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Simpson Wins Unprecedented 4th 5th Ave. Mile

SIMPSON, WILLIS CLAIM FOURTH AND THIRD FIFTH AVENUE MILE WINS
By Chris Lotsbom, @ChrisLotsbom

(c) 2015 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved
(Used with permission)

NEW
YORK (13-Sep) — Experience reigned supreme here at the 35th running of
the NYRR Fifth Avenue Mile, as American Jenny Simpson and New Zealander
Nick Willis claimed their fourth and third titles, respectively. Both
used late kicks to separate from their competition, breaking the tape
in 4:29.0 and 3:54.8, respectively.

SIMPSON BECOMES FIRST WOMAN IN EVENT HISTORY TO RECORD FOURTH VICTORY

After
a long season that saw Simpson win the USA 1500m national title,
narrowly miss setting an American 1500m record in Monaco, and finish a
devastating 11th at the IAAF World Championships with only one shoe and
a badly bruised left foot, the 29-year-old wanted to conclude her
season with a resounding victory here in Manhattan. Having raced two
days ago in Brussels, Simpson came to New York a bit fatigued but with
more intrinsic motivation than anyone else in the field.

“Anything
less than winning here was going to be a disappointment for me,
personally, so I said the year would be complete when I really put my
nose down and get this one done,” Simpson told members of the media.

On
the start line, Simpson and fellow pre-race favorite Shannon Rowbury
were lined up on direct opposite sides of the road. Little did anyone
know that their starting spots nearly played a key factor in the race’s
outcome: at the start, Rowbury –the American 1500m record holder–
narrowly avoided disaster as the television motorcycle stalled at the
start. Having to quickly dart to her left to avoid a collision, Rowbury
went to the front and was joined by Simpson and Heather Kampf.

Through
the quarter mile in 68 seconds and halfway in 2:20.3, the entire field
was cautiously preparing for a fast second half. First across halfway
was 800m specialist Alysia Montano, setting herself up for a $1000
prime if she could dip under 4:32 at the finish.

As soon as the
group began their slightly downhill charge for the stripe, Simpson and
Rowbury established a modest gap up front. Just behind were Susan
Kuijken, to their right and Kampf, to their left, battling for podium
spots as well. Simpson’s strategy coming in was to wait as long as
possible before kicking, and that’s what she did.

With the
crowd’s cheers growing, Simpson found an added gear that would carry
her through the finish first in 4:29.0, a mere three-tenths of a second
up on Rowbury. With her win, Simpson becomes the only woman in event
history to earn four titles (Spain’s Isaac Viciosa is the only male to
win four, taking home crowns in four successive years from 1995 through
1998).

“It just felt good the last 15 seconds knowing I was
going to be able to grind to the win,” said Simpson, who picked up a
$5000 winner’s check. “Winning here was really important to me.”

Simpson’s
victory was even more meaningful considering she battled rival Rowbury
for supremacy. The pair have raced neck and neck all season long,
finishing close week in and week out. Rowbury is a two-time champion of
this race.

“I hope it’s been fun for everyone [to watch] because it’s really hard, really stressful, but I think it’s good for
our sport to have us facing every weekend and battling it out,” said
Simpson, noting how she’s always cherished one-on-one rivalries against
other athletes. In college she always would go up against Sally
Kipyego, and when she specialized in the steeplechase it was Anna
Willard. Now it is Rowbury. “I think it’s good, especially for a race
on ESPN. If they are going to put this on television like that, what a
great story to bring to the starting line. I hope everyone enjoyed it
because it was stressful for me!”

“Jenny got me at the end
today!” said Rowbury, sporting her signature pink lipstick. “I figured
it would be the two of us battling for the win and that’s how it turned
out… If I look at the sum of the season, it’s been a big plus!”

While
Simpson and Rowbury were happy with their races, their weekends paled
in comparison to third place finisher Kuijken. Her podium spot was only
the cherry on top to a memorable weekend. After arriving in New York,
the Dutchwoman was running in Central Park with her boyfriend Andrew
Krumins when they paused by the iconic reservoir. There he proposed to
Kuijken, who said yes.

“It was a beautiful perfect setting and
I was doing what I love to do most, running, so I couldn’t think of a
better time to do this!” Kuijken told Race Results Weekly, smiling from
ear to ear. “Now we get to celebrate here in New York!”

Kampf
finished fourth in 4:30.2. Rowbury also won the halfway prime (Montano,
who led at 880 yards, wound up 11th in 4:35.4). Kampf was followed by
Heather Wilson (4:31.7) and Treniere Moser (4:31.9).

NICK WILLIS CAPS OFF SEASON WITH BIG VICTORY

Having
already run here four times and taken home the win in 2008 and 2013,
Nick Willis was considered a seasoned veteran in the men’s field. Well
aware of the race’s slightly uphill profile through halfway, the Kiwi
sat back comfortably and waited until late to make his winning move.

With
the field eight abreast approaching 880 yards, it was Americans Ford
Palmer and Riley Masters surging hard aiming to reach the halfway point
first. Palmer, the former football player, wound up leading in 2:04,
though would have to break four minutes in order to take home the prime
bonus (he did not, finishing in 4:00.9).

The field would fall
back into form through the kilometer, a giant blur of multi-colored
singlets taking up one and a half lanes of the roadway.

While
a number of athletes in the field had been racing the European circuit
in recent weeks, Willis was back home in Michigan. He had returned to
the mitten state after finishing sixth at the IAAF World Championships,
a frustrating performance for the 2008 Olympic silver medalist. After
acing a grueling 2×800, 2×400, 600 workout on Wednesday, he came here
with confidence in his kick.

“I knew whatever the pace was I
should be ready for whatever,” he told Race Results Weekly. “You’re
never licking your chops [though] when Matt Centrowitz is in the race.
He’s got a lot of very, very good credentials. Often it comes down to
who’s more committed at this stage of the season, and he’s raced a lot
this year and I’ve only had three or four races.”

Down the
final stretch, Willis exemplified what a world class surge looks like
leaving Centrowitz, past champion Bernard Lagat, and the rest of the
field in his wake. Taking over the pole with a vengeance, he’d extend
his lead and raise his arms to pump up the crowd approaching the
finish. Breaking the tape in 3:54.8, Willis tied running legend Peter
Elliott with three victories over the iconic Museum Mile stretch.

“It’s
a really nice way to finish the season,” said Willis who lost to
Centrowitz at New York’s other iconic mile, the NYRR Wanamaker Mile at
the Millrose Games, last February. “I was quite dismayed after what
happened in Beijing, so I wanted to make sure I hung the shoes up for
the year with a high.”

Second went to Britain’s Chris O’Hare
(3:55.9), with Norway’s Henrik Ingebrigtsen and American Centrowitz a
step behind (both timed 3:56.1, with third place ultimately going to
Ingebrigtsen). Australia’s Ryan Gregson rounded out the top five in
3:56.2.

After two tough races this week –a DNF in Zagreb and a
10th place, 3:43.97 showing in Brussels– O’Hare gained a bit of
momentum to take into the off-season.

“My other two races
were pretty dreadful. Today I felt terrible at the start but I was like
‘just get in the mix’ and instincts take over,” he said. “Everybody’s
waiting, waiting, waiting and I wanted to make sure I got a jump in…
It’s a long last 50 meters though.”

A bit of drama played out
regarding the men’s halfway prime, as both Palmer and Masters didn’t
dip under the required four minutes (4:00.9 and 4:00.2, respectively).
Next up would be Christian Soratos, who missed it by the slimmest of
margins hitting 4:00.0 on the dot. Therefore, the $1000 went to Garrett
Heath, eighth overall in 3:57.3.

Earlier in the day, Reed
Connor of the New Jersey/New York Track Club and Valentine Kibet of
Westchester TC claimed NYRR Road Mile Championship titles in 4:06.2 and
4:47.6, respectively. Former high school standout Mikey Brannigan
placed fifth in the men’s race, clocking 4:09.9. Also in that race was
Jenny Simpson’s husband, Jason, who finished 14th in 4:13.7.

A
vast majority of the elites racing today are now done for the season,
and will begin their time away from running starting today.

PHOTO: Nick Willis wins the 2015 NYRR Fifth Avenue Mile in 3:54.8 (photo by Jane Monti for Race Results Weekly)

PHOTO: Jenny Simpson wins the 2015 NYRR Fifth Avenue Mile in 4:29.0 (photo by Jane Monti for Race Results Weekly)

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