Fired-up McNamara races to victory in Liberty Mile
After two consecutive second-place finishes in the Liberty Mile, Jordan McNamara wasn’t going to let it be three.
McNamara, 27, of Auburn, Wash., edged Olympic silver medalist Leo Manzano on Friday night with a time of 4 minutes, 2.93 seconds to Manzano’s 4:02:94. After crossing the finish line, McNamara turned and ran back onto the course, leaping, fist-pumping and firing up the crowd while many of his fellow competitors were bent at the waist trying to catch their breath.
“I wanted this one bad,” said McNamara, who in June won the Nike Festival of Miles in 3:54.27. “This was three years in the making. After finishing second by half a second, and second by a few one-hundredths, I didn’t want anything but the win today. That’s all that mattered. No matter what the time, I wanted to win.”
McNamara said Manzano, whose personal best in the mile is 3:50:64, was the one to beat. So he marked him from the beginning. McNamara let the 2012 silver medalist in the 1,500 meters stay about a half-foot in front of him for three-quarters of the race, waited for Manzano’s kick, and then made sure his was faster.
“It was (close),” said Manzano, 29, of Austin, Texas. “I think both Jordan and myself were seeing where we were both at. Unfortunately, Jordan got a little away from me, and it was really hard to make up that ground even though I was right there.”
In the women’s race, two-time winner Heather Kampf lost her bid for a three-peat to former Minnesota teammate and roommate Gabriele Grunewald.
Grunewald, who finished second to Kampf in 2012 but did not run last year, won in 4:31.68. Kampf finished in 4:32.12.
“This is only the second (mile race) I’ve won, and I’ve run lots of them,” Grunewald said. “I’ve been second a lot, third a lot, but I haven’t been as good at timing the finish on the roads. It’s easier on the track because every race is the same. You know exactly where you are the whole race, so I’ve been mentally working on translating that to the roads, and today it worked out.”
Grunewald won the 2013 Minnesota Mile in 4:21.3, a personal best. Kampf three-peated at the Ryan Shay Mile in Michigan last weekend, breaking her course record (4:21.39).
“I think I underestimated how much last week’s race took out of my legs because halfway through the race I wasn’t feeling as I usually do,” Kampf said. “Instead of ‘now it’s time to charge up,’ it was more like, ‘now it’s time to hang on.’
“My best strategy is to break away early and take a chance at it. I’m happy that I committed to the plan and did my best, but I knew the entire race that Gabe was stalking me. I could feel her presence right behind me, and I knew this was going to be the one to beat when it came down to the end.”
This was the third annual one-mile race, which is sponsored by Pittsburgh Three Rivers Marathon Inc. It is also part of the national Bring Back the Mile Grand Prix Tour and featured $25,000 in prize money. About 1,000 runners competed in numerous categories.
Karen Price is a former freelancer.