At the 2011 Melbourne Track Classic three athletes, perhaps not widely known to United States distance running fans, had strong performances. In two cases their performance included personal records (PR’s) of fourteen and fifteen seconds in the 5000 meters, which is a huge PR for an elite athlete to make. Let’s get to know those three runners a little bit better.
Riseley is only twenty-four years old. But the Australian middle distance runner coached by Nic Bideau has already competed at the 2007 and 2009 World Championships and the 2008 Olympics. Riseley won the 1500 meters at the Melbourne Track Classic for the third straight year. In 2009, the win went relatively unnoticed. In 2010, he beat Olympic silver medalist Nick Willis and Olympic gold medalist Asbel Kiprop, taking advantage of the later’s fall early in the race. In 2011, however, no one could dispute the outcome. Riseley was the better runner, winning again over Willis and Kiprop.
Riseley’s PR for the 1500 meters is 3:32.93, which ranks him as the third fastest Australian in history. That PR race was run in Rome in the summer of 2009 when Riseley was just twenty-two. The Australian record holder is Ryan Gregson, who in 2010 at just twenty years of age, ran 3:31.06.
Riseley is definitely a name to remember. He had plantar fasciitis and missed most of the 2010 season but if this early season race is any indication, he is ready to take on the likes of Willis and Kiprop come next summer at the World Championships.
Ben St. Lawrence
St. Lawrence is another Australian runner who had a big race in front of his home country fans at the 2011 Melbourne Track Classic. He entered the race with a 5000 PR of 13:25.88 from 2009. However, after hanging with the lead pack for the first eleven and a half laps of the race, and then challenging eventual winner Bernard Lagat over the last lap, St. Lawrence earned a fifteen second PR. His time of 13:10.08 makes him the number two Australian over 5000 meters in history. The only Aussie to run faster is Craig Mottram, who finished sixth at this year’s Melbourne Track Classic. This was Mottram’s first race after a long layoff. Mottram owns the seven fastest times in Australian history over 5000 meters, all under 13:10.
This meet was also the Australian National Championships, so St. Lawrence captured the national title and since his time was well the World Championship “A” standard of 13:20.00, he clinched a berth on the Australian team to the 2011 World Championships.
After a promising junior running career, St. Lawrence gave up the sport and put on some weight while partying and drinking on a regular basis. He was watching the 2006 Commonwealth Games with some friends and decided to make a running comeback. Four years later and some twenty-two kilograms lighter, he was representing Australia at the Commonwealth Games in the 5000 and 10,000 meters. Next up is the even bigger stage – the World Championships.
Bumbalough who is just a couple weeks shy of his twenty-fourth birthday attended high school at Brentwood Academy in Tennessee. While in high school he won the 2004 Arcadia Invitational two mile with a time of 8:49.87. He was also second at the 2004 Foot Locker Cross Country Championships.
After high school he attended Georgetown University. As a junior athlete (nineteen and under) at Georgetown he got his first taste of elite international racing. He was the 2006 USA junior national champion for 5000 meters and competed at the 2006 Junior World Championships in both cross country and the 1500 meters.
During his 2005-2010 career as a Georgetown Hoya, he was a seven time All-American and a three-time Big East conference champion (2008 1500, 4X800 relay, and cross country). He improved his finish at the NCAA Championships in cross country from 22nd in 2007, to 13th in 2008, to 8th in 2009. He was the 2008 NCAA Indoor runner-up in the 3000 meters. Despite battling injuries and illness during his last year and a half in college, he still managed to run a 5000 PR of 13:30.77 at the 2009 Payton Jordan Invitational and to place third at the 2010 NCAA Championships in the 5000 meters, his final collegiate race. He followed this with a third place at the 2010 USA Championships in Des Moines, Iowa.
Bumbalough has since moved to Oregon and is now coached by Jerry Schumacher. He came in second at the USA Cross Country Championships, earning a spot on the US team for the 2011 World Cross Country Championships to be held in Spain on March 20.
With his 13:16.77 (a fourteen second PR) at the Melbourne Track Classic Bumbalough now shares something his Oregon Track Club teammates Chris Solinsky and Matt Tegenkamp have – a World Championship “A” standard.
Riseley, St Lawrence, and Bumbalough. Not household names yet. Not like Rudisha, Bekele, and Lagat. But file those names away because if they can keep having success like they did at the Melbourne Track Classic, they could be among the big names during the 2011 track & field season.
In the wee hours of Thursday morning west coast time, the Melbourne Track Classic took place in Melbourne, Australia. It being summer in the southern hemisphere this was a great opportunity for some good outdoor track & field action. The competition in the men’s 800, 1500, and 5000 meters was particularly strong.
In the men’s 800, world record holder David Rudisha opened his 2011 season with a 1:43.88. In second place was American Nick Symmonds in 1:45.08. This was Symmond’s fastest first race of the season, which bodes well for him for the 2011 season.
In the men’s 1500, the big names included Olympic gold medalist Asbel Kiprop, Olympic silver medalist Nick Willis, American mile record holder Alan Webb, and Australian Jeff Riseley. Last year at this meet Riseley impressed the home country crowd by beating Kiprop. Could he do it again?
1 Jeffrey Riseley AUS, 3:36.71
2 Asbel Kiprop KEN, 3:37.63
3 Alan Webb USA, 3:37.82
4 Nick Willis NZL, 3:38.76
The best race, however, was expected to be the men’s 5000 which featured Americans Bernard Lagat, Chris Solinsky, and Matt Tegenkamp. Lagat, Solinsky, and Tegenkamp represent three of the five Americans to ever break thirteen minutes in the 5000 (Dathan Ritzenheim and Bob Kennedy are the other two). Lagat made it known that his goal for this race was to achieve the World Championship “A” standard of 13:20.00.
Lagat won the race in 13:08.43. However the surprise of the meet was Australian Ben St. Lawrence who hung with the lead pack, challenged Lagat for the win, and outpaced Solinsky to earn a well deserved second place with a fifteen second personal record of 13:10.08. What a meet it was for rising Australian distance runners Riseley and St. Lawrence! Solinsky was third in 13:10.22, Tegenkamp fourth (13:16.27), and Andrew Bumbalough (13:16.77, a fourteen second personal record). All five runners were in under the “A” standard, a solid showing for such an early season meet.
This meet also marked one of the final track & field competitions at Melbourne’s Olympic Park. The stadium which hosted the 1956 Summer Olympics as well as hundreds of scholastic, local, regional, and national meets, is going to be converted into a training area for football teams. Next year a new track will open in nearby Albert Park. In an IAAF article about the final meets at Melbourne’s Olympic Park Len Johnson said, “It’s going to be sad leaving Olympic Park. If you’re a Victorian who has done athletics you have probably competed there for school, club or in state or national championships. Olympic Park’s reputation was built by the athletes who competed there. In a short time, the new centre at Albert Park will have its own John Landy, its own Cathy Freeman, its own history.”