INDIANAPOLIS – Olympian Molly Huddle continued her inspirational season with a masterful victory Saturday morning at the USA 7 Mile Championships in Davenport, Iowa, hosted by the Bix 7, while Sean Quigley upset USA Running Circuit leader Christo Landry over the final quarter mile of the race to win the men’s title.
The USA 7 Mile Championships are the eighth stop on the USA Running Circuit, which concludes this fall with the .US National Road Racing Championships. The top ten finishers at each race on the circuit qualify to compete in the .US National Road Racing Championships.
Fresh off her American 5,000m record on the track just over a week ago, Huddle took control of the women’s field early. As the runners pushed up the big hill dominating the first mile, Huddle surged ahead of the competition, putting nearly a ten second lead on the field in the first mile.
While teammate and fellow Olympian Amy Hastings, USARC co-leader Sara Hall, rising star Rachel Ward and Mammoth Track Club’s Lauren Kleppen led the chase pack, Huddle poured on the quick early pace, establishing over a thirty second lead by the half-way turnaround point. While Hastings started to struggle on the downhill portion of the first half of the race, Hall, Ward and Kleppin positioned themselves in a loose pack, finding themselves alone the rest of the race.
Huddle continued her push after the turnaround, building her lead to a full minute with one mile to go. As Huddle let gravity carry her down the hill to the finish, the Providence-based athlete showed why she’s the best American distance runner in the country this season up to this point. Around the final turn, Huddle showed a brilliant smile, arms raised victoriously, hitting the finish line in 36:14.
Over a minute back, Hall pulled away from Ward and Kleppin over the back half of the race to take home second in 37:21. Halls performance was her third runner-up finish of the USARC season. Ward held off Kleppin for third, finishing in 37:30, her second consecutive third place performance on the circuit. Kleppin crossed the finish in 37:35, while Lindsey Scherf rounded out the top five in 38:05.
Veteran Brianne Nelson placed sixth in 28:16, while Hastings, Mattie Suver and Clara Santucci placed 7-8-9, all under 38:45.
From the gun in the men’s race, a large pack led by Boston Marathon champion Meb Keflezighi ran fairly conservative for the first half of the race. As the runners crossed the first mile, a pack of nearly 20 runners huddled together, following the lead of the pre-race favorites.
Nothing dramatic transpired until a half mile before the turn around, when Stephen Pifer took the lead and started to push the pace. Pifer, Jonathan Peterson, Keflezighi and Landry traded leads for the next mile, as the comfortable early pace led to a fair amount of second half surges.
With two miles to go the pack narrowed to six athletes, with Pifer and Sean Quigley leading the way, with Keflezighi, Ahmed Osman, Landry and Maverick Darling all hanging on. Another surge from Pifer and this time Landry strung out the field that much more, as the final mile approached. As the runner’s made the turn on the large downhill, Quigley and Landry broke from the pack, while Pifer and Darling pulled away from Osman and Keflezighi.
As Landry and Quigley charged ahead, putting distance on Pifer and Darling, the two steamrolled down the hill. While Quigley looked relaxed as the final turn approached, Landry showed a bit of late race fatigue as his head started to bob and his arms flailed. As the sprint to the finish approached, the two traded looks over their shoulders seeing it was a battle of two.
While Quigley and Landry traded leads in the final half mile, once the turn was made, Landry threw down one last push, which Colorado-based Quigley covered and made one final surge of his own, pulling away to victory in 33:28. Landry finished a close second in 33:32.
Darling, in his first full season as a pro, crossed the line an impressive third in 33:43, while Pifer continued his recent success on the roads with a fourth place finish of 33:49.
Team USA Minnesota’s Peterson stayed strong over the final two miles of the race with a fifth place finish in 33:55, as Diego Estrada ran a smart race, working his way up throughout, to finish sixth in 34:00, one second ahead of seventh place finisher Elliot Krause. Ahmed Osman, USARC veteran Josphat Boit and Matthew Llano rounded out the top ten.
Landry’s runner-up effort scored him another 12 points in the USARC standings, giving him 64 points on the season, a staggering 37 points ahead of current second place Chris Derrick. Hall’s victory puts her well up on second place Suver. The two entered Saturday’s contest tied with 34 points a piece. Hall’s 12 points puts her at 46 points, while Suver maintains her second place spot with 37 points.
The USA Running Circuit now shifts eastward, as the USA 20 km Championships take place in New Haven, Connecticut on September 1.
About the USARC
The USARC is a USA Track & Field road series featuring USA championships from one mile through the marathon and consistently attracts the best American distance runners with more than $500,000 to be awarded in total prize money. A total of $50,00 in prize money was awarded at the USA 7 Mile Championships.
The first ten U.S. runners earn points at each USARC race (15 for first, 12 for second, 10 for third, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2 and 1), with those earning the most points receiving prize money at the end of the series.
The mission of the USARC is to showcase, support and promote U.S. runners. Since its inception in 1995, the USARC and its races have provided over $7 million to U.S. distance runners.
Contributed by Scott Bush