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What We Learned: Payton Jordan Edition

Published by
RunnerSpace.com/Pro   May 5th 2014, 5:44pm

True, Huddle, Mackey Set the Tone at Stanford

By Scott Bush

If you’re an American distance running fan, the Payton Jordan Invitational may just be the highlight of your year…or at least your domestic track and field year. The annual showcase of top talent proved once again to be simply amazing, with big-time performances and a few surprises across the field of races. Here’s what we learned:

The men’s 5,000m was the top race of the evening, or at least the one getting the most hype, and rightfully so. Throw in Galen Rupp and Bernard Lagat and you basically would have a U.S. championship race. Thanks to the Bowerman Track Club, and standout steepler Dan Huling setting the pace, this race was hot from the gun and never relented.

In a semi-surprise, but not really, Ben True used a ferocious kick to distance himself from the field and win with a big PR of 13:02.74. True’s mark not only ranks him US#9 all-time, but shows he fully capable of challenging the 13-minute barrier in the right race. His post-race comments indicating he’ll be going after the 13-minute mark at the Pre Classic only shows that he’s fit and ready to become the seventh American ever to dip under the mark.

The obvious surprise of the whole day came from Hassan Mead. The former University of Minnesota All-American, and current OTC Elite member, ran a HUGE nine second PR and nearly edged True with his runner-up 13:02.80 time. Mead has long shown he’s capable of running well under 13:10, but injuries have slowed his progress. Well, healed and running at 100%, Mead showed with his US#10 all-time performance that he’s yet another American capable of besting the 13-minute barrier.

Seriously, how crazy deep is American distance running at 5,000m right now? Here’s a little depth using PRs for you, going off of the race and who we believe will be the main players in the event the rest of the season:

12:53.60 – Bernard Lagat

12:58.90 – Galen Rupp

13:02.40 – Evan Jager

13:02.74 – Ben True

13:02.80 – Hassan Mead

13:07.00 – Lopez Lomong

13:08.04 – Chris Derrick

13:12.01 – Andrew Bumbalough

13:14.31 – Ryan Hill

13:15.33 – Diego Estrada

13:16.65 – Garrett Heath

There’s a legitimate seven Americans within striking distance of going sub-13, while Bumbalough, Hill and Heath (and to a degree Estrada) all seem more than capable to challenge the 13:05 mark this season. Wow!

Sally Kipyego, the Olympic silver medalist over 10,000m, won the women’s 10k in a meet record time of 30:42.26. Kipyego put on a show, showing once again why the OTC Elite runner is one of the very best in the world.

With that said…Molly Huddle came up big with a runner-up effort of 30:47.59. The U.S. 5,000m record holder became the second fastest American ever over the distance, surpassing the likes of Deena Kastor and Kara Goucher. She now only trails Shalane Flanagan, who’s American 10k record of 30:22.22 still seems a ways off, but a second a lap faster and Huddle is right there.

Here are the top five performances in U.S. history over 10,000m:

30:22.22 – Shalane Flanagan

30:34.49 – Flanagan

30:39.57 – Flanagan

30:47.59 – Molly Huddle

30:50.32 – Deena Kastor

With Huddle’s 69:04 (fifth fastest American ever) half marathon debut, it seems as though the Providence-based talent is ready to really challenge the 10,000m distance on a global stage in 2014.

Moving on…the Brooks Beasts showed up big-time in Palo Alto. Cas Loxsom won the top heat of the men’s 800m in a relatively average 1:48.38 (three seconds slower than the second heat), while teammate Mark Weiczorek placed third. Riley Masters won the men’s 1,500m top heat in 3:38.42, breaking the meet record of besting a very strong field.

Where the Beasts came up best though was the women’s 5,000m, where Katie Mackey led the American charge in a third place effort of 15:04.74, while teammate Jessica Tebo ran to an eighth place finish in 15:18.17. Both runners ran big (8+ second PRs), while Mackey showed a move up to the 5k this year might be a very good move, especially considering how deep the women’s 1,500m is at the moment.

There were two surprises in the women’s 5k though. Stanford junior Aisling Cuffe ran a 40+ second personal best (!!!!!!!) and broke Lauren Fleshman’s school record in the process, with her 15:11.13 sixth place showing. Cuffe proved Abbey D’Agostino is going to have her hands full at the 5k distance at NCAAs in a few weeks time.

The other big surprise came from Laura Thweatt, who finished a half stride behind Mackey in fourth, with a new PR of 15:04.98. Seriously impressive! Thweatt has been a star on the rise for a while now, but 15:04 is legit and shows that she’ll have plenty of opportunities to crack the 15-minute barrier later this spring and summer.

We could keep going on and on, but here are a couple other quick tidbits from Payton Jordan, then you can get back to work/school/whatever: 

- The men’s 10,000m felt more like an international race than a top showing of American talent, but that’s okay. Bobby Curtis placed as the top American in seventh overall in a solid 27:46.30. The biggest news in the event though came from Shadrack Kipchirchir (Oklahoma State) beating Kennedy Kithuka (Texas Tech) 27:36.79-27:41.73. Kithuka is obviously getting back in the flow of things after sitting out the indoor season, but many expected him to rock a good time here and be the top collegiate finisher.

- Shalaya Kipp and her Colorado assistant coach William (aka Billy) Nelson won the steeplechase races. Kipp beat an always competitive Aisha Praught 9:39.12-9:42.08, while Sara Hall finished third in 9:42.10. Meanwhile, Nelson edged NCAA defending champ Anthony Rotich 8:28.49-8:30.54, showing why he will be one to watch this season. Nelson has long been competitive in the steeple and seems like he’s back on track to challenge for top three at USAs once again.

- The men’s collegiate 800m race is going to be a fun one to watch at NCAAs. Ole Miss runner Brandon McBride ran 1:45.35 at Mt. SAC a couple weeks back, establishing himself as the top collegian over the distance, but Middle Tennessee State standout Eliud Rutto set a new PR by winning the second heat of the men’s 800 at Payton with a 1:45.37 time. Throw in Iowa State’s Edward Kemboi and the race has incredible talent and depth up top. Who else will join their ranks by seasons end?

With so many big meets ahead, Payton Jordan was the perfect race to really get our hearts beating fast and dreaming of what our top guys and gals can do this season. Here we go!

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History for Payton Jordan Invitational
2015 1 57 10 31  
2014 1 57 8 216  
2013 1 52 4 82  
2012 1 2 5 54  
2011 1 1 5 90  
2010 1 58 6 212 1
2009 1 63 4 320  
2008 1 68 13 138 1
2007 1   4    
2006 1   2    
2005 1   3 84