this time. She took the bronze medal in the
1500 at the 2009 Worlds in Berlin but bowed out in the 1500 semifinals
at Daegu. Clearly, she’ll have to “regroup” to regain her past years’
fitness levels and make it to the London Olympic Games next year.
Uceny, who endured a tough-luck fall in the 1500 final at Daegu,
had come back with a world-leading 4:00.06 eight days earlier at
Brussels – but couldn’t match that in New York, as her finale to a long
Simpson’s 4:22.3 now ranks her ninth all-time on Fifth Avenue; Lagat’s 3:50.5 gives him share of the 10th place on Fifth.
So why-why-why all this longevity?
Might the course possibly have been mismeasured back in 1981? Was
there a hurricane at Maree’s back in 1981? Or behind Plumer in 1990? Has
Fifth Avenue suffered any shrinkage? Are there any other strange
circumstances to explain it.
To all this, the New York Road Runners organizers tell you a vehement “no,no, no and no.”
So, the only thing to do is look back and appreciate the quality of the Maree mark and the Plumer mark.
The best of 2011 surely gave it their best shots on Fifth Avenue,
delivering quality races from start at 80th Street to finish at 60th.
Both winners required all-out sprint finishes to claim their
champions’ rewards of $5000.00. There was drama for all – and the price
of admission was exactly right.
Fifth Avenue-goers got to witness the very best – the folks who’ll be
expected to drive the big-ticket prices at the London Olympic Games –
for the wonderful price of exactly zero.
Lagat will be expected to duke it out with Britain’s Mo Farah all
over again in the London 5000-meter final, just as they did in Daegu.
Of course, of course, there will be a lot more running to do before then.
Among other things, Lagat will have to run a 1,2 or 3 at the USA
Trials next June at Hayward Field. And a heap of others – the likes of
Kenenisa Bekele – will be intent to make up for 2011’s mishaps once they
all assemble at London in 2012.
Jenny Simpson, 2011 Fifth Avenue Mile, photo by PhotoRun.net
Simpson – as Jenny Barringer – set the American women’s 3000-meter
steeplechase record at the 2009 World Championships in Berlin. But her
successes on the flat at the kinder 1500 meters – no hurdles, certainly
no water jumps – will almost surely determine that the ‘chase is for the
others to try next year.
From distant vantage points, Maree and Plumer can only observe their latter-day challengers’ performances.
A Villanova graduate, Maree went on to break American records at 1500
and 5000 meters, and placed fifth in the 5000 final at the 1988 Seoul
Olympic Games. He’s now back in South Africa.
Plumer, a Stanford alumna, set an American 3000-meter record and ran
in three Olympic finals, placing 13th at 3000 meters at Seoul in ’88,
and 10th in the 1500 and fifth in the 3000 at Barcelona in ’92.
Once the London Games of 2012 are wrapped up, look for the New York
Road Runners to lure fields of newly crowned medalists and other
notables to Fifth Avenue. And look for Maree’s 3:47.52 and Plumer’s
4:16.68 to again stare them in the face, as challenges of all