By David Monti, @d9monti
(c) 2021 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved
(20-Mar) -- Despite windy conditions, Emily Sisson dominated this morning's USATF 15-K Championships hosted by the Gate River Run in Jacksonville, Fla. Running completely alone from gun to tape, she clocked 48:09, the #5 women's time ever at the race. Sisson, 29, who represents New Balance, also won the race's traditional gender battle by finishing well ahead of the men's champion, Clayton Young, after the elite women were given a six-minute head start. She earned $15,000 today, $10,000 for winning the women's title and another $5,000 for winning the gender battle, and today's victory gave Sisson her third national road running title.
"The game plan was just to run aggressively from the start," the fast-talking Sisson told Chris Nickinson during her post-race interview on USATF.tv.
Indeed, Sisson separated herself from the rest of the elite women within 30 seconds of the start. Occasionally glancing at her watch but never looking back, she rolled through 5 km in a snappy 15:39 with her nearest chasers, Lindsay Flanagan (Asics) and Emily Durgin (Under Armour) 17 seconds back. Her lead continued to build with every kilometer, and by 10 km (31:37) she had 42 seconds on Flanagan who had dropped Durgin and was running alone. Although she slowed in the final 5 km which includes the 141 foot (43m) high Hart Bridge --affectionately called "The Green Monster"-- Sisson still won comfortably. Flanagan, a 2019 RRCA elite grant recipient, got second in 49:14 and Durgin third in 49:29. Makena Morley (Asics/Idaho Afoot) and Erika Kemp (Boston Athletic Association) rounded out the top five in 49:38 and 50:10, respectively.
Sisson only raced twice in 2020. Before the onset of the pandemic she failed to finish the Olympic Trials Marathon in February, then spent most of last year training with her husband, Shane Quinn, building up a huge mileage base. She closed 2020 with a personal best half-marathon of 1:07:26 in Valencia last December, and then two weeks ago she ran a career best 14:55.82 for 5000m in San Juan Capistrano, Calif., a Tokyo Olympic qualifier. She said today that she would only run 10,000m at the USA Olympic Trials in June in Eugene, Ore.
"I just tried to make the most of 2020 when there weren't a lot of races, and just get really strong," Sisson explained. "So now I'm just trying to take advantage of all of the races. So far I'm just loving it. I'm so thankful to race again."
Sally Kipyego, who finished third at last year's Olympic Trials Marathon and who will be running that event in the Tokyo Olympics this summer, finished 14th in her first race in over a year.
Young, 27, who represents Asics, won his first national title today by mustering the fastest sprint over the race's final meters after the descent of the bridge. The former Brigham Young University athlete, who trains with recently crowned NCAA cross country champion Conner Mantz under coach Ed Eyestone, was part of the race's main lead pack which trailed the surprise leader John Raneri (McKirdy Trained) by 20 seconds through 5 km (14:21).
"Raneri, wow, what a race," said Young. "Any time it slowed up he wasn't afraid to take the lead and push the pace. A real, real grindy racer."
Raneri was caught just after 10 km (29:05), and the tactical part of today's contest began. A dozen men were still in contention at that point, including Olympian Shadrack Kipchirchir (Nike), the 2019 15-K champion; Frank Lara (Roots Running Project), the race's defending champion; and Biya Simbassa (unattached), the runner-up at these championships last year. Lara was the first to make a move as the pack began to ascend the bridge, but that surge was quickly covered by the pack setting up the big sprint at the end.
"I was just going to play it safe and stick in it for as long as I could," said Young who had never run this race before. He continued: "I didn't know, I wasn't familiar with the last mile of the race, and so when I saw the finish line my eyes lit up and was like, welp, now or never, and I went for it. Glad I did."
Young got to the line first in 43:52 followed by Simbassa, a 2020 RRCA Roads Scholar (43:54), Kipchirchir (43:55), marathoner Nico Montanez, a 2018 RRCA Roads Scholar, (also 43:55), and 5000m runner Kirubel Erassa (43:57). Defending champion Lara, a 2019 RRCA Roads Scholar, ended up seventh and early leader Raneri was tenth. Like Sisson, Young won $10,000 for first place, the largest payday of his career.
"I wasn't too confident coming in and tried to play it safe," Young said. "It definitely worked out for me."
In addition to Flanagan's second place finish on the women's side, 2018 Roads Scholar Grayson Murphy also placed in the top ten (sixth in 50:14). On the men's side, Run Pro alum Colin Bennie (sixth in 43:57) and Roads Scholar Reed Fischer (eighth in 44:02) joined Simbassa and Lara in the top ten. Overall, 19 of the 65 elites participating received some level of support from the RRCA.
The Gate River Run, which was held for the 44th time on Saturday is part of the USATF Running Circuit. The next event is the USATF 1 Mile Road Championships in Des Moines, Iowa, on April 20.
PHOTO: Emily Sisson in Atlanta in February, 2020, prior to the USA Olympic Trials Marathon (photo by Jane Monti for Race Results Weekly)