Pre Classic Friday — Thrilling Women’s Distances

Francine Niyonsaba moved to No. 3 on the all-time 2-Mile list with her 9:00.75. (KIRBY LEE/IMAGE OF SPORT)

EUGENE, OREGON, August 20 — Even Wonder Woman must feel fatigue once in a while and that goes too for Sifan Hassan, as was proved on the Pre Classic’s Friday Distance Night, when Tokyo’s triple medalist fell off the pace in a quest to break the 5000 WR, winning in “only” 14:27.89. That opened the door for 2-miler Francine Niyonsaba to claim the performance of the evening.

Burundian Niyonsaba, 13 days removed from a 5th-place showing in the Olympic 10,000, knocked out a 9:00.75 clocking for 8-plus laps that came up just 2.17 short of Meseret Defar’s WR and stole the thunder of favored Letesenbet Gidey. Olympic 10K bronze medalist Gidey, who also owns the WRs for 5K and 10K, trailed in 2nd at 9:06.74.

Niyonsaba made herself the second-fastest outdoor performer at the distance and advanced to No. 3 on the all-conditions all-time list behind Defar (8:58.58 in ’07) and Genzebe Dibaba, who ran her 9:00.48 PR indoors in ’14. Gidey’s time moved her to No. 4 on the ATL.

Barred by WA’s testo rules from racing 800m — the distance at which she claimed silvers at the Rio Olympics and ’17 WC — Niyonsaba punctuated the point that she is now a force over longer distances. She debuted at 5000 in May, dropped her best to 14:54.38 just over a week later and cranked 31:08.51 for her first career 10K the next week.

Here with the 2M the penultimate race of four on the card, pacers Addy Townsend (2:16.28 at 800) and Ali Cash (3:24.64) followed pace lights tuned at around a 68-second tempo with Gidey, 5000 world champ Hellen Obiri, Niyonsaba and Koko Klosterhalfen following.

When Cash stepped off at not quite halfway, Gidey grabbed the lead to pass 1600 in 4:32.21. Her next circuit shook off Klosterhalfen and as she passed 2K in 5:38.68 (fifth lap in 66.47), the Ethiopian held a 5m lead on the chasers led by Obiri. Yet Niyonsaba was moving up on the Kenyan’s shoulder.

As Gidey reached 6 laps in 6:44.91 having zipped a 66.1 circuit, Niyonsaba was now on her shoulder and Obiri was losing contact. On the next backstretch, with Gidey’s tempo having slipped, Niyonsaba gave a hard surge to move up front.

Niyonsaba carried through to the bell at 7:52.72 (a 68.73 circuit) leading Gidey by 3m.

By mid backstretch Niyonsaba’s advantage had grown to 10m. Passing 3000 in 8:26.40, she lifted into something a little nearer an 800 gait and fired home.

Obiri followed 3rd in 9:15.55 to Klosterhalfen’s 9:18.16. U.S. Trials 5K winner Elise Cranny placed 6th in a PR 9:22.44.

“I was really glad to be here because I feel at home,” declared Niyonsaba. “I didn’t expect to win by 6 seconds but I did this. I’m really happy.”

Hassan’s run was set up as a solo record quest and she had indicated an interest in starting a bit behind the needed 67.7 tempo before ramping it up. A pair of rabbits, Kate van Buskirk and Beatrice Chebet, obliged, guided by the pace lights.

Hassan chased them through 1600 in 4:31.7, a 14:09 schedule. On lap 7, hares departed, she set off alone with the lights to tackle the final 5-plus circuits. She hit 8:30.6 for 3K and 9:05.4 at 3200— still in a small deficit to record pace — and she had covered the eighth lap in 69.2.

Lap 9 went in 70.9. The record wasn’t meant to be. Hassan’s last 3 full go-arounds went in 73.0, 73.2 and 71.4 as she ran to the finish in 14:27.89, the fourth-fastest time of her career.

“The last 2 laps I knew I wasn’t going to break the World Record,” said a resigned Hassan. “I just want to finish strong and run hard. I had a really tough two weeks ago at the Olympics. All the emotion with the media and the stress. I’m in shape but I’m just tired, I’m not fresh.”

Alicia Monson placed 5th in 14:48.49, pulling herself up to No. 8 on the U.S. ATL. The time marked an improvement of nearly 20 seconds on her previous best for the Dathan Ritzenhein-coached On Athletics runner.


(all events are non-DL)

Men’s Event

Mile: 1. Geordie Beamish (NZ) 3:54.86 PR (3:41.22); 2. Craig Engels (US) 3:55.41 (3:40.08); 3. Charles Philibert-Thiboutot (Can) 3:55.48 (3:40.20) (2:57.79); 4. Sam Prakel (US) 3:55.99 (3:40.97); 5. Archie Davis (GB) 3:57.00 (3:41.78); 6. Henry Wynne (US) 3:57.43 (3:42.22); 7. Peter Callahan (Bel) 3:57.49 (3:42.29); 8. Tripp Hurt (US) 3:58.15 (3:43.01); 9. Vincent Ciattei (US) 4:00.45 (3:43.14);… rabbit—Erik Sowinski (US) (56.23, 58.73 [1:54.97]).

Women’s Events

1500: 1. Rebecca Mehra (US) 4:06.35; 2. Sage Hurta (US) 4:07.50 PR; 3. Dani Jones (US) 4:08.45; 4. Nikki Hiltz (US) 4:09.27; 5. Sara Vaughn (US) 4:09.68; 6. Eleanor Fulton (US) 4:09.85; 7. Dani Aragon (US) 4:10.02 (3:19.37); 8. Marta Pen Freitas (Por) 4:10.90; 9. Julie Labach (Can) 4:11.74 PR; 10. Federica Del Buono (Ita) 4:12.30; 11. Allie Wilson (US) 4:14.82 PR;… rabbit—Alexa Efraimson (US) (63.15, 70.03 [2:13.18]).

2M: 1. Francine Niyonsaba (Bur) 9:00.75 PR (WL) (3, 3 W) (8:26.70 [WL]); 2. Letesenbet Gidey (Eth) 9:06.74 PR (4, 5 W) (8:28.40) (5:38.68);

3. Hellen Obiri (Ken) 9:14.55 PR (8:34.31); 4. Konstanze Klosterhalfen (Ger) 9:18.16 PR (8:39.78); 5. Amy-Eloise Markovc (GB) 9:21.98 PR (8:47.67);

6. Elise Cranny (US) 9:22.44 PR (out AL) (7, 8 A) (8:44.45);

7. Katie Wasserman (US) 9:40.82 PR (9:04.41); 8. Caroline Kipkirui (Ken) 9:40.86 PR (9:04.54); 9. Katie Rainsberger (US) 9:41.79 PR (9:04.65);… rabbit—Alli Cash (US) (2:51.81).

5000: 1. Sifan Hassan (Neth) 14:27.89 (8:30.54, 11:29.30); 2. Senbere Teferi (Eth) 14:42.25 (8:48.73); 3. Fantu Worku (Eth) 14:42.85 (8:48.93); 4. Loice Chemnung (Ken) 14:43.65 PR (8:48.67);

5. Alicia Monson (US) 14:48.49 PR (AL) (8, x A) (8:52.73 PR);

6. Abbey Cooper (US) 14:52.37 PR (8:52.94 PR); 7. Sheila Chelangat (Ken) 14:52.66; 8. Meskerem Mamo (Eth) 15:01.29; 9. Laura Galván (Mex) 15:10.38; 10. Rachel Schneider (US) 15:13.15; 11. Emily Infeld (US) 15:24.78; 12. Andrea Seccafien (Can) 15:32.01;… rabbits—Kate van Buskirk (Can) (2:49.37), Beatrice Chebet (Ken) (5:39.05).