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Willis, RI’s Huddle Set NYRR 5K Records

WILLIS, HUDDLE SET COURSE RECORDS AT NYRR DASH TO THE FINISH LINE 5-K
By Chris Lotsbom, @ChrisLotsbom
(c) 2013 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved

NEW
YORK (02-Nov) — A pair of course records were set here at the NYRR
Dash to the Finish Line 5-K, as New Zealand’s Nick Willis and America’s
Molly Huddle broke the finish tapes first in 13:46 and 15:27,
respectively. Racing from the United Nations building to Central Park,
Willis and Huddle prevailed over a field that included 16 Olympians.

WILLIS RETURNS IN TRIUMPHANT FASHION

Nearly
six weeks after winning the NYRR Fifth Avenue Mile here, Nick Willis
returned to the streets of the Big Apple to earn yet another victory
using his patented finishing kick once again.

Through the early
stages of today’s race, Ireland’s Alistair Cragg pushed the pace up
front. Passing the mile in 4:27, Cragg was trying to do two things: get
a hard, “hurting” effort in as preparation for the Fukuoka Marathon on
December 1, and take the finishing kick out of milers Nick Willis and
David Torrence. He succeeded to do the first, though couldn’t
accomplish the second.

“I felt really good the first mile,”
said Cragg. “Nick Willis sat on me the whole way and never gave me a
chance to get into my comfort zone without backing off a little.”

Among
those in the lead pack through two miles (hit in 8:52) were Cragg,
Willis, Sam Chelanga, Aaron Braun, Torrence, and Lopez Lomong. As the
group passed under the 25 mile banner for tomorrow’s ING New York City
Marathon, Chelanga injected a surge that would break up the pack. Braun
was the only one to respond.

Making a sharp, 120-degree turn
inside Central Park, Chelanga was moving. Having trained on hills in
Hanover, NH, the 28-year-old was using the ups and downs to his
advantage, cruising and creating separation back to the chasers behind.

Some
50 meters adrift sat Willis. Just as it seemed there was no chance to
catch the leaders, Willis took a glance at his watch, which read 11:50.
That’s when the 2008 Olympic silver medalist at 1500m began a kick of
his own, perhaps channeling compatriot Rod Dixon who 30 years ago won
the ING New York City Marathon in the same finish stretch with a kick
of his own.

“I was looking at my watch and was thinking 13:50
would be the time we were running,” said Willis. “So I was just
counting down until there were two minutes to go cause that’s when I am
mentally tougher.”

Willis was closing fast just as Chelanga and
Braun began to feel the after-effects of their earlier surges.
Suddenly, Willis saw the pair coming back towards him.

Willis
cruised over the final stretch to the finish line in Central Park,
passing both Chelanga and Braun in the final meters. He broke the tape
in 13:46, bettering Chris Thompson’s 13:53 record from 2011.

Willis
said today’s victory was extra special considering his wife sierra, son
Lachlan, and friend Piergiorgio Conti were here watching. He will pace
Conti, a masters runner, tomorrow here in the marathon.

“I
wanted to try and win so she got to experience some of the euphoria
again, and [for] my friends coming over from Italy to run the marathon
here tomorrow,” he said. “It’s great that they were there on the finish
line to experience that as well.”

Chelanga finished with the
same time as Willis, 13:46, while Braun took third in 13:49. Both
praised Willis’s ability to finish strong.

“I tried to win the
race. Nick Willis is a respectable guy and he can also kick, so to lose
to him, it’s hard but it’s still incredible,” said Chelanga, who
ironically was the last elite athlete added to the field before the
race. “He was powerful, I can tell you. I was really shocked to see him
go by. I have nothing but respect for him.”

Rounding out the top five were Torrence (13:54) and Cragg (13:56). In total, eight men broke 14:00.

HUDDLE BREAKS FROM INFELD, FLANAGAN TO EARN TITLE

Molly
Huddle waited and waited and waited to make her sprint to the finish.
In fact, the 29-year-old waited until the finish line was visible in
Central Park to separate from training partners Emily Infeld and
Shalane Flanagan.

“I didn’t want to kick until I could see the
finish, cause it was a pretty painful pace for me and I wanted to have
that in my sight before I used what I had left,” said a happy Huddle,
speaking to members of the media shortly after winning the NYRR Dash to
the Finish Line 5-K.

From the start adjacent to the United
Nations headquarters, Huddle, Infeld, and Flanagan asserted themselves
out front. Though American Kim Conley and Kenya’s 2012 Olympic silver
medalist in Sally Kipyego tagged along through the opening mile in
4:55, the trio would break away by the halfway point.

Trading
the lead, the three Americans pressed the pace by iconic Radio City
Music Hall. Sometimes it was Huddle, other times Flanagan. Infeld
seemed content sitting a step behind.

“I just knew I wanted a
good, hard effort for whatever I could do today,” said Flanagan,
speaking of her decision to push in the middle mile. “I think that
first mile was faster than I’ve run in like three months. I knew I was
in for some trouble.”

Though Flanagan was hurting, she remained
with Huddle and Infeld through a 4:57 second mile, totaling 8:52
through two miles. Little did Flanagan –or Infeld– know that Huddle
was feeling the pace as well.

Traversing the hills of Central
Park to Flanagan and Infeld’s right, Huddle was focused on one thing:
kicking close to the finish. For roughly 300 meters leading to the
finish line, flags of many countries around the world line either side
of the street. In between them, Huddle made her move.

“I felt
kind of on the edge of going lactic much of the way, so I wasn’t sure
how long I could kick for,” she said. “I did start to slow down the
last few steps so I think I timed it as close as I could.”

Just
as the move began to catch up to her and with the feeling of lactic
acid building in her legs, Huddle broke the finish tape in a new course
record of 15:27. She had barely fended off Infeld, who recorded the
same time for second.

“It feels great to win. The field was
phenomenal with Olympic and World medalists out there, and Emily’s
having a fantastic year,” she said. “To win today was a big confidence
booster.”

In third came Flanagan, who like Infeld is coached by
Jerry Schumacher. Flanagan said it was fun racing in New York for the
first time since finishing second at the 2010 ING New York City
Marathon, and tough competing after taking time off.

“It
feels really good to be back. It’s a bit nostalgic just to make it to
Central Park. I was kind of having some flashbacks of some really great
moments for me here,” she said. “It’s a great way to celebrate the
weekend. It hurt really bad today; my legs are burning right now.”

Sally
Kipyego of Kenya, healthy and racing for the first time in 14 months,
finished fourth in 15:49, followed by Julia Bleasdale of Great Britain
one second later. Kim Conley wound up sixth in 15:55, the last finisher
under 16:00.

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