The 2012 professional outdoor track and field season kicked off this weekend from coast to coast, with the famed Penn Relays in Philadelphia, Drake Relays in Des Moines, IA, and Payton Jordan Stanford Invitational in Palo Alto, CA.
While neither Penn nor Drake is known for its distance events, Payton Jordan certainly is and the meet did not disappoint. Late Sunday night, a total of 27 Olympic “A” standards were run in four high-caliber 5000-meter and 10,000-meter races.
The most perilous event of the night was the men’s 5000 meters, in which Lopez Lomong—a 1500-meter specialist running his first 5000 on the track in five years—took off with two laps to go with what appeared to be a dramatic finishing kick. It was dramatic, all right: Lomong had miscounted his trips around the track, and when he crossed the line at the bell he slowed to a near stop and flung his arms out in victory. When he looked back, his mistake slowly dawned on him.
“Oops, this is not good,” he recalled thinking, according to the San Jose Mercury News.
Fortunately for Lomong, one of the “Lost Boys of the Sudan” and the United States flag-bearer in the opening ceremonies of the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, his blistering “last” lap had given him a large enough lead that he survived the error. The 27-year-old still managed to win in a world-leading time of 13:11.63, easily beating the Olympic “A” standard of 13:20. Behind him, also under the “A” standard, were Kevin Chelimo (Kenya), Matt Tegenkamp (USA), Chris Thompson (Great Britain), Thomas Farrell (Great Britain), Andrew Bumbalough (USA), and David Torrence (USA).
In the men’s Kim McDonald 10,000 meters, Canadian Cam Levins, who runs for Southern Utah University, led a group of under the Olympic “A” standard of 27:45 with a victory in 27:27.96. Following him were Sam Chelanga (Kenya), Chris Derrick (USA), Daniele Meucci (Italy), Diego Estrada (USA), Mohammed Ahmed (Canada), Brent Vaughn (USA), and Ben True (USA). Derrick’s time of 27:31.38 makes him the fastest American-born collegian ever at the distance; he broke Galen Rupp’s mark of 27:33.48.
In women’s action, 2011 IAAF World Championships 10,000-meter bronze medalist Sally Kipyego of Kenya took an easy win at 5000 meters in 14:43.11. She and the next five women behind her—Julia Lucas (USA), Julie Cully (USA), Barbara Parker (Great Britain), Steph Twell (Great Britain), and Jessica Tebo (USA)—all bettered the Olympic “A” standard of 15:20.
At 10,000 meters, Kenya’s Betsy Saina pulled away from Amy Hastings of the USA with 250 meters remaining to win in a 2012 world-leading time of 31:15.97. Saina, the 2012 NCAA indoor champion at 5000 meters out of Iowa State University, smashed her personal best in a huge breakthrough performance. She is red-shirting the outdoor season as she prepares for the Kenyan Olympic Trials. Also running the fastest 10,000 of her life (31:19.87) was Hastings, coming back from just missing the U.S. Olympic Marathon team with her fourth-place finish in Houston. Saina and Hastings, along with Fionnuala Britton (Ireland), Julia Bleasdale (Great Britain), Janet Cherobon-Bawcom (USA), and Lisa Uhl (USA), met the Olympic “A” standard.
Just missing the Olympic standard but easily bettering the Olympic Trials standard was three-time USA Olympian Deena Kastor. Kastor, 39 years old and running her first track race since 2007, finished seventh in 31:49.23, just shy of the 31:45 “A” standard.
"It was good to get back on the track," said Kastor, "but I'm disappointed I didn't get the Olympic "A" standard out here tonight. I wasn't happy with the way I started the race. I wasn't aggressive enough coming off the start line and in the opening laps, and it got away from me."