By Chris Lotsbom, @ChrisLotsbom
FALMOUTH, MASS. (10-Aug) -- The 2013 Falmouth Mile proved exciting once again here at Falmouth High School on Cape Cod. Americans Ben Blankenship (3:56.27) and Katie Mackey (4:41.39) earned $2,000 a piece with their wins under the lights.
Blankenship Leads Ten Men Under 4:00
Ben Blankenship sure is happy he chose to run the Falmouth Mile here on Saturday night. Coming away with the victory in 3:56.27, the 23-year-old was elated and a bit surprised.
"Biggest celebrity in the world right now," he said with a joking smile, posing for pictures with fans after the twilight win.
Ten days ago, Blankenship said he wasn't even considering racing the mile, held at Falmouth High School's James Kalperis Track on the eve of the New Balance Falmouth Road Race. Asked by his manager, Stephen Haas, if he wanted to take part in the event's 19th running, Blankenship originally said "no."
"I said no, I really didn't want to run. My season kind of went like shit all year," he told Race Results Weekly, explaining the situation. "After a few workouts last week I felt really good about it and I came out and ran well."
Ran well indeed. After pacesetters Cas Loxsom and Danny Stockberger stretched the field out over the first kilometer, Blankenship sat back behind fellow Americans Andrew Bumbalough, Garrett Heath, and 2012 champion David Torrence. At the bell, the field were just shy of three minutes, beginning to bunch up for the final push home. That's when things got interesting.
First Heath surged, then it was Torrence making a move on the backstretch. With 200 meters to go, Blankenship sat on the pair's outside shoulder; seconds later, the University of Minnesota graduate took over just as he saw daylight open up.
"I kinda just kept moving up," said Blankenship. "I found a really good open slot and just held on for dear life."
Powering down the homestretch with the standing crowd cheering, Blankenship only looked back once to see where Will Leer --who went from fifth with 200 meters to go to second on the homestretch-- was as the two approached the finish.
In the end it was Blankenship, timing 3:56.27 to Leer's 3:56.45.
"A win is always a great thing lining up against this caliber of guys, you never know what's going to happen," said Blankenship, with sweat still coming down from his long hair. "That last lap got a little shaky and could've gone any way. I just walked out of it a little bit.
"I wanted to end my season on a good note and this definitely was," he said.
Leer was pleased with his placing, though said the late night conditions may have played a factor in the race's outcome.
"You know, it was like running through tunnels. You get these stretches of light down the straightaway and then you hit the dark and everyone's like running blind. You can't really see your spikes and it's crazy. But it was a really fun atmosphere and great crowd for being so late the night before an early morning road race," he said. "Very fun event."
Rounding out the top five was Matt Elliott (3:57.45), Jack Bolas (3:57.49), and Elliott Heath (3:57.91). Torrence finished sixth in 3:58.14. In total, each of the ten athletes who finished the race broke four minutes. It is the second time in three years that the event has seen ten men finish under the famed barrier in one race; in 2011, ten men went under four minutes led by Jordan McNamara in an event record of 3:54.89 (including Christian Hesch, who subsequently received a drug ban for EPO in 2012).
Mackey Continues To Impress With Victory Going Away
With the sun setting over Falmouth High School, Katie Mackey was able to claim victory in the women's elite portion of the Falmouth Mile thanks to experience gained racing this summer.
After slow opening laps of approximately 78.6 and 72.0 seconds, the 25-year-old University of Washington alum trusted her gut to wait one more lap before going to her kick. As the field of nine took the bell together, Mackey remained calm and recalled the USA National Championships, where she finished a disappointing ninth in the 1500m final.
"When I was at USA's I started my kick too early, then I tied up and was bouncing all over the place like a little ping pong ball, and that's just not smart. You have to be strong and smart to run a good race," she said.
Over the course of the spring and summer, Mackey's focus on tactics and perfecting her strategy has paid off; since April she has set personal bests at 800m, 1500m, and 5000m. She waited until 300 meters remained to overtake Heidi Gregson in front. Turning to a gear no one else could match, Mackey came down the homestretch with a comfortable lead, timing 4:41.39 ahead of Heather Kampf's 4:42.93.
"This has really been a good learning year for me, and I have just really been focusing on not wasting energy during the race, being more gradual during the race and having that strong kick when it counts," she said with a smile. "I was really excited I could pull it together tonight."
Mackey noted how her recent race at the Sainsbury's Anniversary Games IAAF Diamond League meet gave her added confidence. In London, she finished as the top American over 1500m, defeating both Mary Cain and Morgan Uceny.
"I could not have imagined up that scenario in London even if they would have asked me to, it was out of my wildest dreams," she said, noting the fire filled pyrotechnics and meeting Usain Bolt in the call area, two things that made the meet even more memorable. "That experience was one of the coolest that I ever had."
More than anything, Mackey feels 2013 has helped her gain confidence and develop into a true professional runner.
"Coming into this part of the season and still feeling strong, and being able to finish races and being able to handle travel, I can tell this is my third year as a pro," she said. "I can handle things that I maybe I hadn't been able to handle my first couple years as a rookie. I'm kind of growing into it. You know, the last couple years I would describe myself as a rookie but now I don't feel like a rookie anymore. I feel like I'm getting used to being a professional runner and that's exciting for me."
Kampf's runner-up finish was very good considering she won the GNC Live Well Liberty Mile roughly 24 hours prior in Pittsburgh. Traveling here to Cape Cod proved challenging for the 26-year-old, as she got sick on her flight and had to take a four hour bus ride that on a normal day would've taken two hours.
"It was different than usual but I think it was a good time to be able to test what you're made of even in unusual situations, and I'm happy with how things turned out today," she said.
Sara Vaughn was third, followed by Heidi Gregson and Jessica Tebo.
In the Tommy Cochary High School miles, Stella Worters and Garrett O'Toole came out victorious on the girls and boys sides, respectively. Both won going away, timing 5:14.01 and 4:25.46.
NOTE: The Falmouth High School track does not have a curb, and only very small cones were used on the turns. As such, the times are not valid for world list purposes --Ed.