In particular, the spectators who stuck around for Section #1 of the men's 10,000m race witnessed a rare treat. Leveraging ideal running temperatures in the low 60's for the 9:50 p.m. start, Bernard Lagat, age 41, put on a show in his 10K debut on the track. In fact, he set a new masters world best and masters U.S. record of 27:49.35 while winning the race and beating a fast, international field. The previous world best of 28:30 for an over-40 runner (as recognized by the IAAF) was registered by Finland's Martii Vaino in 1991. Lagat also bettered the current U.S. men's age 40-44 U.S. track record of 28:57.88 set by Kevin Castille on this very same Stanford track in 2012. Lagat's new U.S. mark will remain unofficial until it is officially ratified by USATF.
A sizable group of about 10 competitors hit 5,000m in 13:58.5. Lagat waited until about 200m remained in the race before sweeping by Japan's Suguru Osako on the last lap and proceeding to victory. Osako, who hold's Japan's 5,000m record of 13:08.40, finished second in 27:50.27. Futsum Zienasellassie (Northern Arizona University) was third in 27:53.38. The top eight finishers in the race went under the 2016 Olympic Games 10,000m qualifying time of of 28:00.
"My coach, James Li, and I planned to come here to Stanford and do this one just right. I felt really good the whole race," said Lagat, the former Kenyan and four-time Olympian who holds multiple U.S. open and masters U.S. records outdoors and indoors. "I didn't panic. The guys really had a nice pace. It wasn't crazy, but I was able to follow it."
Next on Lagat's 2016 plan is a, hopefully, fast 5,000 at the Prefontaine Classic on May 27-28.
"The 5,000 meters there will be really fast," he said. "I'll be running against young guys again, so I'm looking forward to it. I'm still going to stick with the 5,000 meters. But getting the 5K standard for the Olympics now is anybody's game at this point. So, I'm going to be prepared going into the (U.S. Olympic) Trials. I might even decide to go to the 10,000. It's not in or off the cards right now."
Section #1 of the women's 10,000m featured a whopping 23 women who finished under the 2016 Olympic Games entry standard of 32:15.0. At the 5K split, hit in 15:41, the eventual first three women finishers closely followed pacer Buze Diriba (Adidas, Ethiopia) who eventually dropped off and finished 6th in 31:38.6. Irene Cheptai (Nike, Kenya) emerged as the eventual winner in 31:15.38 in a very fine 10,000m debut on the track. She was followed by runner-up Caroline Chepkoech (Boulder Wave, Kenya) in 31:16.38 and Ayuko Suzuki (Japan) in 31:18.16 for 3rd. In 4th was top U.S. finisher Marielle Hall (Nike) in 31:37.45--the former University of Texas star--who was also making her 10,000m debut.
In a superbly competitive women's 5,000m race (Section #1), many eyes were on Kenya's Sally Kipyego--the 10,000m silver medalist at both the 2012 Olympics and 2011 World Championships whose 14:43.11 victory in the Payton Jordan race in 2012 stills stands as the meet and Stanford stadium record. And, yes, Kipyego grabbed the win here again, her third, registering an impressive 14:58.60 performance--the third fastest in the world in 2016 to date. Nicole Tully (Hoka-NYAC, USA), the 2015 U.S. 5,000m champion, placed second in 15:04.08. Maureen Koster (Unattached, Netherlands) was third in15:07.20. 2012 Olympian (at 5,000m) Kim Conley (New Balance, W. Sacramento, Calif., USA) placed 6th in 15:12.73 as the top eight women went under the 2016 Olympic Games qualifying standard of 15:24. (The U.S. Olympic Trials standard is 15:25.)
"I'm happy with my race," said Kipyego who will run the 10,000 at the Kenyan Olympic Track & Field Trials, June 14-15. "It was my first race of the season, so it felt fast to me. Hopefully, I'll be in Rio and get the gold medal in the 10,000."
Conley, who has attained the Olympic Games qualifying standards in both the 5,000m and 10,000m--agreed that it was a fast race. "The last kilometer got really hard for me, but that's the 5K for you," commented Conley whose 5,000m PR is 15:08.61. "I'll get in a little more work, toughen up, and try to be ready for the 5,000 at Pre. (Note: Prefontaine Classic on May 27-28.) I'm not sure what I'll run (5,000m or 10,000m) at the Trials yet. I'll see how these 5Ks go, and then make a decision."
Section #1 of the men's 5,000m had five men run under the Olympic Games qualifying standard of 13:25.00. Kenyan-born Shadrack Kipchirchir (USA/U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program) used a powerful 55.36-second last lap to secure a narrow victory in 13:18.52. Andrew Butchart (Unattached/Scotland), the 2016 Scottish Cross Country champion, was the runner-up in 13:18.96. UC-Berkeley graduate David Torrence (USA/Hoka One One)--the current U.S. indoor 1,000m record holder and last year's U.S. road 5K champion--placed 3rd in 13:19.42.
In an exciting Section #1 of the women's 3,000m steeplechase, University of New Mexico Senior Courtney Frerichs became the third fastest women's collegian of all-time. Her world-leading time of 9:29.31 ranks collegiately only behind Jenny Simpson (9:25.54) and Emma Coburn (9:28.26) who both earned their collegiate bests while competing for Colorado. Frerichs was the runner-up at the 2015 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships. She pulled away from Genevieve Lalonde (2nd, 9:38.88, Speed River, Canada) and Shalaya Kipp (3rd, 9:43.72, Oisellle, USA) with two laps to go.
"The other girls really helped make the race today," Frerichs said. "They were very competitive out there. Shalaya and Jenny (LaLonde) were a match for me the whole time. It helped me because I really wanted it and they wanted it, too. In my workouts, I definitely work on a closing kick. That's how I feel most comfortable racing."
Canadian Matt Hughes (Nike Bowerman TC, Canada) grabbed the win in Section #1 of the men's 3,000 steeplechase. Hughes narrowly out-kicked former University of Arkansas standout Stanley Kebenei (USA) to secure the win in 8:22.31. Kebenei, who was born in Kenya, finished 2nd in 8:22.85.
"We knew it wasn't going to be super quick today," said Hughes, who owns the Canadian steeple record of 8:11.64. He won the gold medal in the steeple at last year's Pan American Games in Toronto and finished eighth at the 2015 IAAF World Championships. "My coach, Jerry Schumacher, just said 'don't worry about pace. Just get in there, mix up in the middle of the pack, and then, when you feel good, just go.' Now, we have to start running fast times."
Australia's Linden Hall (Wolfpack TC) won in Section #1 of a very quick women's 1,500m, closing with an impressive 62-second last lap and finishing with a 2016 world-leading time of 4:04.47. Her mark puts her #4 on the all-time Australian women's 1,500m list. Four women in the race besides Hall went under the 2016 Olympic Games qualifying time of 4:09.50: Gabriela Stafford (2nd, 4:07.91, CAN), Lauren Johnson (3rd, 4:08.18, Unattached/USA), Hilary Stellingwerff (4th, 4:08.80, Speed River/CAN), and Cory McGee (5th, 4:08.80, New Balance/USA).
"It was a huge payday for me here, a 6-second PR. We really haven't had races in Australia with a pacer like we had tonight," said Hall. "The conditions were perfect. I love this track."
In Section #2 of the women's 1,500m, prep standout Christina Aragon (Montana) returned to The Farm after registering a sensational 4:16.36 at last year's meet, a time that placed her number 5 on the all-time high school list. Aragon, who is headed to Stanford after she graduates this year, improved that time Sunday, winning her race in 4:11.24. The mark now puts Aragon at number 4 on the all-time prep list.
"My goal coming in was to run 4:15 because I ran 4:16 in this race last year, and also to set a PR," said Aragon. "I heard that the rabbit was going to go out fast, so I just wanted to kind of hang on for the first two laps, see how I felt, and then make moves as I could. I'm just really excited to have improved a lot from last year. "
In Section #1 of the men's 1,500m, Washington State University senior Izaic Yorks took down an impressive field that included American steeplechase record holder Evan Jager, two-time Olympian and three-time U.S. champ at 1,500 Lopez Lomong, and Henrik Ingebrigtsen--the Norwegian national record holder in the 1,500m (3:31.46) and mile (3:50.72). Yorks injected a 57.37 last lap to take home a well-earned win and PR in 3:37.74 as Ingebrigtsen placed 2nd in 3:38.33 and Jager secured 3rd in 3:38.67.
"Next, I need to go get the Olympic 1,500 standard (3:36.20)," Yorks said. "My most important races coming up are nationals on the college scene which will set the tone for the U.S. Olympic Trials. Somewhere in-between, I'd like to run 1:45 in the 800m. You kind of need that speed in the last two laps of the 1,500 to make that Olympic team."
2015 Arkansas graduate Chrishuna Williams (Unattached) won Section #1 of the women's 800m in 2:00.58, a personal record, in only her second year of running the two-lap event. Former Stanford standout Justine Fedronic (Nike, France) placed 2nd in 2:00.64. Maggie Vessey (Unatt., Soquel, Calif.) was third in 2:00.82.
"I'm so excited about today's race, finally getting another PR," said Williams who placed 4th for the Razorbacks in the 800m at last year's NCAA Division I Outdoor Championship. "This is only my second year running the 800. I have a 400m background. I wanted to be in the mix and then take the lead."
In Section #1 of the men's 800m, Eliud Rutto (Middle Tenn. State, Kenya) took an early lead following the pacesetter through splits of 24.4 (200m), 50.32 (400m), and 1:19.2 (600m) before proceeding to victory in 1:46.24.
"I was a little tired today, but was trying to push the last lap," said Rutto, a collegiate Junior who ran his 800m PR of 1:45.37 at this meet in 2014--a meet record at that time which was eclipsed by Boris Berian (1:45.30) last year. "I feel okay about it since I'm getting ready for the NCAA Championships."
Thanks, Stanford, for a superbly competitive and riveting 2016 Payton Jordan Invitational in a big Olympic year.
Mark Winitz has written about running and track and field, organized programs for runners, and served as a consultant and publicist for road races for almost 40 years. He is a longtime activist within USA Track & Field and is a certified USATF Master Level Official/Referee. He also assists road racing events through his company, Win It!z Sports Public Relations and Promotions in Los Altos, CA.