Simpson Wins 5th Fifth Avenue Mile

***Jenkins Upsets Centrowitz in Men’s Race***
By Chris Lotsbom, @ChrisLotsbom
(c) 2016 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved

NEW YORK (03-Sep) — A pair of scintillating races captured thousands
of spectators’ attention here at the 2016 New Balance 5th Avenue Mile,
with a mere one-tenth of a second separating winners Jenny Simpson and
Eric Jenkins from their nearest challenger. For Simpson, it was a
record fifth title in six years, won in a blazing 4:18.4, the fastest
winning time since PattiSue Plumer’s event record 4:16.68 in 1990. For
the men, 10,000m man Eric Jenkins snatched the win away from Olympic
1500m gold medalist Matthew Centrowitz in 3:49.4.


Olympic bronze medalist Jenny Simpson had one race left in her season,
and she wanted to make it count. Arriving here from Zürich fewer than
24 hours before the race began, Simpson had to battle jet lag and a
strong field if she wanted to win again. The 30-year old had an extra
advantage on her side: motivation.

“I really want to win. No, I really, really want to win,” she told Race
Results Weekly at the airport yesterday. That drive to win only
increased Friday night, when members of Simpson’s family surprised her
at dinner here in Manhattan. Among the friends and family to drive more
than 12 hours for the race were her sister and newborn nephew, whom
Simpson was the godmother of and had never met before.

With the added motivation, Simpson sprinted from the line with fury,
passing the clock at a quarter mile in just over 60 seconds. The effort
was intentional, as Simpson wanted to break a majority of the large
field early.

“I went out, like, let’s get this mile over with,” Simpson said. “I really wanted to run my fastest time here.”

One woman who wouldn’t budge from her shoulder was British star Laura
Muir, fresh off an IAAF Diamond League title earned in Zürich on
Thursday where she had beaten Simpson in the 1500m. At half way, Muir
gained the slightest edge on Simpson, taking the midway bonus of $1000
by a step with 2:11 on the clock.

On the downhill stretch towards the finish, the pair established
themselves as the ones to beat. While Amanda Eccleston, Heather Kampf,
and Morgan Uceny all moved into position behind them, none of the three
could overtake Simpson or Muir out front. When the three-quarters split
read 3:15, everyone knew the pace was hot and they were destined for a
fast time.

Simpson and Muir dug deep for a minute and change of pain out front, going to the final gear as the crowd’s cheers grew.

Passing 1500m in a blistering 4:01, it was anyone’s guess who had the
best 100 meter sprint. That’s when Simpson’s motivation –in particular
that from her family– lifted her. She’d win by a hair, 4:18.3 to
Muir’s 4:18.4.

“Coming down the last quarter mile, I wanted it really bad. As the
crowd got thicker and thicker and people are cheering, I just felt like
my sense of being home and the sense of tradition elevated and elevated
all the way to the finish. It just felt so good,” said Simpson,
accompanied by husband Jason.

Simpson glanced around her and emphasized how special the scene was.
Not only was her family there, but Jason Simpson had run what was
believed to be his own lifetime best mile earlier in the day as well.
After planting a kiss on Jason’s cheek, Jenny talked about the support
from her family and friends. The win was dedicated to her youngest fan,
her infant godson.

“To have him, the first race he ever gets to see of me, his auntie won! It’s just like a fun family memory,” she said.

Muir was pleased with her runner-up spot, especially as it caps a
fortnight where she set a British record and world lead 3:55.22 for
1500 in Paris on August 28 and earned the Diamond League trophy in
Zurich on Thursday.

“It was really, really quick. That’s what I wanted, I wanted to push
the pace and I tried to pace it as well I could, but Jenny just got
there in the end. I’m just really happy how we won,” Muir said. “I knew
this was going to be a tough one, but I just dug in there as hard as I
could. The legs just weren’t there the last little bit.”

Behind Simpson and Muir, Kampf managed to snag third in 4:19.7 –her
first time making the podium here– followed by Eccleston and Kate
Grace in 4:20.6 and 4:22.7. Olympic steeplechase bronze medalist Emma
Coburn was ninth in 4:23.8. Seventeen women broke 4:30.


For some 1500 meters, Eric Jenkins was steps back from the lead and
overshadowed by Olympic gold medalist Matthew Centrowitz. Yet it was
Jenkins who took all –including Centrowitz– by surprise when he
passed on the west side of the roadway for the win in 3:49.4. The
winning move was one of the most brilliant in recent race history.

Olympian Ben Blankenship took the lead from the gun and was aiming to
get the halfway prime, passing the quarter mile in a fast 55 seconds
with Olympic 800m bronze medalist Clayton Murphy on his tail. Yet
Murphy played spoiler, kicking ten meters from the midway point to
snatch the $1000 from Blankenship’s pocket.

As if the move angered him, Blankenship surged on the downhill third
quarter, increasing the tempo just enough to worry Centrowitz. In swift
fashion, Centrowitz matched the move and grabbed the second spot with
relative ease.

Like on the track, Centrowitz wanted to have the lead with 400 meters
left. He seized control after hitting 3/4 in 2:51, and was a bit
alarmed by what the clock read.

“Once I saw that three-quarter mile mark I knew it was really fast,”
Centrowitz told Race Results Weekly. “I thought to myself this is super
quick and I don’t think, if I can keep pushing right now, I don’t think
anyone could hold with me.”

Despite his solid reasoning, Colby Alexander managed to creep up on
Centrowitz’s left shoulder. The New Jersey/New York Track Club and Hoka
One One runner was in perfect position to potentially pull off the
upset, until Centrowitz casually glanced to his side and saw the
approaching Alexander in his traditional white headband. Centrowitz
increased the tempo again to fend off Alexander, all the while unaware
a sly Jenkins was encroaching on the other side.

As so often happens at this event, a surprise pass in the final 100
meters serves to be the dagger for one’s dreams and the magic potion
for another. The one celebrating this time would be Jenkins.

Jenkins’ perfectly timed pass with steps remaining gave him the
slightest victory in 3:49.4 over his Nike Oregon Project teammate
Centrowitz, 3:49.5. Jenkins’s time was the fastest winning time here in
21 years.  Alexander was a close third in 3:50.3.

“I felt really great, so I started to try and close, and then with 200
to go I tried to make that even closer,” said Jenkins, holding his
American flag tightly. “I’m a very dramatic guy.”

“Centro and Colby looked like they were battling for the last 200
meters, and I was just trying to get in, get in, get in,” Jenkins
recalled. “I remember Centro was looking over on his left to see where
Colby was and I managed to sneak by on his other side. I tip-toed right
by him, he didn’t even hear me coming.”

Just as Jenkins described, Centrowitz was caught off guard. He said
Jenkins ran a sound race from start to finish, all the way through the

“I didn’t look over right and Eric just kind of stormed right by and I
couldn’t respond. It was obviously a great race for him,” Centrowitz
began. “Sneaky little guy.”

The win was a relief for Jenkins after finishing a heartbreaking fourth
at the USA Olympic Trials over 5000m. Not making the Olympic team had
been a major down, and this win served to rekindle his spirit.

“It’s so much different to win and feel that competitive juices flowing
and the energy you get right after crossing the finish line for the
win. It means a lot to me, especially a race like this against the
field. It does a lot for my confidence,” he said.

Behind the three podium finishers, prime winner Murphy took fourth in
his first Fifth Avenue appearance in 3:52.3 followed by Canadian
Charles Philibert-Thiboutot (3:52.5) and Briton Chris O’Hare (3:53.0).
Ford Palmer, Blankenship, Leo Manzano, and Kyle Merber rounded out the
top ten in respective times of 3:53.3, 3:53.9, 3:54.4, and 3:55.3.

Seventeen of the 19 elite men broke four minutes.

Both Simpson and Centrowitz won $5000 for their victories. 
Unofficially, Simpson, Muir, Kampf, Jenkins and Centrowitz received
additional $5000 bonuses from T-Mobile CEO John Legere for breaking
4:20 and 3:50, respectively.

PHOTO: Jenny Simpson leads the women’s pro field at the 2016 New
Balance Fifth Avenue Mile (photo by Jane Monti for Race Results Weekly)

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