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Reebok Boston Indoor Games

Reggie Lewis Center, Boston

urday, February 7, 2009

SteveU's Predictions and Race Analysis

In national championship races, one can normally expect everyone that toes the starting line to be at about the same level of fitness (injuries/illness notwithstanding).  As far as special invitational races, the same holds true for an event like, say, the Millrose Mile, where most of the entries have to “qualify” by time or victories at certain meets.

The Reebok Boston Indoor Junior Miles, however, are a different breed.  Athletes are invited not just on current performance, but also their credentials from the previous track season and even the previous cross-country season.  It makes for a fascinating mix, bringing in athletes like Trevor Dunbar and Reed Connor, who both last raced on grass in December, with those like Andrew Springer and Emily Lipari, who have each run several indoor meets.

The boys race has more athletes running their first race of the season, so look for more surprises there than on the girls side.

Boys Race

The athletes who have been fit and racing should dictate what happens in terms of pace and controlling things in the early going – though there may be a few exceptions.  Those who have been pounding the indoor ovals the hardest include Andrew Springer (photo at right, John Nepolitan), Brett Johnson, and Omar Abdi

The early pace should be fast – at least 62/63 and 2:04/2:06 – for three reasons:  First, this is a fast track and has a reputation of fast races – 4:07-09 the last three years.  It isn’t a championship and the best runners want to run fast as well as earn a win or high placing.  Second, no key contender has such a good kick that keeping things slow will really be to their advantage.  Third, you have enough runners with PRs at or under 4:10 that such a pace will be relatively natural.

Oh, and one more reason: Mac Fleet.

Fleet isn’t among those who has raced this year yet, but he seems committed to a really good pace, too, claiming to be in the best shape of his life.  Between him, Springer, Abdi and Johnson, a good pace should be pretty much assured.  Johnson, in particular, has proven able and willing to take such matters into his hands.

So expect 62/63 and 2:04-06 to start, then watch to see if anyone really makes a move in the fifth and sixth laps.  At that point, you’ll see whether the other eight runners have a 4:10-12 in them.  Seasonal experience hasn’t always mattered with other recent winners, so you might see one of the Texans – or Canadian Jeremy Rae or Alabama’s Patrick McGregor – ready to challenge for the lead. 

But it’s hard to imagine any really bold moves at this point, but more an effort to survive and make the little moves at the end that can win.  We may see a 4:08 winner, but no one’s going to be comfortable doing it.  So here we go:

1. Andrew Springer – Holds on for the win in about 4:09.30
2. Jeremy Rae – Experience and pre-season sharpness gets him there
3. Brett Johnson – Just short of the win again, but a season’s best
4. Mac Fleet – In good shape, but not quite sharp enough for a PR
5. Omar Abdi – Holds off best Texans and Dunbar for fifth.

Girls Race

On the girls side, only two of the athletes – Brittany Koziara and Amanda Winslow – have not raced yet this year.  On the other hand, there is a very clear-cut favorite.

Canadian Jessica Parry (photo, at left, Vic Sailer/photorun.net) was 2nd here last year, having tried to break it open past the halfway point, only to be decisively overhauled by Jillian Smith.  But Smith, of course, is not back and Parry went on to have a fantastic year in 2008.  Her PRs of 2:06.00 and 4:20.59 (= approx. 4:41.5 mile) are more than five seconds up on the field.  Though she hasn’t raced extensively this winter, a “tune-up” double last weekend of 1:32 for 600 and 2:50 for 1000 proved she’s in pretty good shape.

The only thing is that Parry is likely to have to make the race herself if she wants a fast time.  The pack might carry through splits around 71-72 and 2:22-2:24, but after that, a continued sub-4:50 pace is going to be hard for anyone else to maintain.  If Parry breaks it open then like she did last year, she should not have anyone jumping her late like Smith, but can attempt to negative split and get the decisive win.

What about the rest of the pack?  Cory McGee and Emily Lipari will obviously be near the front early, befitting their reputation and similar to how they ran last week at Millrose, and will hang on as long as they can.  McGee is still trying to reaching top form and should be ready to run 2-4 seconds faster than last week, maybe more.  Lipari has raced a lot and she’ll be pressed to stay with McGee.

Winslow has third best PR in the field, but being her season opener probably won’t be ready for 4:50 yet.  Emily Jones had a nice 4:54.87 PR last week on this very track and while she’s more of a longer distance runner, she should be able to place high as long as she doesn’t let a faster pacesetter take her into oxygen debt.  Stephanie Brown has shown 2:08 fitness, but not sub-4:50.  Shelby Greany, who has really eased into the season and is ready for a competitive battle, could surprise in the higher placings. 

So, let’s go with this order:

1. Jessica Parry – Pulls away big time in second half, call it 4:48.50
2. Cory McGee – Hangs in there best to finish 2-3 seconds back
3. Shelby Greany – Carries over her competitive rebirth from XC with PR in 3rd
4. Emily Jones – Solid, steady run for 4th
5. Emily Lipari – Hangs on for close fifth, just nipping Winslow.