Hill (Ryan) and True (Ben) edge closer to the summit, by Cathal Dennehy


Hill_RyanFV1-USAout15.JPgRyan Hill, Ben True, USA 5000m champs, June 2015, photo by PhotoRun.net

True_BenFHL1-NyDL15.jpgBen True, Nick Willis in adidas 5000 meters, June 2015, photo by PhotoRun.net

In Ryan Hill and Ben True, one sees two of America's top middle distance runners. Hill has been under the watchful and thoughtful eye of Jerry Schumacher, and Ben True is under the thoughtful eye of Tim Broe. Hugely different approaches to coaching and life, but for these athletes, the right stuff.

Cathal Dennehy watched both Hill and True, and Rupp at the recent Brussels Meeting. The end of the season, and a long season it has been, is fraught with peaks, valleys, good races and some not so good.

This was a good ending for Hill and True.

Here is Cathal's story on both athletes, who, I believe, will pay prominent roles in stories in on our sport in 2016.

Hill and True edge closer to the summit

For Ben True and Ryan Hill, whose achievements have so often been overshadowed by the exploits of fellow American Galen Rupp, 2015 was the year to finally step into the limelight.

On Friday night in Brussels, they proved once again they are no idle threat to Rupp's dominance as they outran the 2012 Olympic medallist, True and Hill finishing seventh and eighth respectively. Both men ran 13:05 and came home three seconds clear of Rupp, who finished 10th in 13:08.38.

"It was a good year," said True shortly after the race. "I was never able to get the fast time I wanted, but other than this and the other Belgian race [in Heusden, where True ran 13:06.15], they were all slow and tactical, but that was probably good practice for the Olympic trials."

In Brussels, True ran with the leading pack through 3000m, but soon found the pace laid down at the front by Ethiopian duo Hagos Gebrhiwet and Yomif Kejelcha too hot to handle. Rupp, who had run the first three kilometres near the front, began to fade at the 4km mark, at which point he was passed by True.

Hill, who had run more conservatively, came through strongly over the final two laps and had a battle with True down the home straight to become the fastest American this year, a race won by True, 13:05.54 to 13:05.69.

"I probably went out a bit fast," admitted True, "but it was at the end of a long season, so I'm happy to be able to run somewhat quick. I wasn't able to get the fast race I really wanted this year, but it was a steady progression. Every year it's just a case of trying to improve a little bit and sooner or later I should be up there."

In Beijing, True finished sixth in the 5000m final, one place behind Rupp and one spot in front of Hill, a performance that left him with mixed emotions. "It was my first world champs final so I can't complain with sixth, but it was an 800m race, not really a 5K," said True. "I'd liked to have done a little better but it was my first time in the final so I can't complain too much. I'm fiercely competitive so I always want to do better.

"I've had a good year; when I graduated and started running full time, I knew it was going to take me five years of miles and strength and running to be able to compete with those guys. This is number six since graduating, so hopefully the more 100-mile weeks I have, the more years I put in, I'll go from strength to strength."

For Hill, meanwhile, Brussels brought a nine-second personal best and, coupled with his US title over 5000m earlier this summer - a race in which he outkicked both True and Rupp - it capped a breakthrough year for the 25-year-old.

"I am really happy to finally dip under 13:10," he said. "It's too bad Ben just edged me for US number one on the year but we go back and forth all the time so I'm good with it."

When it came to his race tactics in Brussels, Hill explained that ignorance proved to be bliss when it came to how fast he was running. "I didn't look at a single split out of fear for the first half," he said. "I just wanted to be oblivious. I knew we were running hard because I couldn't stay with it. I thought around 3k it was going to be a battle for me but then I kept looking at the clock every lap, calculating what I needed to do to run under 13:10 and that kept me in it, kept me running."

With the run in Brussels, Hill brought his season to a close and the Bowerman Track Club athlete was looking forward to a few weeks off before gearing up for 2016, a year in which he plans to make the Olympic Games over 5000m.

"It's a nice way to end the season," he said. "I'll probably take two weeks of no running, then jog for a month and by December we'll be cranked up because we want to make the world indoor team in Portland."

Hill believes there is plenty more to come in 2016 and for his continued development, he credits his training group and specifically, coach Jerry Schumacher. "It was the best year of my career," he said. "The key is Jerry. He's built the team culture that we want to join, guys who want to be professionals and also be on a team. It all stems from him; he has a grinding mentality and every day we're going to work.

"This year I jumped into the top three US guys for 5k; now I just have to do it on the world stage. We worked out really hard this year but it was sparingly, just every 10 days, so next year we can up that to once a week and get a little bit better. There's certainly room to improve."

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