by Roger Robinson
(c) 2014 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved
NEW YORK (14-Jun) -- Molly Huddle attacked, survived, and conquered in a "ferocious contest" at today's Oakley New York Mini 10-K, rewarded with a 31:37 American women's-only 10-kilometer record. First American since 2004 to win this major and historic women's road race, Huddle decisively outran one of the strongest international fields in its 43 years, confirming the top-echelon status she has been shaping for herself on road and track. She earned $15,000 in prize money.
"Ferocious" was Mamitu Daska's word. The Ethiopian defending champion and recent Bolder Boulder 10-K winner surged and surged, using every hill and corner on the winding Central Park course to break Huddle's stride and spirit. "I thought I could win," said Daska, through an interpreter, looking a little shell-shocked.
Huddle was feeling feisty. Unwilling to be overawed by the class of the field, she almost leapt into the lead at the start.
"I wanted to see how comfortable I felt," she said, an understated way of describing a 5:03 first mile on the long uphill drag on Central Park West. She had dropped all the leading contenders except for Daska, scowling with the effort, and 2010 and 2011 champion Linet Masai (Kenya). Britain's Gemma Steel and New York based Ethiopian Buzunesh Deba were close.
Into the short sharp hills of Central Park, Daska began her campaign of prize-fight punches, and led the second mile in 4:58. Understandably, Huddle and Masai looked stretched.
"I toughed it out. I beat her in the Boston 5K in April, and I know she's not comfortable to leave it to the finishing kick. So I hung. I was conscious of the American record, and knew if I could hold around 5:05 miles, I could gain some time in the last 800," Huddle said.
On the long downhill to Harlem, approaching halfway, Daska eased, so much that Steel and Deba were quickly back in the lead pack (5:12 for Mile 3, 5-K in 15:13). Amy Hastings came only five seconds back. But nap time soon ended. On the course's biggest climb, Daska took charge again, Steel and Deba were dropped, and the gap to Hastings was suddenly back up to ten seconds.
Approaching 4 miles (5:13 for a mostly uphill mile), the moment of reckoning came for Masai. When she first won here in 2010, aged only 20, she was the leading edge of Kenyan running, world 10,000m track champion, moving with the sublime grace of a deer. Today, as Daska hammered the uphill to the Reservoir, Masai lost momentum, and was soon passed by Steele.
Now there were two. New Yorkers with their Saturday bikes and strollers were beginning to get excited. It's a long time since an American has gone by shoulder to shoulder with East Africa's best in this race.
"Let's go, Molly," they shouted, and she did.
Daska attacked again (5:01 for Mile 5), but Huddle, with her quick stride, stayed side by side, then began to force for space at the tangents. Approaching 800 to go, there was a stride between them.
"Ideally I was going to wait till 400, but when I felt her drift, it was the moment,' Huddle said.
She moved away decisively. It was perfectly executed. Mile 6 was 5:07. At 400 to go, she had the impertinence to check her watch.
"This record means so much to me, and it's especially great to do it with Deena here, still running so well," she said.
Steel, a hardened cross-country specialist who enjoyed the hills, was happy with third.
"I ran nearly a minute faster than when I was third last year," she said, excitedly posing in the Union Jack flag.
Kastor ran 33:17 in eleventh place to easily win the masters race.
Huddle, 29, from Ray Treacy's group at Providence, Rhode Island, heads next to Paris, for a Diamond League track meet, and then toward the US track and field championships. She is moving by "incremental steps" toward longer distances, she recently told Running Times. She took a significant one in New York today.
PHOTO: Molly Huddle wins the 43rd Oakley New York Mini 10-K in an American record 31:37 (photo by Jane Monti for Race Results Weekly)