US Indoor Mile Record Holder Makes Winning 1M Road Debut

NUGUSE WINS KALAKAUA MERRIE MILE IN ROAD RACE DEBUTBy Rich Sands, @sands(c) 2023 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved





HONOLULU (09-Dec) -– Yared Nuguse capped a breakthrough year with a thrilling win in the Kalakaua Merrie Mile here, the first road race of his career. After setting an ambitious early pace, he prevailed in a unique mixed-sex pursuit format that saw the professional women start 30 seconds ahead of the men over the out-and-back course in Waikiki. Prize money was awarded on the combined order of finish.





 Yared Nuguse wins the 2023 Kalakaua Merrie Mile over Vince Ciattei (right) and Hobbs Kessler in 3:56.58.





“It was a really intense race,” said Nuguse, the On Athletics Club star, who broke the American record for the track mile in September with a sensational 3:43.97 at the Diamond League final. “That whole chasing-the-women format had me on edge for a lot of that race. It ended up being such an exciting race at the finish, so I’m very happy to be here.”





The women’s field set off at a relatively conservative early pace, despite knowing that would likely play to the men’s advantage. “Yeah, that’s always the concern,” admitted Nikki Hiltz, who identifies as transgender and non-binary and competes in the women’s division. “But I think I accepted it the first day here. The men are gonna blow by us, but maybe I’d have enough to go with them.”





And that’s more or less how it played out. “That was a real interesting component,” Vince Ciattei of the Under Armour Mission Run/Dark Sky Distance team said of the pursuit. “I thought a lot about that before the race, and then honestly Yared took a lot of the guesswork out of that. The way that we went out I trusted that if I followed him, we were gonna catch them.”





The pace settled down in the second quarter as they approached a hairpin turn just past the halfway point. “We hit the turn pretty aggressive, so that thinned it out [among the men],” said the Very Nice Track Club’s Hobbs Kessler, who won the inaugural World Athletics Road Running Championships road mile on October 1. “And then I was sniffing blood with a little over 400 to go and I started pressing really hard. I created a little gap on Yared, not much, and caught up to the women.”





With the battle of the sexes decided, the race turned into a three-man dogfight. Kessler maintained his lead, “but then it was just the last stretch was like in any race,” Nuguse said. “Just hammer it down to the finish.” Nuguse and Ciattei caught Kessler in the final charge to the finish line.




Nuguse was timed in 3:56.58, with Ciattei second in 3:56.81 and Kessler third in 3:57.12. “I just made my move a little too far out, I got excited,” Kessler said with a laugh. He took some consolation from the fact that his road mile world record (the 3:56.13 he clocked to win the world title) survived, albeit barely. The event only put in place all of the technical elements for a world record to be recognized this year, and Merrie Mile race organizers were offering a $10,000 bonus for anyone who broke it here, on top of the $4,000 first-place prize money.





“I got a first crack at it, but it’ll get broken next year and I’m OK with that,” Kessler said. “But I will say that when Yared passed me I thought we were going to be under the record it and I was like, man, there goes 14 grand, just like that.”





Nuguse didn’t seem to mind that he was less than half a second from that bonus. “Honestly, just to come away with the win in such an amazing field to race against is enough for me,” he said. “And to be here in Hawaii is plenty.” His stellar season saw him win his first USATF title, finish fifth at the World Athletics Championships and set national records in the 1500 (indoors and outdoors), mile (indoors and outdoors) and 3000 (indoors).





Ciattei, who was the runner-up in the NCAA outdoor 1500 and indoor mile as a Virginia Tech senior in 2018, was pleased with how this result sets him up for the upcoming Olympic year. “I can’t be unhappy with second in this field, and to be that close to Yared, who is one of the best milers in the world, is really good,” he said. “It’s also a learning experience. I think I gave Yared a little bit too much respect. I don’t think I was wrong to give him respect given that he’s run 3:43, but that’ll be the biggest takeaway moving forward, knowing that I had a good day mixing it up with these guys who are really, really good.”





Hiltz had broken away from the women’s field earlier in the race and appeared to be on track for fourth place overall, the final prize money position. “I made a pretty hard move at 400 to go and nobody [in the women’s division] went with me, so when I heard people [behind me] I assumed it was the men,” they said. “I just wanted to beat as many bodies as possible the last 50 meters.”




Alas, Morgan Beadlescomb, the recently crowned USATF 5-K road champion, caught Hiltz right at the line. Beadlescomb was timed in 3:58.01, while Hiltz covered the distance in 4:28.07 (a 0.06-second difference taking into account the 30-second head start that Hiltz received). “If they give me 40 seconds next year, I’ll come back,” Hiltz joked. “No, I’m always happy to come back, this is a great race.’




Nuguse’s Spanish training partner, Mario Garcia Romo (3:59.34), was next across the line, followed by Japan’s Nozomi Tanaka (4:29.79), second overall in the women’s division.  Tanaka set a national record.




The race, held on the eve of Sunday’s Honolulu Marathon, also featured a lively mass-participant component. Luciano Fiore of the Atlanta TC won the men’s division in 4:15.0, while Emma Gee (4:54.9) was the top woman for the second year in a row. There were 2,278 finishers, including Nuguse’s OAC coach, Dathan Ritzenhein. The three-time Olympian, now 40, clocked 4:37.4.

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