Thursday, May 12, 2016

Blankenship and Kampf Dominate USATF Road Mile Championships; Race Results

Both Ben Blankenship and Heather Kampf had something more in their sights than braking the winner's finish tape at the Medtronic TC Mile/USATF  Road Mile Championships in Minneapolis.  Both wanted a shot at the event record, worth $10,000 in bonus money added to the $5,000 award for finishing first.

Both like to run from the front.  For Blankenship that tactic paid dividends as he won the men's race in a new course record of 3:55.8. Kampf took the lead in the women's race with a 64 second first quarter.  She hit her mark at the 800 of 2:15, but she didn't have anyone to chase or force her to pick up the pace for the latter half of the race, thus wasn't able to threaten Sara Hall's women's event record of 4:30.8.

Heather Kampf leads the field early in the race. Photo by Gene Niemi
Kampf said she began to worry a bit as she turned for the finish with a little over a quarter mile to go.  She hadn't heard anyone behind her or cheers for other runners who might be in her wake.  She didn't want someone to sneak up on her.  Kampf looked back and saw Christy Cazzola, who was her closest competitor, with a look of surprise on her face.

The two joked after the race that both were startled by Cazzola's runner-up position in a field that included more credentialed athletes, such as eventual third place finisher Gabe Grunewald(4:39.0) and 2016 BAA Mile champion Brook Handler, who finished fourth in 4:40.6.  Kampf maintained her lead to finish in 4:34.2, and Cazzola was timed in 4:37.2.

The Brooks Beasts team based in Seattle had five entrants in the men's race, including two Minnesota natives, defending champion Garrett Heath and Gopher grad Travis Burkstrand.  Their race strategy hinged on being with Blankenship with a quarter to go.  Blankenship knew that the Beasts would try and team up on him, so he made sure they never got in a position to threaten him down the home straight.

Ben Blankenship in front of runner up Garrett Heath. Photo by Gene Niemi
(Blankenship) built up too much of a lead, said Heath.  By the time they realized that, it was too late to do anything about it but hope that Blankenship had miscalculated and would blow up at the end.  Blankenship had been contemplating a try at 10,000 meters on the track this season, but had to scrap that because he didn't get an Olympic qualifying mark.

The training he did for the longer distance, however, paid off.  He had plenty left at the end and a large enough lead so that he could coast the final meters, so that he didn't break Nick Willis's event record of 3:56.1 by too much.  Blankenship ran 3:55.8 following Willis's example of not taking off too much time so that breaking it again if he came back next year would be more difficult.

In difficulty in the middle of the pack, Burkstrand hadn't tried to get up with the leaders until late in the race.  He made one surge to get to sixth place, then turned on the jets to catch three more runners in the last quarter of the race and finish third in 4:01.4.

USATF Championship Race Results are HERE.

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