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STANFORD INVITATIONAL

Women’s World Leaders In
The 100H & Steeple

by Sieg Lindstrom

Ostrander Allie 0892A DGcapStanford, California, March 30-31—Olympic 100H champion Brianna Rollins-McNeal, returning from a year-plus layoff, and defending NCAA steeple winner Allie Ostrander put up performances at the Stanford Invitational that are auspicious for the young ’18 outdoor season. The annual fixture also served up its trademark 10K offerings.

Friday evenings at Stanford each year often frame 10,000s as their set pieces. This edition did that late in the session when temperatures had dropped into the ’60s after record Bay Area highs during the day.

Alabama's Vincent Kiprop got the men's win in a PR 28:19.07 from 33-year-old débutant Lopez Lomong (28:21.37), scampering away over the last 100.

The women's 25-lapper ended in similar fashion, but with two 30-somethings at the fore. Olympic triathlon gold medalist Gwen Jorgensen, who is 31, hammered her 33:38.38 PR from ’09—when she was a Wisconsin senior—down to 31:55.68. To secure the victory, Jorgensen had to sprint away from fellow Bowerman TC marathoner Carrie Dimoff, also in the final homestraight. Dimoff, mother of two and a Nike shoe designer, was timed in 31:57.85, a 48.90 reduction of her PR set 3 years ago.

Placing 3rd was NCAA 5K ace Karissa Schweizer, who couldn't catch her elders but nonetheless produced the second-fastest collegiate debut ever. The Missouri senior's 32:00.55—which made her the No. 8 all-time collegian—was inferior in that category only to then-Notre Dame frosh Anna Rohrer's winning 31:58.99 at this meet last year.

In the 80-degrees-plus speed-conducive warmth of the afternoon, though, Rio winner Rollins-McNeal rolled out a world-leading 12.62 in the 100H some 2 hours after a 12.70 heat.

"Feels great to be back on the track competing again," Rollins-McNeal tweeted. "First hurdle race since the Olympics and it felt great! All…" Here she inserted a smiling emoticon.

Rollins-McNeal, the former American Record holder had three drug-testing whereabouts failures in ’16 resulting in a sitdown for all of ’17, despite the arbitration panel that ruled on her appeal describing the hurdler as "a brilliant athlete who is not charged or suspected of using banned substances of any kind."

Back on the track again on Saturday afternoon, Rollins-McNeal churned a runaway win in the 200, with her 23.12 time (wind 0.9) her fastest since ’13, and tweeted after that race, "A hot bubbly Epsom salt bath is calling my name right about now."

The 12.62 was the second world leader of the meet, with Briton Nick Miller having whirled a 256-10 (78.29) hammer throw, in the third round of his morning final.

Boise State redshirt soph Ostrander is making PRs in the steeple at Stanford a tradition of her own. Ostrander debuted in the barrier race here last year with a win (9:55.61) and went on to grab the NCAA crown. This time, after opening a gap on USF's Marie Bouchard, the tiny Alaskan native finished with a turn of speed to lower her best to 9:38.57, good for No. 8 on the all-time collegiate list. Bouchard, a French senior, followed in 9:47.03.

"I didn't go in with any really big expectations," said Ostrander, who placed 2nd to Schweizer in the NCAA Indoor 3000 last month. "It was just an opener and I just kind of wanted to get in the race and feel it out. I was really happy with how it went."

Ostrander has diverse racing experience for a 21-year-old, from 300H races in high school to a World Junior mountain running title. She is finding the steeple suits her, counterintuitive as that might seem given her compact stature.

"It's just the challenge of the event," she said, "and how it keeps you engaged and is constantly changing throughout the race. I like the different elements that the barriers and the water provide. It changes things up and makes the race a little bit more interesting for me."

The two 10Ks, while neither was world class fast from the get-go, ended with shape-testing finishes for early spring. True on the men's side even after NCAA XC/indoor 5K champ Justyn Knight's withdrawal from the meet.

Kiprop surged 64.4 for the 21st lap, cutting the lead group to 5, including his fellow Alabama Kenyans Gilbert Kigen and Alfred Chelanga, and BYU's Clayton Young.

Lomong rebuffed the move and led the next three circuits (63.5 for lap 24) to set up a two-man contest with Kiprop at the bell. The Crimson Tide senior, the top of his head barely peaking higher than Lomong's shoulders tore into a sprint in the final turn, took the lead just before the straight and rushed away on the wings of his 28.1 last 200.

The plan, for Kiprop and his teammates said the winner—twice an NCAA Div. II 10,000 champion for Missouri Southern before his transfer and runner-up in the NCAA Indoor 5K in March—was "just to come here and do our best because our coaches have done a very good job so far. We are very fortunate with that and we came here to see where we are at, to go improve and see what to work on. I like the 10K the best."

Lomong, an Olympian at 1500 in ’08 and 5000 in ’12 (10th), said of his debut in the long track event, "What a tough race. Jeez. I mean this is 25 laps and it really hurt the last mile. We ran maybe 63s, 64s, maybe a little bit there. Man, it's tough but I'm happy I put the mark somewhere and I'll improve on that mark and perfect it next time."

Next time, he'll be more prepared. "This is a good tempo," the Northern Arizona alum said of the evening's exertion. "We haven't done anything yet specifically for 10,000 but we did a lot of mileage so I'm happy to see 28:21 on the board. That's a good start."

Jorgensen effectively came down to the 10K having set marathon goals after winning the first-ever U.S. triathlon Olympic gold in Rio. She ran 2:41:01 for 14th at the ’16 New York City Marathon. But there's more to her story, though.

Just 7 months ago, last August, Jorgensen she birth to her first child, son Stanley—further wowing perspective on her PR win here.

The prerace buzz was around Jorgensen's meeting with first-time 10K racer Schweizer, who has not lost an NCAA 5000 in or out since she took the ’16 NCAA XC crown.

The Missouri senior did most of the leading for 20 laps before the 30-somethings took over. Dimoff led at the bell after three 76-range laps and looked to have the upper hand until Jorgensen, her hair wrapped back by a headband, swung past late in the final curve and won going away with a 33.3 last 200.

While the first two spots went to the veterans, Schweizer closed in 35.0 and gained ground on Dimoff in the stretch. Schweizer's tweet the next day reacting to a Flotrack photo of her expression on the start line: "Probably questioning what I got myself into."

A fine debut is the answer.

Among other highlights, ’17 No. 1 800 World Ranker Nijel Amos showed a 2-lap field his heels, winning in 1:44.65 by 3.44 seconds. In Friday evening's invitational 1500 former New Mexico miler, now competing for Belgium, Peter Callahan blew away 20-year-old Drew Hunter in the last 150 for a 3:38.41–3:39.49 win. It was Hunter's first race since August, as injury sidelined him during the indoor season.

© Track & Field News 2018