NEW YORK CITY, September 12 — A pair of Scottish runners ended their seasons on a high note in the Big Apple, emerging victorious in the 40th running of the 5th Avenue Mile.
Jake Wightman and Jemma Reekie won the 20-block tour down Manhattan’s iconic boulevard, thanks to perfectly timed finishing kicks. In addition to a positive psychological bump heading into the off-season, each took home $5000 for their victories.
The women were up first, with 5K/10K specialist Alicia Monson drifting to the left of the roadway and opening up an early 10-meter lead. With the first half of the course climbing uphill, the rest of the field was content to let her go, and after about a kilometer they had reeled her in. Marisa Howard was in the front at this point, but Reekie had moved into striking distance, alongside Dani Jones, a step behind.
In the final quartermile, 9 were all within a stride or two of each other. Nikki Hiltz squeezed between Reekie and Kate Van Buskirk to begin her kick with less than 300 to go, but Reekie quickly covered the move and took the final sprint to the tape convincingly, clocking 4:21.6.
(Thanks to a speed-ramp downhill second half, the course record is 4:16.1, held by 8-time event winner Jenny Simpson, who skipped this year’s race to make her long-distance debut at the USATF 10M Championship in Washington, D.C., earlier in the day.)
Hiltz (4:23.0) held off Shannon Osika (4:23.2) for 3rd, with Van Buskirk (4:23.8) and Jones (4:24.4) rounding out the top 5.
“Nikki made the first move, so I knew had to cover it,” said Reekie, who finished 4th in the 800 at the Olympics and was also 4th in the Diamond League final in Zurich just three days earlier. “I think I went too early, but I managed to hold it.”
Though she looked strong winning here, and has a track mile best of 4:17.88, Reekie isn’t giving up her favorite event just yet. “I’ve been doing a lot of 1500 training the past few years, but I’m going to focus on the 800 for a couple more seasons,” she said.
For Hiltz, the race capped an up and down season. Coming out as transgender non-binary in the spring, they had mixed racing results, including a 13th at the Olympic Trials. But over the last month they had much better performances, including a road mile win in Yakima, Washington. “No one race ever defines a season,” they said. “I’m just focusing on the positive ones. I feel like this is a great way to end the season. I have momentum going into next year now. It’s been a very long season, and a very important one, I think, coming out about my gender identity and being open about that has really, in the end, made me feel more comfortable than ever. And I think I’m gonna run really well next year.”
In the men’s race, Aussie Olli Hoare and American Joe Klecker were up front through the early uphill stages before Matthew Centrowitz pushed ahead in a mini-surge just before the half mile, presumably to collect a $1000 midway leader bonus. The pack soon swallowed the ’16 Olympic champion up, with Klecker pushing the tempo.
With a little less than a quarter of a mile to go, Wightman — who finished 10th in the Tokyo final — swung by on the far right side of the road and took the lead. In the final 200 he was clear of Hoare and the others, winning comfortably in 3:49.5. (The course record is a swift 3:47.52.)
Hoare (3:50.3) held off the fast-closing Jake Heyward and Sam Prakel, who finished 3rd and 4th, with 3:50.4s. Vincent Ciattei (3:51.0) was 5th, while Centrowitz faded to 14th, in 3:56.3.
Wightman, who previously won this race in ’18, said, “I remember the first time I did it I was terrible,” referencing a 16th-place showing in ’16. “And I think since then I’ve learned more and more about the course and how to run it.”
The victory made a small dent in his disappointment over Tokyo, where he was hoping to make the podium. “A win always feels nice,” he said. “I knew that no matter how I ran it wasn’t going to make amends for the Olympics, which was five years in the making, leading up to that one race. But this gives me confidence and something to build on for next year.”
Like Reekie, Hoare arrived in New York straight from the Diamond League final, where he placed 4th in an outdoor PR 3:32.66. “For me it was just about getting as much rest as possible but trying to have fun with it and trust in the strength that we had,” said the Aussie, who trains in Boulder under Dathan Ritzenhein and finished 11th in Tokyo.
The ’18 NCAA 1500 champion for Wisconsin bookended his first full pro season with strong races in New York. Back in February, he set an indoor NR in the 1500 (3:32.35) in Staten Island. “To come off the plane and run 3:50 today, I’m pretty happy with it,” he said, “particularly at the end of the season after going since February.”
5th AVENUE MILE RESULTS
1. Jake Wightman (GB) 3:50; 2. Olli Hoare (Aus) 3:51; 3. Jake Heyward (GB) 3:51; 4. Sam Prakel (US) 3:51; 5. Vincent Ciattei (US) 3:51; 6. Charlie Du’Vall Grice (GB) 3:52; 7. Tripp Hurt (US) 3:53; 8. Johnny Gregorek (US) 3:53; 9. Charles Philibert-Thiboutot (Can) 3:54; 10. Adel Mechaal (Spa) 3:55; 11. Joe Klecker (US) 3:55; 12. Eric Holt (US) 3:56; 13. Clayton Murphy (US) 3:57; 14. Matthew Centrowitz (US) 3:57; 15. Paul Chelimo (US) 4:00; 16. Hillary Bor (US) 4:01; 17. Daniel Winn (US) 4:07.
Mile: 1. Jemma Reekie (GB) 4:22; 2. Nikki Hiltz (US) 4:23; 3. Shannon Osika (US) 4:24; 4. Kate van Buskirk (Can) 4:24; 5. Dani Jones (US) 4:25; 6. Alicia Monson (US) 4:26; 7. Eleanor Fulton (US) 4:26; 8. Alli Cash (US) 4:27; 9. Marisa Howard (US) 4:28; 10. Sage Hurta (US) 4:28; 11. Julie-Anne Staehli (Can) 4:30; 12. Amy-Eloise Markovc (GB) 4:31; 13. Taryn Rawlings (US) 4:31; 14. Helen Schlachtenhaufen (US) 4:34; 15. Dani Aragon (US) 4:41. ◻︎