The 1300-person crowd rose along the front stretch as hip 5, Jordan McNamara of the Oregon Track Club, made his move. The St.Louis Track Club Men’s Mile was the final race of last night’s Big River Festival of Miles, and in the final 100 meters it had boiled down to a three man fight. On the inside ran John Jefferson from Team Indiana Elite, a 3:57 man who had charged to the lead at the bell with 400 to go. In his slipstream the hometown favorite, Stephen Pifer of the Oregon TC, a native of Edwardsville, Illinois from just across the Big Muddy from St. Louis, a 3:56 man with scores of fans urging him on. And waiting, waiting, waiting was McNamara, who had a PR coming in of 3:59, but had won the “B” heat of the Oxy High Performance Meet in L.A.on May 21st in 3:42. So he was in form, and rarin’ to go.
I was on the P.A. It had been a great night of racing, beginning with the Go St. Louis! Healthy Kids mile won by Nick Thatcher in 5:29. The fourth annual series of races served as a fund-raiser to benefit 2008 St. Louis U. High All-State high jumper Mike Rathmann, who was paralyzed just a few weeks after graduation in a vacation accident. His mom, Toots, was on hand, as well, celebrating her birthday. Good night all around for the Rathmann bunch.
In the featured Juice Plus invitational high school miles, 2011 Missouri 1600 meter Class 3 champion Daniel Everett of Westminster Christian Academy did his state meet performance one better on the SLUH track. After PR’g last weekend in 4:08.43 in Jefferson City, Daniel and twin brother David hooked up in a blistering final. Daniel pulled free of David in the last 200 meters, crossing the line in 4:07.68, the third fastest high school mile in the nation for 2011. David stopped the timer in 4:10.31 a two-second PR over his runner-up finish at States last weekend. Daniel will now head toNew York City for the June 11 Adidas GP where he will contend for the Dream Mile high school title.
In the invitational girls’ high school mile, Missouri state 1600 meter champ Colleen Quigley of Nerinx Hall/St. Louis was paced beautifully by Alyssa Rebecca of Eureka, who took Colleen through the 400 in 70.66, the 800 in 2:23.29, and the 1200 in 3:40.68. But the typically muggy St. Louis summer night weighed heavily in the final lap, and Colleen could only manage a 4:52, two seconds shy of the time she needed to qualify for the Adidas GP meet in New York. But she ran herself right out in the effort, and that’ s the spirit she’ll take to Jacksonville, Florida this fall to run for Karen Harvey at Florida State.
The heat was on in the AppsWorld Solutions Women’s Pro 800 meters, too. Team USA Minnesota star Heather Kampf opened a sizeable lead heading into the bell. She’d come within 3/100ths of her 2:01.05 PR at the May 21st Oxy High Performance Meet, so she was ready for new territory. But slowly, then increasingly, teammate Gabriele Anderson began to close the margin, and the crowd could sense the time and distance might not be enough for Heather. As the line approached, Gabriele, who had been concentrating on 1500s in recent years, reached into the bag of strength and drove herself hard, stopping the clock in 2:03.53, 1/100th ahead of Heather. It represented a three second PR for the University of Minnesota grad who came in off a third place finishes at the Drake Relays 1500 and the U.S. Road Mile.
It was left to the men to close the show in style, and they didn’t disappoint with the three leaders, John Jefferson, Stephen Pifer (who had over 40 family members in attendance from Edwardsville, Illinois) and OTC teammate Jordan McNamara hooked up in a wild dash. With 200 to go Pifer drove for home, pulling McNamara along past a resolute Jefferson. Then, as the three turned onto the final straight, McNamara sling-shot past on the outside – running faster than a Jesuit fleeing the opprobrium of the Holy See. He nabbed the $1000 first prize and sub-4 bonus $1000 for his 3:57.84, another PR, and the fastest time in the world in 2011. Jefferson regathered to edge Pifer for second by 1/100th in 3:58.54.
Afterwards, a crowd of young admirers surrounded the champion anxious for autographs, a fitting end to a night of exciting middle distance racing presented by Ben Rosario and the folks at Big River Running Company. I hope to be back again next year. Congrats to all the winners.