Monday, June 11, 2007

Post Race on Pre

Pre Classic 2007 was a very high quality meet were several meet records and an American Record were set and year's best times established. I watched the whole meet on TV but the men's 2 mile and the women's 1500M race were of particular interest as Ethiopians were among the competitors.

The women's 1500M was won by Gelete Burka in 4:00.48, which is a new meet record for Pre. This was one gutsy race won by a very gutsy young woman (age 21!). Running a four minute 1500M is about as good as it gets in international competition, and the fact that a 5000M runner who stepped down in distance achieved this is simply astounding.

As the race started, Gelete was the only runner willing to go with the pace makers who set out on a fast pace. The rest of the field dropped back immediately by some 20 metres judging the pace to be too quick and assuming Gelete will simply run herself to the ground towards the end of the race by following such a fast pace. When the last pace maker dropped out at the 800M mark, Gelete was at the front of the race by some distance and the rest of the field started their attempt to reel her in. With 300M to go it appeared that the Russian Chizhenko (2006 World Indoor Champion at 1500M) was significantly cutting into Gelete's lead, but Gelete managed to maintain, and even expand, her lead in the last 200M to get the win and post an amazing fast time for the race. It looked as if the 1500M specialists were a bit dejected that an "outsider" walked into their race and walked away with the win.

Gelete enjoyed her victory with a slow jog giving high fives to spectators in the stadium who were reaching out to touch her. You will recall the commanding victory Gelete took two weeks ago at the 5000M race in Hengelo, Netherlands. It is not hard to imagine that Gelete could become the face of Ethiopian athletics in the near future. She is a very talented runner who looks very natural at her trade. She needs to seriously consider competing in 1500M or 3000M at the World Champs and Olympics rather than join the crowded field in the 5000M with Tirunesh, Meseret, and Meselech and miss out on her medal chances.

As for the men's 2 mile race, the late withdrawal of Kenenisa from the race had dampened the spirits a bit but the race was still well contested. The other Bekele brother in the race, the younger Tariku, appeared to be taking the race by the horn while the rest of the field (loaded with talent) were content to stay in the background. It appeared that they went by the first mile in a fast 4:03. By the time the pace makers dropped out of the race, Tariku was at the front pushing hard but the tall Australian Craig Motram was doggedly following Tariku only a step behind. The pace was upped at the bell lap and with 250M to go, Motram got a jump on Tariku and opened a gap quickly. Tariku gave good chase but did not have enough in the tank to overtake Motram who won the race in 8:03.50 establishing a meet record. Tariku was one second behind in 8:04.83 for a very solid second place finish.

Running a 4:03 and 4:01 mile back to back is an amazing stuff. Tariku did his 2 miles race nine seconds faster than Kenenisa did two weeks ago in Hengelo. Also, Tariku's 13:04.05 at the Reebok Grand Prix in New York last weekend was the fastest 5000M run on American soil. Once again, Tariku has shown he is a highly talented runner in his own right and will be a medal contender in Osaka this summer and Beijing next year.

One final note: Zeresenay Tadesse, the 2007 World Cross Country Champ from Eritrea who dethroned Kenenisa in Mombasa, finished the 2 mile race in 7th place in a time of 8:19.34.

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