With Competitor Group, Inc. back in the elite athlete game, the San Diego-based event and media company has come out swinging in 2014. First they introduced their new CEO, David Abeles. Now, they’ve introduced their pro field for the 29th Carlsbad 5000.
Set to go off March 30th, the 2014 Carlsbad 500 features a showdown between three-time defending Carlsbad champion and 2012 Olympic 5000 meter silver medalist Dejen Gebremeskel of Ethiopia, and first-time CBAD entrant Bernard Lagat of the United States, the recent silver medalist in the IAAF World Indoor Track & Field Championships in Poland over 3000 meters.
WATCH LIVE WEBCAST HERE!
(pre-race show begins at 10:15 a.m. Sunday Pacific Daylight time)
Lagat will be gunning not just for the first U.S. win in Carlsbad since Doug Padilla in 1990, but for the U.S. road record over 5K, 13:24, a mark held by San Diego native Marc Davis from his third-place finish in Carlsbad 1996.
The 24-year-old Gebremeskel and the 39-year-old Lagat have met several times during their careers. Each time, the native-born Kenyan has taken the measure of his Ethiopian rival, the last time at the IAAF World Indoor Track & Field Championships in Sopot, Poland where Lagat won the silver medal in the 3000m, and Gebremeskel the bronze. But Carlsbad is Gebremeskel territory, and he has a chance to make history as the event’s first ever four-peat champion.
When Carlsbad was first run in 1986, the sport of road racing was dominated by the 10Km and marathon distances. Nobody believed that people would sign up for such a short distance. But with local hero Steve Scott designing a fan-friendly ‘paper-clip’ course, Mike Long landing medalist from the previous week’s World Cross Country Championships, the event soon grew in stature. Scott also won each of the first three Carlsbad titles, setting world records in two of those races.
To date, the Carlsbad 5000 has produced 46 of the top 50 men’s all-time 5Km road performances (according to Association of Road Race Statisticians, ARRS). Both the men’s and women’s current world road 5Km records were set in Carlsbad – 13:00 by Sammy Kipketer of Kenya (2000 & 2001), and 14:46 for women by Meseret Defar of Ethiopia in 2006. In all, 16 world bests have been set and eight U.S. records have been established on the seasider.
Gebremeskel will look to become the first to win four-straight. Currently, he shares three-peat honors with Steve Scott (1986-`88) and fellow Ethiopian Dejene Berhanu (2003-`05, sadly passed).
But this year’s race won’t be a coronation run for either marquee-topper. The men’s invitational will include Tariku Bekele of Ethiopia and Augustine Choge of Kenya. Bekele. the Olympic 10,000m bronze medalist in 2012 and was fourth at Carlsbad in 2012. While Augustine Choge, a former world junior champion over 5000m, was the 2012 world indoor silver medalist at 3000m.
“My #1 (recruiting) target was Lagat,” said CGI elite athlete match-maker Matt Turnbull. “I’ve tried to get him over the years, but for various circumstances he couldn’t make it. But it won’t be a walk in the park for Bernard. Dejen has talked about breaking the world record in Carlsbad, but hasn’t had the right weather or field so far.”
This year, the invitational races have been moved back nearly two hours to 10:45 a.m. for the women, and 11:15 a.m. for the men. Hopefully, this will negate the headwinds in mile two that automatically rise like God’s own air-conditioner every morning just before noon.
At age 39, Bernard Lagat continues be an evergreen. Not only is he the American record holder at 1500m, 2000m and the mile indoors, the 1500m, 3000m, and 5000m outdoors, but he is still the Kenyan record holder at 1500m indoors. In winning the silver medal in the 3000 meters at the recent world indoor championships in Poland, the man they call Kip became the oldest ever medalist (39 years, 87 days) in a men’s event at the meet. In fact, he came into the meet as the gold medal favorite, having won at the USA Indoor Championships in 7:46.01, the fastest by an American in meet history.
The women’s field will feature a return engagement between 2014 U.S. Indoor 3000 meter champion Gabriel (Gabby) Grunewald of Team USA Minnesota and 4th-place finisher Jordan Hasay from the Nike Oregon Project. Gabby bumped Jordan in the final lap in Albuquerque , no harm. no foul. But it spriraled into a fine thrashing of feathers. after which Grunewald emerged as champion.
Those two will be joined by 2013 800-meter World Championship bronze medalist Brenda Martinez of Rancho Cucamonga, CA. who began her breakout season last year in Carlsbad with a fifth-place finish in 15:44, Gotytom Gebreslase of Ethiopia, 4th in Carlsbad 2012 (PR 15:32), and Italian standouts Margherita Magnani who arrives with two recent indoor PRs in the 1000 & 1500 meters, and Italian national 5K road record holder Alessandra Viola Giulia (16:05).
The 29th running of the Carlsbad 5000 takes place Sunday, March 30, and for the first time will offer $2500 extra to the top U.S. finishers out of a total purse of $50,000. $5000 will go to each champion. Also, both professional races will be webcast live for the first time beginning with a pre-race show at 10:15 a.m. Pacific Daylight time. Another first will come when the men’s and women’s 30-39 age category will be combined.
In the men’s 20-29 year-old division, former track sensation turned triathlete Lukas Verzbicas is scheduled to compete. Lukas ran his first serious race at Carlsbad 2013 after a near-fatal cycling accident left him partially paralyzed in July 2012. Last year he stayed with eventual age-group champion Ryan Ripley of Las Vegas through a 4:42 opening mile, before fading to third place in 15:21. He hopes to improve upon that performance significantly after a full year of training at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, California, south of San Diego.
The elite women’s invitational race will begin at 10:45 a.m., followed by the elite men’s invitational at 11:15 a.m. Our pre-race webcast will begin at 10:15.
For more information or to register for the event, go to Carlsbad5000.com.