IN SPORTS VERNACULAR, “closer” is a moniker attributed to a gifted athlete who can be counted upon to rise to the moment, imposing his or her will at the end of an athletic competition and sealing the victory. In the event there might have been any remaining doubt, anybody who witnessed the women’s 10,000 now knows that the closer label can be unquestionably be applied to Molly Huddle, who calmly employed punishing tactics over the final mile to capture an unprecedented fifth straight title.
The race itself was weird. With only 2 of the 21 starters with certain claims to WC qualification, an early-race tempo at or about 31:50 pace—the IAAF qualifying standard—was expected; 76.4 laps would do the trick. The only thing more alarming than the opening 800 in 2:50 was the fact that no competitor did anything about it. At 4K (13:21) they were a full 37 seconds behind qualifying pace. But at 4400m, favored list leader Emily Sisson, signaled by her coach, threw down a 75-second circuit to charge into the lead as she began what would prove to be a long grind to the finish. Huddle, Marielle Hall, Kellyn Taylor, and Stephanie Bruce all covered Sisson’s move and the real race was on.
Now committed to the long drive strategy and aware of Huddle’s always-strong close, Sisson continued to dish out the pain with a steady diet of 74/75 laps as her 4 followers gamely held on. With less than a mile go Huddle pulled up on her shoulder and eased into the lead with 1300m remaining. With Bruce and Hall struggling and falling off, Sisson and Taylor pushed to stay with Huddle as she began to tighten the screw. After successive laps of 74, 71, and 69, the AR holder hit the bell flying and with a 15m lead over the surprising Taylor with Sisson another 3m back. While Huddle and Sisson, holding qualifying times, were less concerned, Taylor, lacking a qualifying mark, was making a frantic rush over the final laps. Doomed by the early dawdling, it was not to be. Though not needed, Huddle’s final lap in 66.80 was a thing of beauty as she crossed for the win in 31:58.47. A homestretch spurt by Sisson (32:02.19) lifted her into 2nd while Taylor finished 3rd in 32:02.74, less than 13 seconds away from the coveted qualifying time.
Owning Q-standard marks, Huddle and Sisson made the USA’s Doha squad. By virtue of discretionary IAAF guidelines, Hall—who finished 5th in 32:14.41—could be added to the field if the IAAF Technical Delegates approve her NACAC victory from last year.
Afterwards, runner-up Sisson was upbeat about her race and her place on the travel squad, saying. “It’s great to make a U.S. team and I am excited about that. But coming back off the [London] marathon was a little bit harder than I anticipated it. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy, but to go 1–2 here with Molly is great.”
Said the winner, who disclosed it was her pre-race plan to go hard over the final mile, “I was nervous coming back from the London marathon. I didn’t do much training. [Emily and I] wanted the time to be slow. We waited for the last 5 laps to wind it down.” About her thoughts on yet another national title on the oval—her eighth overall—she declared, “Track titles are tough.” Huddle has now rung up a total of 28 national titles on all surfaces.
USATF WOMEN’S 10K RESULTS
1. Molly Huddle (Sauc) 31:58.47
(pace—81.51 [1:21.51], 88.88 [2:50.39], 78.49 [4:08.88], 77.54 [5:26.42], 78.35 [6:44.77], 77.61 [8:02.38], 79.36 [9:21.74], 79.11 [10:40.85], 79.68 [12:00.53], 81.19 [13:21.72], 82.46 [14:44.18], 76.69 [16:00.87], 74.63 [17:15.50], 74.83 [18:30.33], 74.93 [19:45.26], 75.28 [21:00.54], 75.05 [22:15.59], 75.06 [23:30.65], 75.45 [24:46.10], 75.54 [26:01.64], 74.42 [27:16.06], 74.54 [28:30.60], 71.86 [29:42.46], 69.22 [30:51.68], 66.79)
(finish—66.79, 2:16.01, 3:27.87, 4:42.41);
2. Emily Sisson (NBal) 32:02.19
(68.80, 2:19.46, 3:31.37, 4:46.21) (16:37.9);
3. Kellyn Taylor (HokaNAZ) 32:02.74
(69.56, 2:19.93, 3:31.60, 4:46.29);
4. Stephanie Bruce (HokaNAZ) 32:09.99
(70.81, 2:25.37, 3:38.74, 4:53.68)
5. Marielle Hall (BowTC) 32:14.41
(75.46, 2:30.54, 3:43.37, 4:58.15);
6. Sarah Pagano (adi) 32:48.58;
7. Hannah Everson (USAF) 32:54.47;
8. Jessica Tonn (unat) 33:01.84;
9. Elaina Tabb (BAA) 33:08.29;
10. Erin Clark (HokaNAZ) 33:16.16;
11. Jaci Smith (USAF) 33:25.86;
12. Anne-Marie Blaney (HansB) 33:29.38;
13. Margareta Montoya (Roots) 33:40.85 PR;
14. Danielle Shanahan (HokaNAZ) 33:55.06;
15. Jessica Watychowicz (CoSpTC) 33:56.43;
16. Sarah Pease (Ois) 33:59.82;
17. Olivia Pratt (HansB) 34:03.83;
18. Maddie Van Beek (unat) 34:04.81;
19. Natalie Rodriguez (HokaAg) 34:09.34;
20. Melissa Dock (BouTC) 34:58.56;
21. Hannah Dorman (HokaAg) 35:30.90. ◻︎