London gave Bowerman Track Club the full extent of extreme emotion. From outstanding achievement, unfortunate frustration, and everything in between, the 2017 World championships demonstrated Bowerman's dominant presence on the world stage. With three medals earned across the athletes competing, and two National records broken, London was a thrill to watch from start to finish. Below is a recap of the races BTC athletes competed in at the US Championships in order of appearance.
Leading America off to one of its best medal counts in World Championship history, Amy Cragg braved a surprisingly tactical race, ending with the top three medals being separated by a mere 8 seconds. Though Portugal’s Caterina Ribeiro and Britain’s Aly Dixon made two sustained efforts to get the pace going in the earlier stages of the race, it was not until 35K that punches of the pace began to be thrown. Three Kenyans, three Ethiopians, and two Bahraini athletes broke away with Amy as the lone USA athlete in the mix of the 9 athlete lead pack. Rose Chelimo of Bahrain made the extremely late surge to the front at mile 23 to strike home for gold, while Edna Kiplagat of Kenya followed in tow. This is where the grit, determination, and experience of Amy’s performance truly shined as she battled for bronze against Flomena Daniel of Kenya over the last few miles. Not only did Amy out last Daniel for third, but she caught the fading Edna Kiplagat at the line, being just out-leaned for silver. After an outstanding effort, Amy came away with bronze in a time of 2:27:18, behind Daniel in second listed with the same time 2:27:18, and Kiplagat in first in 2:27:11.
Mohammed Ahmed toed the line for Bowerman in the men’s 10,000m race, and with the majority of the field keying off of Mo Farah, he had to be ready for any sort of scenario. Not keen to leave it up to a tactical finish, the Kenyans set the tone of the race by opening up the first lap in 61 seconds. Mohammed Ahmed gauged the situation and quickly realized it would be a blisteringly fast race. With national records and medals on the line, our dear Mo ran a gutsy and determined race, staying with the pack as athletes began to crumble around the 6K mark due to a 13:33 first 5K. By 7k only fifteen athletes remained, which was quickly whittled even further by a savage last mile put forth by Joshua Cheptegei of Uganda. Hanging on throughout, Mohammed Ahmed held off top American Shadrack Kipchirchir to shatter the Canadian national record in a time of 27:02.35 placing 8th overall.
Success in the women’s 10,000m championship was determined by a resilient readiness for when Ethiopia’s Alamaz Ayana would inevitably take the pace. After a pedestrian first 3K, Ayana dropped into a merciless pace, changing the dynamic of the entire field. Two chase packs formed behind Ayana, the first one consisting of Alice Nawowuna, Can, Tirop, Cheptai, and Genzebe Dibaba. The second chase pack is where Bowerman’s Emily Infeld executed a patient race strategy behind Molly Huddle and 5 other athletes. Proving extreme focus, Infeld stayed in the race mentally even being two chase packs back from the front. After a patient first 5K in 16:08, Infeld ran the second 5K of the race in an outstanding 15:11 (an all time personal record) moving up in the pack and into striking range of the fading athletes in the first chase pack. Unleashing one last burst of speed, Infeld passed people the entire home stretch taking 6th overall in a time of 31:19.
3,000m Steeplechase Men
Perhaps one of the most heavily anticipated distance events of the championship, the Steeplechase featured feats of bravery, bitterness, and achievement. Represented by two nations, Bowerman athletes Matt Hughes of Canada, and American Evan Jager, set out to achieve goals of heroic proportion. After a big Diamond League win Jager had his sights set on winning the championship, and the world knew it. After decades of Kenyan domination in the event, for the first time in along time, the titular medal was within grasp of an American. The man standing in Jager’s way, the Olympic gold medalist, Conseslus Kipruto of Kenya. After a slow first kilometer in 2:51.8, Jager knew that his best chance at a medal was to break the field by making it a strength race a mile out from the finish. Bounding to the lead just after the water jump with 4 laps to go, Jager boldly struck out for home. Risking leading half the race, the move would either solidify Jager the win, or make it an excruciating last lap to hold on for a medal. Not settling for anything but going for the win, Jager’s gamble fell a little short as Kipruto passed him with 250m to go. Battling Morocco’s Soufiane Elbakkali for second, Jager held on for bronze and America’s first World Championship Steeplechase medal ever, in a time of 8:15.53, behind Elbakkali in 8:14.49, and Kipruto in first in 8:14.12. Matt Hughes held on boldly as the drama up front played out taking sixth overall in a time of 8:21.84.
3,000m Steeplechase Women
Timing is everything when it comes to championship racing. Putting together your best effort at precisely the right moment is an elusive task. For Bowerman’s Courtney Frerichs, not only did she put her best forward, but she beat it by 16 seconds. Representing Bowerman solo in the final, after a frustrating and controversial disqualification of Colleen Quigley due to a line violation (they were probably worried America would sweep the whole podium), Frerichs faced a deep field in the form of world record holder and Olympic champion, Ruth Jebet of Bahrain, defending world champion Hyvin Jepkemoi of Kenya, 18-year-old world junior record holder Celliphine Chespol of Kenya and of course American Steeplechase legend, Emma Coburn. Putting herself right in the mix of these title-bearing champions, Frerichs stamped her own name into memory, delivering an inspiring performance. With the pace out hot, set by Ruth Jebet, a small pack broke away from the field bearing the Kenyans, Coburn, and to announcers’ surprise, Courtney Frerichs. Taking coach Schumacher’s advice, Frerichs followed the strategy of keying off Coburn while remaining as relaxed and confident as possible. This is tough to do when you’re on ten seconds faster than your PR pace, but Frerichs was not fazed, taking the lead in the final lap. It was not until the water jump that Coburn made her final move, leading Frerichs across the line for gold and new American record in a time of 9:02.58, with Frerichs in second in 9:03.77, and Jepkemoi in third in 9:04.03.
The question now remains, who will break 8:00 or 9:00 first, each claiming new American records, Jager or Frerichs?
Going into the men’s 5,000m final, the race seemed poised to be a success. Though the prelims were a dramatic display of rain, crashes, and leans at the line, Bowerman’s Ryan Hill clinched an auto-qualifier spot by running 13:22.79 taking 5th in his heat. This being the 4th global championship Hill has run, his confidence going into the final was an exciting thing to behold. With an unfortunate turn of events however, Ryan came down with a viral illness before the final and under the advice of team doctors, would not compete. This left it up to Mohammed Ahmed to represent Bowerman in the 5K final, and after his 8th place finish a few days before in the 10K, Mo once again proved his fitness on the world stage. Going out strong with the lead pack, Ahmed tucked in cozily in 4th behind Rutto, Farah, and Chelimo. Ahmed kept his position more or less coming through the mile sitting in third now with Edris in front, before things got shaken up at 2K by Ethiopia’s Selemon Barega making a move. From here on out, similar to the 10K, Mohammed Ahmed had to hold to the front pack while the Ethiopians tried to break Mo Farah from the front. With dramatic moves being made each lap in the last mile, the build up to the final lap was exhilarating leaving the top six spots all within three seconds of each other. Battling with Barega, Mohammed ended up bettering his 10K placing by two spots, taking 6th in the 5K in 13:35.43, behind Barega in 13:35.34, Kejelcha in 4th in 13:33.51, Chelimo for bronze in 13:33.3, Farah for silver in 13:33.22, and Edris for gold in 13:32.79.
After a perfectly executed prelim, Shelby Houlihan was looking to capitalize on her fitness and race fearlessly in the 5,000m final. Going out quite tactically, beginning in an 82 second lap, the race opened up to no one’s surprise when Ethiopia’s Almaz Ayana and Kenya’s Hellen Obiri began hammering off the front around 1.5K. Playing out similarly to the 10,000m final, except Ayana having company in the form of Obiri this time, two chase packs formed behind the strong move being made off the front. Houlihan tucked in with fellow Americans Molly Huddle and Shannon Rowbury. Playing it patiently, Houlihan’s hopes for the day came up a bit short with a 13th place finish in 15:06.4, right behind Huddle in 12th in 15:05.2, and Rowbury in 9th in 14:59.92. Frustrated but not put out, Houlihan voiced the sentiment of missing an opportunity to display the fitness she clearly is in after her victory at the USA Track and Field Championships. Looking to capitalize on some late racing, Houlihan will be on the track very soon to hopefully run the race she’s capable of.