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August 23, 2021, Issue 142


Norah Jeruto (Photo: Diamond League AG)


The Prefontaine Classic took place on Friday and Saturday at Oregon’s Hayward Field, roughly two months later than the meet is normally held. The competitors were cheered on by the largest crowds the new Hayward Field has seen, with nearly 9,000 people in attendance on the second day of the meet. 

 

Norah Jeruto and Courtney Frerichs are among fastest of all time

Norah Jeruto wasn’t able to run in the Olympic Games, because she is in the process of transferring her allegiance from Kenya to Kazakhstan. But she showed up for the Prefontaine Classic steeplechase ready to run. The race went out quickly—66 seconds for the first lap, and 2:55 through the first kilometer—with designated pacesetter Rosefline Chepngetich leading the way. And the pace didn’t slow down much after Chepngetich dropped out around 1200 meters. Jeruto kicked to a meet record and personal best of 8:53.65, which makes her the third-fastest woman ever to run the steeplechase. She hadn’t raced since the end of May, and she said afterward that because she couldn’t run in Tokyo, she has been targeting this race for the past several months.

Courtney Frerichs ran in the lead pack throughout the race, broke away with Jeruto, and hung on to take second in 8:57.77. Frerichs became the first U.S. woman ever to break 9:00 in the steeplechase, a goal both she and Emma Coburn have been eyeing for years. Frerichs lowered her own American record by 3.08 seconds and became the fourth-fastest woman ever to run the event.

“We’ve been talking about (sub-9:00) for so long, so to finally have it come together, it’s just really, really exciting and has me dreaming about even more now,” Frerichs said post-race, mentioning sub-8:50 as a potential next target. She said that she was focused on racing rather than time, and with that came the time breakthrough she had been hoping for. Including Frerichs, only six women have ever broken 9:00 in the steeplechase.

Running with two big strips of therapeutic tape down her body, Olympic bronze medalist Hyvin Kiyeng took third in 9:00.05. The other U.S. woman in the field, Marisa Howard, finished ninth in a personal best of 9:22.69. The Prefontaine Classic had so many high quality fields that it couldn’t have been easy to decide which races made it into the NBC TV window and which ones didn’t. But it was unfortunate that this race didn’t make the cut, so it didn’t quite get the attention that it deserved. But if you have access to Peacock, you can watch a replay starting at the 12:00 mark here. (All results)



Athing Mu (Photo: @tafphoto)

 

Athing Mu closes her season with another American record

It’s been a long year of racing for Athing Mu, who ran a collegiate indoor and outdoor track season before winning two Olympic gold medals. Saturday’s Prefontaine Classic 800m was her 30th race since January, and Mu shared in advance that it would be her final race of the season. If she was feeling any post-Tokyo fatigue, she hid it well. She followed rabbit Kaylin Whitney through 400 meters in 55.5, hitting 600m in 1:24.5, and holding on to win in 1:55.04. It was the first time in a long time that Mu had gone hard from the gun in an 800m, and she took 0.17 seconds off her own American record and jumped to eighth on the world all-time list.

Now she’s headed to the beach for a vacation. “I need a little time to sit down and relax after this and just really take in every moment and really look back and realize exactly what I did,” Mu told Lewis Johnson of her accomplishments this season. Great Britain’s Jemma Reekie was the only competitor who stayed close to Mu through 400 meters, and she paid for it on the second lap. After going out in 55.9, she came back in about 64.37 seconds, and faded to eighth place in 2:00.27.

Kate Grace and Natoya Goule hung back a bit and had more in reserve in the final 200m. The last time Grace ran at Hayward Field, she finished seventh of nine in the Olympic Trials final. In the eight weeks since then, Grace has been on a tear, and on Saturday, she ran her fourth 1:57 800m in a row, winning the race for second in 1:57.60. Jamaica’s Goule bounced back from a disappointing race in the Olympic final and took third in 1:57.71. The other U.S. Olympians in the field, Raevyn Rogers and Ajee’ Wilson, took fourth (1:58.01) and seventh (2:00.21), respectively. Olympic silver medalist Keely Hodgkinson finished fifth in 1:58.30 and said it was tiring going from Tokyo to Europe to the U.S., but she was glad to see Hayward Field in advance of next year’s World Championships. (Race video)

Like Mu, Rogers said her season is over, but Grace, Goule, and Hodgkinson plan to keep racing. (No word on Wilson, who didn’t go through the virtual mixed zone.)



Faith Kipyegon (Photo: Diamond League AG)
 

No one can hang with Faith Kipyegon in the 1500m

Heading into Saturday’s Prefontaine Classic 1500m, Tokyo silver medalist Laura Muir looked like the athlete most likely to be able to challenge two-time Olympic champion Faith Kipyegon. Muir stayed close to Kipyegon through about 600 meters, and held on to second place through the middle of the race, but she faded late in the race to finish an uncharacteristic 12th of 13 competitors. Instead the race was just Kipyegon against herself, with an assist from pacer Chanelle Price and the pacing lights. Kipyegon’s winning time of 3:53.23 broke her own meet record. The last three 1500m finals Kipyegon has run have been a 3:51, 3:53, and 3:53. These incredibly fast times seem to be her new normal.

Australia’s Linden Hall took second in 3:59.73, breaking 4:00 for the third time this season. Running in her first-ever Diamond League race, Josette Norris was thrilled to take third in 4:00.07, her second-fastest time ever. The other two U.S. runners in the field, Shannon Osika (fifth, 4:01.16) and Helen Schlachtenhaufen (eighth, 4:02.78), also ran well. Norris is now headed overseas for the first time ever to run Thursday’s Diamond League 1500m in Lausanne.

 

Francine Niyonsaba steals the show on Friday night

Sifan Hassan’s 5,000m world record attempt was the headliner on Friday night, but it was the two-mile that produced the fastest performances of the night. Four women—Letesenbet Gidey, Hellen Obiri, Konstanze Klosterhalfen, and Francine Niyonsaba—held on to the fast early pace, going through the mile in 4:32. On the next lap, Klosterhalfen began to fall off, and Obiri was dropped on the lap after that. With less than 700 meters to go, Niyonsaba took over the lead and kicked to a win in 9:00.75, with Gidey second in 9:06.74.

Ethiopia’s Meseret Defar is the only woman ever to break 9:00 in the two-mile, an event that isn’t run often beyond the U.S. high school level. She holds the outdoor world best of 8:58.58, and Genzebe Dibaba holds the indoor best (9:00.48), but Niyonsaba’s time was the third-fastest of all time. 

Niyonsaba ran the 5,000m/10,000m double in Tokyo, but both events are outside of her usual comfort zone. She won a silver medal in the 800m at the 2016 Olympic Games, but because World Athletics classifies her as a DSD athlete, she is no longer allowed to run events between 400 meters and the mile. Niyonsaba doesn’t run the steeplechase, so the two-mile is one of the shortest events she can currently run without lowering her natural testosterone levels, and she looked strong at the shorter distance. Racing at Hayward Field was a nice homecoming for Niyonsaba, because she spent three years training with the Oregon Track Club. Elise Cranny, the top U.S. runner in the race, finished sixth in 9:22.44.
 


Sifan Hassan (Photo: @tafphoto)

 

Sifan Hassan wins the 5,000m, and big runs for Alicia Monson, Abbey Cooper

Sifan Hassan’s 61.25 laps of racing at the Olympic Games finally caught up to her on Friday night, as she ran—and won—a strong 5,000m, but she was well off her target of breaking the world record. She stuck with her pacers, and then Hayward Field’s pacing lights, through just shy of 3,000 meters, before she began to fall off pace. With an enthusiastic Hayward Field crowd urging her on, Hassan won the race in 14:27.89, just over five seconds away from her personal best. Ethiopians Senbere Teferi (14:42.25) and Fantu Worku (14:42.85) went 2–3, and Kenya’s Loice Chemnung ran a personal best 14:43.85 for fourth.

The last time Alicia Monson competed at Hayward Field, she had a good race and made the Olympic team, but she also left the track in an ambulance, due to both heat stroke and hypothermia. This was a triumphant return for Monson, as she shaved a whopping 19 seconds off her 5,000m personal best, running 14:48.49 for fifth. That puts her eighth on the U.S. all-time list outdoors. Monson said on Instagram that her season isn’t over yet.

It was hard to know what to expect from Cooper this year when she opened her track season with a 9:14 3,000m in February, but she has made steady progress ever since, and put together one of her best seasons yet. Though she didn’t make the Olympic team, Cooper produced some of the gutsiest races of the Olympic Trials, then went on to run a personal best of 14:56.58 only four days after her last Trials race. Cooper took another 4.21 seconds off her best time on Friday night, running 14:52.37. She said she’s ready for a break now, but so thankful for her entire season, one of her best yet, at age 29. The other U.S. runners in the field, Rachel Schneider and Emily Infeld, finished 10th (15:13.15) and 11th (15:24.78), respectively. Infeld said on Instagram that this would be the last race of her season.



Rebecca Mehra (Photo: @tafphoto)
 

Other Prefontaine Classic highlights

  • The marquee event of the meet was the 100m, where Jamaica’s three Olympic medalists faced off against Sha’Carri Richardson, whose one-month ban for marijuana is now over. But that race never really materialized. Richardson didn’t look like herself, and she finished ninth of nine runners in 11.14 and then scratched from the 200m. I’ve seen lots of people offering unsolicited advice for Richardson since her race, and many kicking her while she’s down. But she’s figured out how to run 10.72 before, so I have no doubt she’ll be back. Even if Richardson had been in her top form, it would have been a tough task to beat Olympic champion Elaine Thompson-Herah, who dominated the race with a 10.54, the second-fastest women’s 100m of all time. Only Florence Griffth Joyner’s world record (10.49) is faster.

  • Switzerland’s Mujinga Kambundji was the surprise winner of the 200m, in 22.06. Gabby Thomas, who finished second in 22.11, said after the race, “I feel like we all struggled on that one, I’m not going to lie.”

  • Dalilah Muhammad won the 400m hurdles in a meet record of 52.77.

  • Rebecca Mehra ran 4:06.35 to win the 1500m on Friday night, which featured a mostly North American field. Mehra has looked great in her last several races, and she finishes them with a tough-to-match kick. It was nice to see Sage Hurta have a strong return to Hayward Field as well, after she fractured her wrist falling in the 800m semifinals at the Olympic Trials. She finished second here in a personal best of 4:07.50 and said she can already feel herself making progress under her new coach, Dathan Ritzenhein. Several of the runners in the field said that their track seasons are over, because there are no more domestic racing opportunities in their events. But some of the runners mentioned that they’ll be heading to the Yakima Mile (August 28) and/or the Fifth Avenue Mile (September 12), both on the roads. The other option for continuing one’s track season is heading overseas, which Dani Jones said she plans to do.




 

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Nike renames Alberto Salazar’s building

Willamette Week reported last Monday that Nike is renaming the Alberto Salazar building on its Beaverton campus, and it will now be known as Next%, after the shoe. Many have commented that it was a missed opportunity to rename the building after a woman, but when Nike renamed its Lance Armstrong and Joe Paterno buildings, neither was renamed after a person (Wall Street Journal). Nike’s memo reportedly read, “This change follows the SafeSport decision to permanently ban Alberto from coaching. The nature of the allegations and the finding of the lifetime ban makes it appropriate to change the name of the building.” 

A couple of things about this stand out. First, Nike could have also renamed the Salazar building after he was banned by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, or after athletes like Mary Cain and Amy Yoder Begley accused him of abusive coaching practices and body shaming. Instead, they renovated the building and then reopened it without changing its name, which led at least 400 employees to protest in December 2019.

Second, the language in Nike’s memo makes it sound like Salazar’s ban is permanent, which leads me to wonder if they know something that hasn’t been made public yet. As of the weekend, the SafeSport database continues to indicate that Salazar’s ban is subject to appeal and not yet final. 

In July, New York Road Runners announced that they were removing Salazar from their Hall of Fame. Salazar’s image continues to be on display at Hayward Field. “We are aware of this situation and are evaluating next steps,” a spokesperson told Women’s Running last week. “Imagery within Hayward Field at the University of Oregon depicts around 200 Duck athletes and is designed to evolve over time.”

In addition to the SafeSport ban, Salazar is dealing with a USADA ban. He appealed his four-year ban from USADA, and his Court of Arbitration for Sport hearing took place in March. I’m wondering what’s taking CAS so long to release its decision. Salazar’s USADA ban will expire in September 2023, and even if his SafeSport ban is indeed permanent, he will be able to return to coaching in some capacity, as long as he avoids USATF events, because SafeSport has limited jurisdiction.

 

Other Results

  • Joyciline Jepkosgei won the Berlin Half Marathon on Sunday in 1:05:16, with Nancy Meto close behind in second (1:05:21). According to the race’s press release, Meto’s time was a personal best by more than three minutes.

  • Sara Hall ran a last-minute half marathon on the River Row bike path in Cottage Grove, Oregon, on Saturday and finished in 1:08:44, her second-fastest time ever, and just 26 seconds slower than she ran in a similar event a year ago. Hall said she wanted to run a bit faster, but she thinks maybe she pushed a little too hard early on, trying to hit 5:10 pace while running slightly uphill.

  • Charlotte Purdue was disappointed not to be selected for Great Britain’s Olympic marathon team, because she had one of the three fastest times, but she won Sunday’s Big Half, held in London, in 1:09:51.

  • Nell Rojas won the America’s Finest City Half Marathon by more than eight minutes, running 1:11:44 in her first road race since the pandemic began.

  • Allie McLaughlin won the Pikes Peak Ascent on Saturday in 2:49:40, with runner-up Ashley Brasovan finishing only two seconds back. It was a nice full-circle moment, as McLaughlin and Brasovan have been racing since high school. At the 2008 Foot Locker Cross Country Championships, the pair was dueling late in the race when Jordan Hasay kicked by both of them to win. On Sunday, McLaughlin doubled back in the Pikes Peak Marathon, which involves running both up and down the mountain, and she finished second to Stevie Kremer, who won in 4:34:45.

  • Annie Hughes, a 23-year-old student at Colorado Mountain College Leadville, won the Leadville Trail 100 in 21:06:58.

  • The World U20 Championships were held last week and included many athletes who will no doubt be stars of the future. I don’t have the space to recap the meet here, but the results are here, there are event recaps here, and if you have access to Peacock, you can watch the races there. Keep in mind that the times are affected by the fact that the meet was held at altitude, in Nairobi, Kenya. One nice story to come out of the championships was that Kenyan 800m Olympian Mary Moraa saw Burundi’s Jeanine Kezimana competing in the 3,000m final in shoes not suited for track racing, so she collected some spikes and other items to donate to her.

  • Jordan Gray broke her own American record in the decathlon, an event still fighting for widespread support, on Sunday, scoring 8,246 points.

 

Additional News and Links

  • Abby Anderson, whose older sister, professional runner Gabe Grunewald, died of cancer in 2019, was walking to watch her boyfriend coach a soccer game on the evening of August 14th when she was run over twice by the same driver (StarTribune). Anderson, 29, died of her injuries later that night. She’s survived by her parents, Kim and Laura, a twin brother, Ben, and older brothers Zach and Caleb. There is a GoFundMe campaign in memory of Anderson, there will be a run in her honor in Minneapolis tomorrow, and you can read more about her in this Runner’s World article. Anderson was working hard to promote the Brave Like Gabe 5K, which will take place virtually and on September 26 in Minneapolis. 

  • Last week, New Balance unveiled its Sydney McLaughlin Collection, which you can read more about here, and Athleta released Allyson Felix’s athleisure line, which includes Felix’s Saysh One shoe. Cadenshae recently introduced a collection with Alysia Montaño, and Altra collaborated with Kara Goucher on the Paradigm 6. It’s great to see companies using the female runners they support in this way, because it helps sell products and increases the athletes’ visibility.

  • The New York City and Chicago Marathons released their elite fields last week. Olympic champion Peres Jepchirchir will run New York, as will all three members of the 2020 U.S. Olympic marathon team, plus Emily Sisson. Des Linden will also run New York, less than a month after running Boston. The Chicago Marathon field features a lot less depth but could provide a great opportunity for athletes to break through. The race had already announced that Sara Hall will go after the American record, and the only woman in the field who has run faster than that is Ruth Chepngetich, who will be looking for a better race after dropping out of the Olympic marathon. Keira D’Amato will go in as the third-fastest runner in the field.

  • The New York Daily News talked to Jepchirchir who said she runs 80–85 miles per week (relatively low for an elite marathoner), she wants to break the world record in the marathon (not in New York), and she didn’t know who Molly Seidel was during the Olympic marathon.

  • Sophie Power shared on Instagram that after women campaigned for change, the London Marathon has changed its policy with regards to pregnant and postpartum women. Those who are not ready to race will now be able to run the next edition of the race. Power said the race is not publicizing the change, so she’s asking people to help spread the word. One mom-to-be, Sarah Minkus, said on Twitter that she wishes that the Chicago Marathon would do the same. She said she’ll be in her ninth month of pregnancy on race day, and she was not allowed to defer her entry. This seems like an excellent point in time for all of the World Marathon Majors and other races to take a step back and evaluate their policies.

  • World’s Greatest has been producing some quality YouTube content recently. I particularly enjoyed their video with Gabby Thomas and hearing from her coach, Tonja Buford-Bailey.

  • I asked Twitter for updates on the 2024 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials last week and learned that one coach has been told by a USATF official that the national office staff was working on a request for proposals document last month and that they plan to distribute it before the end of the year. The first step in figuring out the 2024 Trials is determining who will host the event. And the elite athlete coordinator for the biggest qualifying race said she’s been told (but nothing’s certain) that the Trials qualifying window won’t open until fall of 2022, which would make the qualifying window roughly one year shorter than it was for the 2020 Trials. I am so curious about this that I will take any crumbs of information I can get.

  • The British Journal of Sports Medicine has issued a correction to a study whose findings have been used to keep DSD athletes from competing in events from 400 meters to the mile, and Caster Semenya’s lawyers are calling for World Athletics’ regulations for DSD athletes to be lifted (The Telegraph). World Athletics, on the other hand, believes that the information is not new and that it was already taken into account by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

  • Karissa Schweizer said she would have liked to race at the Prefontaine Classic, but her legs are still recovering from her double in Tokyo, so she’s ending her season.

  • It doesn’t sound like Emma Coburn’s season is over, but she skipped the Prefontaine Classic to work on getting her body “back to 100%.” Fellow steeplechaser Val Constien also skipped the meet, saying the anxiety associated with racing is not worth pushing through right now.

  • Poland’s Maria Andrejczyk, the Olympic silver medalist in the javelin, decided to auction off her medal when she learned about a Polish toddler whose family needed money to take him to the U.S. for potentially life-saving surgery. Polish convenience store chain Zabka won the auction, but insisted that Andrejczyk keep her medal.

  • And speaking of good deeds, last week I reported that Molly Seidel’s run at the Falmouth Road Race had raised $19,044, but Puma then announced that they would match that, so Seidel’s fundraising for Tommy’s Place, a vacation home for kids with cancer, is now at $38,088. Seidel threw out the first pitch at Friday’s Red Sox game.

  • The Freihofer’s Run for Women is recruiting a Northeast-based field this year, and they’re looking for women who can run faster than 17:30 for 5K or 36:50 for 10K, or masters women who can run 19:45. The race is offering $24,050 in prize money, it takes place September 25 in Albany, New York, and you can get more information here.

Correction: Last week, I accidentally wrote that Raven Saunders won a bronze medal in the shot put in Tokyo, when she really won the silver. Speaking of Saunders, she did a good four-minute segment with Kevin Hart and Snoop Dogg (first time either one of them has made it into this newsletter) recently and she continues to do a fantastic job of spreading the word about the importance of mental health.
 

Courtney Frerichs (Photo: @tafphoto)
 

Podcast Highlights

  • On C Tolle Run, Courtney Frerichs shared more details about the mental shift she’s made this year that helped lead to her Olympic silver medal in the steeplechase. Though Frerichs expressed gratitude for the fact that the Games were able to happen at all, she admitted having to celebrate alone after her race. That celebration, which involved eating pizza and ice cream in the Olympic Village dining hall, was a little sad. (Not a podcast, but Frerichs also did a good episode of Tracklandia last week.)

  • Kara Goucher and Ali Feller had a great conversation about the behind-the-scenes details of being a distance analyst for NBC’s Olympic broadcast. 

  • Feller also talked to Jay Holder, who was the deputy venue media manager for track and field at the Olympic Games. He shared some interesting logistical details and said, among many other things, that he hopes championships will continue to offer virtual media accreditation after the pandemic is over, and I agree. It’s a game-changer for small outlets (like this one) with limited or no travel budgets.

  • I particularly appreciated Molly Huddle and Alysia Montaño’s conversation with Kate Grace about the business side of the sport on Keeping Track.

  • Emily Durgin said on the Run Your Mouth podcast that she’s now being coached by Terrence Mahon. She’ll still be based in Flagstaff, but she plans to spend 2–3 months per year training in San Diego with Mahon. Durgin is targeting the marathon for the 2024 Olympic Trials, but she says she’s not ready to make her debut just yet.

  • Vanessa Fraser talked about her ongoing recovery from bilateral Achilles surgery, and fueling her career, on the Female Athlete Nutrition podcast.

  • Genevieve Gregson talked about rupturing her Achilles on the last water jump of the Olympic steeplechase final on the Physical Performance Show. Gregson explained that she’s been struggling with Haglund’s deformity in her left Achilles for years, so she was surprised that it was her right one that ruptured. As soon as she’s recovered enough from surgery on her right side, she is planning to get Haglund’s surgery (the same surgery Fraser had) on her left side.

  • Sisters Gabriela DeBues-Stafford and Lucia Stafford talked about both running well in the 1500 at the Olympic Games on the Shakeout Podcast.

  • In her first-ever podcast appearance, Bridget Belyeu talked about the challenges that come with balancing a job, being a mother, and running at a high level. Belyeu is planning to run the Chicago Marathon this fall after giving birth late last year.

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Thanks to Altra for sponsoring this week’s newsletter, thanks to all of you who support Fast Women via Patreon, and I hope you all have a great week!

Alison

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