HUNTER, SIFUENTES CLEAR WINNERS AT B.A.A. INVITATIONAL MILE
By David Monti, @d9monti
(c) 2018 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved
BOSTON (14-Apr) — Gusting winds here this morning did little to slow Drew Hunter and Nicole Sifuentes who were both clear winners at the 10th annual B.A.A. Invitational Mile in 4:08.2 and 4:37.2, respectively. Hunter, a 20 year-old from Purcellville, Virginia, was a first-time winner, while Sifuentes, 31, a two-time Canadian Olympian who lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan, won for the second consecutive year. Both athletes won $3000 in prize money.
This morning’s race –held on a three-lap course in Back Bay with the start/finish area adjacent to the Boston Marathon finish line on Boylston Street– did not have the same favorable weather as the B.A.A. 5-K which was held three and one-half hours earlier. Although the temperature remained the same, 48F/9C, a strong wind kicked up and the ample sunshine which warmed the 5-K runners was gone. The athletes hustled to get into their warm-up clothes as soon as they finished running.
Hunter, who had never run a road mile before, worked with adidas teammate Sam Parsons to set the tempo in the early stages of the race. Parsons led the first lap, and Hunter was comfortable keying off of him.
“So my teammate was like, I’m going to take the first lap,” Hunter told reporters. “Then after that, I was just going to lead.”
Through the second lap, in about 2:52, Hunter was joined by the entire field: Pat Casey, John Simons, Daniel Herrera, Pat Casey, Parsons, Julian Oakley and Daniel Winn. Already into a good rhythm, Hunter knew he could easily sprint off of the current pace which would put them well over the four-minute mark (the course record is 4:03.3 by by Nick Willis from 2013).
“It felt so comfortable,” Hunter observed. “It felt like the entire time I had another gear. It was great, great atmosphere having everyone cheering the entire time; it was incredible.”
When Hunter came down Exeter Street before making the final left-hand turn onto Boylston, he was already well in front. Holding his form, he came through the finish with time to enjoy his victory, beating second place Simons by eight-tenths of a second. Herrera passed Casey on the outside to take third, 4:09.2 to 4:09.7. Parsons ended up fifth in 4:10-flat.
Hunter, who signed a professional contract with adidas straight out of high school and never competed in the NCAA, was pleased with his effort and thought it set him up well for the upcoming track season.
“It says I’m ready,” Hunter said of his performance here today. “It says I’m ready to bring on the track. You know, it’s really fun to start with a low-key race like this where time doesn’t matter and you can just race. But, I think I’m in a really good place fitness-wise. Mentally, I’m in a good place, too, confident and I believe in myself, believe in my coach and all of my training. I’m very excited to go on the track and get some fast times now.”
While Sifuentes had two training partners in the race, Shannon Osika and Becca Addison, she only relied on herself for pace-setting. She took the lead from the gun and quickly strung out the field. After the first circuit, the seven women were already running single file. Sifuentes knew exactly what she was doing.
“Honestly, I planned to approach it the exact same way I approached it last year, and I did, ” Sifuentes told the media while tightly clutching her silver trophy. “Actually, last year there were a few more challengers than there were this year.”
Sifuentes gently upped the pace on the second lap, then went into high hear on Newbury Street in the second half of the final lap. She made the final two turns before the short finish straight with the race well in hand. Her winning time of 4:37.2 was well off of her course record 4:33.7 from last year, and she was relaxed enough to flash a big smile before raising her arms in victory. Last year, she crumpled to the pavement, totally exhausted.
“Well, I ran slower this year, maybe in part that was due to the wind,” Sifuentes explained. She continued: “But in terms of how I felt in the race, what I’m doing now (giving an interview), last year I was in the fetal position on the ground. So, it wasn’t as hard this year.”
Osika, who like Sifuentes ran for the University of Michigan during her NCAA career, finished second in 4:39.3, while Lauren Johnson was third in 4:41.3, just edging Cory McGee by one-tenth of a second.
Sifuentes said that she used today’s race to help prepare her for a 5000m race at the Payton Jordan Cardinal Invitational at Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif., on May 6. She’s not sure where her season will take her after that.
“I had a good time out there today,” Sifuentes said. “I’m not thinking too long-term yet, because I’m really focused on running and preparing for a 5-K in a couple of weeks out in Palo Alto. May 3rd is kind of what I have been gearing my spring training towards. So, I’m pretty focused on that right now, and after that we’ll regroup and see where I want to head for the rest of the season.”
PHOTO: Drew Hunter winning the 2018 B.A.A. Invitational Mile to the delight of tape-holder Dr. Michael O’Leary, the president of the Boston Athletic Association (photo by Jane Monti for Race Results Weekly)