NEW HAVEN (04-Sep) -- On a sunny, warm and humid Labor Day morning here, Emily Sisson and Clayton Young won the USATF 20-K road running titles at the 45th Faxon Law New Haven Road Race. Sisson, 31, who represents New Balance, led nearly every step of the women's race and powered to the traditional finish line on Temple Street in 1:06:09, half a minute over her closest rival, Ednah Kurgat of the U.S. Army. Young, 29, who runs for Asics, edged defending champion and training partner Conner Mantz (Nike) in the final sprint, 59:15 to 59:16. Both champions won $9,000.
Sisson In Control
PHOTO: Emily Sisson wins the 2023 USATF 20-K title at the Faxon Law New Haven Road Race (photo by Jane Monti for Race Results Weekly)
Sisson --who starred for Providence College during her NCAA career just 100 miles northeast of here-- used today's race as part of her build-up for next month's Bank of America Chicago Marathon. Looking for a hard consistent effort to test her fitness, Sisson went right to the front from the starting line on Elm Street. The other top women --Kurgat, Aliphine Tuliamuk, Molly Seidel, Kellyn Taylor, Annie Frisbie and Emily Durgin-- quickly grouped-up behind her.
"Like two miles in I knew it was going to be a grind," Sisson told Race Results Weekly, adding that she only tapered her training mileage down a little to get ready for today's race. She continued: "I tapered a little the last couple of days, but not a lot. We've been training pretty hard."
Keeping a steady rhythm, Sisson sought simply to wear out her opponents today. Slowly, all of her rivals fell back, except for Kurgat and Durgin, who were running right on Sisson's heels in the 11th kilometer where the race loops back to the center of the city. Sisson said that having those women on her tail was motivating and keeping her honest.
"Actually, it helped having such a good field out there," Sisson said. "It kind of held me accountable to keep keeping steady. Ednah was there for nearly the whole thing."
Durgin (adidas) eventually fell back and had to settle for third in 1:06:59. Kurgat held on to Sisson's heels until the final 800 meters. That's where Sisson decided to make her move.
PHOTO: Emily Sisson leads Ednah Kurgat and Emily Durgin at the 2023 USATF 20-K title at the Faxon Law New Haven Road Race (photo by Jane Monti for Race Results Weekly)
"With a couple of miles to go I was trying to figure out how good of a kick Ednah has because I don't race her a lot," Sisson recounted. "I was trying to plan when to make my move. With about half a mile to go I was able to pick it up a bit. She made it a really good race."
Kurgat, the 2023 USATF cross country champion, was clearly exhausted by today's effort. Sitting on a curb, dripping with sweat and holding a cup of water she told Race Results Weekly: "The last mile was really hard."
Fourth place went to Tristin Van Ord (ZAP Endurance) who worked her way up through the field. She was clocked in 1:07:22. Annie Frisbie (Puma/Minnesota Distance Elite) rounded out the top-5 in 1:07:27.
Tokyo Olympic Marathon bronze medalist Molly Seidel, who is also running the Chicago Marathon, finished ninth in 1:09:04, about 2:26 marathon pace. She said that she felt OK and was not injured, but definitely had more work to do before Chicago.
"It was a tough day," Seidel said after posing for a few selfies with fans. "Definitely just frankly disappointed with how I ran. But, you know, that's how it goes. Kind of building back into it. Seems like workouts have been going really well, and training has been going really well. So, just frustrated with myself today."
Today's victory represented Sisson's eighth national title, but only her first at this distance. She said that she was on track for Chicago, the race where she set the USATF marathon record last year in 2:18:29.
"To be able to grind it out for 12 miles is really good practice for the marathon," Sisson said. "I think I'm where I need to be."
Young Just Edges Mantz
PHOTO: Clayton Young (left) edges Conner Mantz for the USATF 20-K title at the Faxon Law New Haven Road Race (photo by Jane Monti for Race Results Weekly)
The men's race played out quite differently. A pack of eight developed early with Mantz doing most of the leading. The group consisted of Young, Sam Chelanga, Daniel Mesfun, Futsum Zienasellassie, Leonard Korir, Andrew Colley, and Biya Simbassa who all ran through the 10-K mark together.
The second half of the race featured multiple lead changes. Colley put in a surge as did Mesfun, Simbassa and Zienasellassie. But it wasn't until the 10-mile point in East Rock Park that the race began to break up. Zienasellassie passed Mantz, who responded with Young right behind him. It looked like those three were going to slip away, but there was momentary confusion about the direction of the course after they exited the park before the 11-mile mark.
"Totally my fault," Young told Race Results Weekly. "Coming down off of the hill I looked to the left and and I saw Blake Boldon (a USATF official who was on the lead vehicle) kind of hesitate and talk to the driver. Before Blake Boldon yelled, I said, 'it's a left!' We'd already gone past, so Mantz and Futsum doubled back."
With everyone back on course, the racing resumed. Into the final mile, Young and Mantz took control and the contest was down to just two. But the final sprint was odd. Instead of sprinting as hard as possible to get the win, Young hesitated. He said that he was thinking about the overall standings of the USATF Running Circuit.
"We had talked maybe before this race that because I'm further up in the points and Conner Mantz doesn't have a chance to place in the points because he hasn't ran in so many of the USA circuit races that maybe it would be advantageous for me to take the win and him take second, if that was a possibility," Young told Race Results Weekly.
That's not what Mantz was thinking.
PHOTO: The men's lead pack of the 2023 USATF 20-K Championships at the Faxon Law New Haven Road Race (left to right): Andrew Colley, Conner Mantz, Daniel Mesfun, Clayton Young, Sam Chelanga, and Biya Simbassa. (photo by Jane Monti for Race Results Weekly)
"I was trying to beat him," Mantz told reporters. He continued: "He passed me with like 300 to go and he's like, 'hey, let's finish it in together.' And I'm like, dude, I'm trying to beat you."
While their coach Ed Eyestone looked on, Mantz and Young came to the finish line together, and Young crossed first by just half a step.
"Mantz is an incredible training partner," Young said. "He is the one leading just about every workout. He's the real workhorse, so I owe a big credit of this race to him."
Today's win represented Young's third national title. Earlier this year he won the 8-K title at the Crazy 8's 8-K in Kingsport, Tenn., and in 2021 he won the USATF 15-K title at the Gate River Run in Jacksonville, Fla.
Sam Chelanga got third in 59:26, Mesfun took fourth in 59:32, and Zienasellassie got fifth in 59:36. Khalid Khannouchi's 1997 event record of 57:37 was never threatened, and neither was Matt Tegenkamp's 2012 championships record of 58:30.
The next stop on the USATF Running Circuit is the Great Cow Harbor 10-K in Northport, N.Y., on Saturday, September 23. The circuit concludes on Saturday, November 4 at the Abbot Dash to the Finish Line 5-K in New York City.