This Week in Amazing Track Performances

It's been a big week for American distance athletes, with two American records and several other significant performances. In a year with no World Championships or Olympics, it's an exciting opportunity for athletes to push their limits to achieve some of the fastest times in history. They're inspiring to us mere mortals, and to future running stars.

The Prefontaine Classic held at Hayward Field on May 30-31 is part of the prestigious Diamond League series. It's the highest profile American meet of the year, at least for the distance events. The adidas Grand Prix in New York on June 14 is also part of the Diamond League, but the only distance races will be the women's 3000 meter and steeplechase.

Friday night the big event was the 10,000 meter, featuring Olympic silver medalist Galen Rupp. Having already set American records indoors this year in the 2 mile and 5000, fans knew he had a chance of breaking his own 10,000 meter record of 26:48.0. Thanks to pacer Stephen Sambu, the lead group ran a consistently fast pace through 8000 meters. The pace slowed down slightly after that, but Rupp looked relaxed and full of energy. He made his move with 850 meters to go, running 1:57 the final 800 to win comfortably in a new American record of 26:44.36. Paul Tanui of Kenya was 2nd in 26:49.41. Rupp had been sleeping at the hospital the past month, where his wife is on bed rest and will soon be giving birth to twins. Rupp seems poised for more great performances later this summer, which could possibly include a 5000 meter American record.

The other record was set the next day by Shannon Rowbury, who ran the 2 mile an a US record of 9:20.25, surpassing Amy Rudolph‘s previous mark of 9:21.35 set in Cork, Ireland, in 1998. The race was won by Mercy Cherono of Kenya in 9:13.27. The 2 mile is a seldom run race in international elite track meets, which is why Rowbury's PR in the 3000 (8:31.38) is significantly better, despite not being an American record.

Jenny Simpson improved on her 1500 PR for the first time since 2011, running 3:58.28 for fourth place. This moves her to #3 in the all-time U.S. performances list behind Mary Slaney (3:57.12 AR), and Suzy Hamilton (3:57.40). Simpson is the U.S.'s most accomplished 1500 runner in championships, winning the gold medal and silver medals in the 2011 and 2013 World Championships. If things go well this season she has a chance to get the American record.

Simpson's training partner Emma Coburn ran an impressive career best 9:17.84 in the 3000 meter steeplechase. It's a 2 second improvement over her impressive performance at the Diamond League meet in Shanghai on May 18 when she ran away from the field. However this time she finished 3rd behind Sofia Assefa (world leading time of 9:11.39) and Hiwot Ayalew (9:12.89), both of Ethiopia. If she keeps improving, she could have a shot at the American record of 9:12.50, which was actually set by Simpson. 

In the Bowerman Mile, Matt Centrowitz ran a PR of 3:50.53. A bronze and silver medalist in the 2011 and 2013 World Championships, his performance was surprisingly only good for 8th place. That indicates how fiercely competitive that field was. Ayanleh Souleiman won it in 3:47.32, the fastest mile ever run on an American track.

Another notable performance took place at the Adrian Martinez Classic meet on June 5, where high school senior Garrett O'Toole ran 4:01.89 in the mile, which also happens to be the 50th anniversary of Jim Ryun's first sub-4:00 high school mile. This makes O'Toole the 14th fastest high schooler of all time in the event. He will attempt a sub-4:00 at the Boy's Dream Mile at the adidas Grand Prix meet on June 14. O'Toole will be attending Princeton this fall.

Other big meets coming up include the IAAF Diamond League ExxonMobil Bislett Games in Oslo, Norway on June 11 (where Galen Rupp is competing in the 5000 meter), NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Eugene, OR on June 11-14, New Balance Nationals Outdoors on June 13-15 featuring some of the best high school athletes in the country, and the USATF Outdoor Championships on June 26-29 in Sacramento, CA.

Tony has been a runner for over three decades, competing in cross country and track in high school and college, and road races for various clubs. He's served as team captain for several Corporate Challenge teams at YMCA of the USA, and has informally coached many friends over the years.

Tags: This Week in Runners, Y, YMCA, Run, Running, Prefontaine Classic, Diamond League, Adrian Martinez Classic, american records, Galen Rupp, Shannon Rowbury, Jenny Simpson, Emma Coburn, Matt Centrowitz, Garrett O'Toole

You Might Also Like

Copyright © 2014 YMCA of the USA. All rights reserved.
The YMCA is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to put Christian principles into practice through programs that build healthy spirit, mind and body for all.