TSX BULLETIN: Barega and St. Pierre win star 5,000s at USATF Distance Classic at UCLA

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All the hype coming into the USATF Distance Classic at UCLA on Friday night was on the 5,000 m races, with world-record holder Joshua Cheptegei (UGA), Tokyo 10,000 m champ Selemon Barega (ETH), American Record holder Grant Fisher and a lot more in the men’s race. It lived up to the billing.

The on-track wavelights were set at 12:54 and at 3,000 m, it was Sam Atkin (GBR) at 7:47.05, followed by American star Cooper Teare and Fisher. Teare took over with three laps left, with 12 still in contact!

Aregawi took over with 2 1/2 laps left, with Cheptegei close, but the pack still compact. The pressure increased with 600 m left and 2023 World Cross runner-up Berihu Aregawi (ETH) took the lead, but with a precarious lead over Barega, Cheptegei and Jacob Kiplimo, the Olympic 10,000 m bronze medalist.

At the bell, Barega was in full flight, but this only energized Aregawi, Biniam Mehari (ETH) and Cheptegei. No one could catch Barega and only Aregawi was in contention, with Cheptegei coming hard on the straight. Barega finished in 54.15 and slew an impressive field in a world-leading 12:51.60, with Aregawi at 12:52.09, Cheptegei at 12:52.38 and Kiplimo at 12:52.91. Fisher was fifth at 12:53.30.

The B race was a showcase for U.S. national champ Abdi Nur, who ran away from the field by the bell and steamed home with a lifetime best of 13:04.40, ahead of 13:08.47 lifetime best for Drew Hunter in second.

American 3,000 m World Indoor champ Elle St. Pierre was towing the women’s 5,000 m field, passing 3,000 m in 8:54.50, ahead of Joselyn Brea (VEN). St. Pierre and Brea were clear of the field with three laps left, and stayed together until the bell. St. Pierre put the hammer down with 300 m left and was unchallenged to the line in a huge personal best of 14:34.12, no. 4 on the world list in 2024 and no. 5 all-time U.S.

Brea got a national record of 14:36.59 in second and Britain’s Hannah Nuttall was a distant third (14:57.91).

The women’s Steeple featured 2022 World champ Norah Jeruto (KAZ), who led most of the race, but was in a pack of four with a half-lap to go, with Canada’s Ceili McCabe, American Madison Boreman and German Lea Meyer. It was McCabe who had all the speed down the straight and won handily in a national record of 9:20.58, now no. 8 on the 2024 world list. Boreman got a lifetime best of 9:21.98 in second and Jeruto was third in 9:22.45.

The men’s Steeple was another burner in the final straight, as Jean-Simon Desgagnes (CAN) out-sprinted Matthew Wilkinson of the U.S., 8:16.49 to 8:16.59, a lifetime best for Wilkinson.

The highlight of the early races was the B section of the men’s 800 m, with Mexico’s Jesus Lopez leading off the final turn, but with World Road Mile champ Hobbs Kessler coming hard on the straight. Kessler passed Kenya’s Festus Lagat with 50 m left and set his sights on Lopez and passed on the inside, squeezing by with a shoulder shove about 10 m from the finish. Kessler got a lifetime best (and Olympic Trials qualifier) of 1:45.07 for the win, with Lopez at 1:45.23 and Kagat at 1:45.28.

The men’s B race in the 1,500 m featured strong finishes from Matt Beadlescomb, who won with a lifetime best of 3:35.84, followed by Matt Wisner (3:36.45 PR) and John Gregorek (3:36.55).

The men’s hammer started at 5 p.m. in front of a 100 or so spectators, but proved to be historic, with a Dutch national record of 79.09 m (259-9) in the first round – also a Drake Stadium record – but passed by Ukraine’s Mykhaylo Kokhan, who got stadium marks of 79.33 m (260-3) in round two and 80.33 m (263-6) in round three!

They finished in that order, with Daniel Haugh of the U.S. third at 76.86 m (252-2).

The women’s hammer, held concurretly with interleaving rounds, had the top four on the world list for 2024, and world leader (and 2022 World Champion) Brooke Andersen of the U.S. had the best mark through five rounds when the field was cut to three for the final throw, at 77.32 m (253-8). The 2019 World Champion DeAnna Price improved to 75.22 m (253-2) for second, with reigning World Champion Cam Rogers (CAN) settling for third (75.56 m/247-11). .

The women’s vault was preceded by an on-field chat (not really an interview) between former U.S. World Champions Sam Kendricks and Sandi Morris, who previewed a closing song she wrote for tomorrow’s meet. Morris won at 4.53 m (15-0 1/4), clearing on her second try. She went to 4.70 m (15-5, equal-third outdoors in 2024) for a first-time clearance, then went to 4.80 m (15-9), but missed three times. It’s a new Drake Stadium record.

The women’s discus had Olympic champ Valarie Allman of the U.S., World Champion Lagi Tausaga of the U.S. and 2019 World champ Yaime Perez (CUB). Allman wasted no time taking the lead at 65.59 m (215-5). Perez was second at 64.28 m (210-11). But Allman strengthened her grip, extending to 67.79 m (222-5) in the second round and 67.93 m (222-10) in the third.

She didn’t improve, but neither did anyone else, although Perez matched her mark the sixth round. Van Klinken remainhed in third.

Jamaica’s Roje Stone was the clear leader after three rounds in the men’s disc at 66.90 m (219-6).

The meet continues tomorrow from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Pacific time and on NBC for the final two hours.

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