Tuesday, August 25, 2009

KIMbia Visit to Berlin Highlighted by Tegenkamp’s Eighth Place

F2009 WC Tim Nelsonour KIMbia athletes wore the Stars & Stripes at the 12th IAAF World Championships in Berlin, Germany.  Tim Nelson led things off on Monday evening in the 10,000m, where he finished 17th in a field of thirty-one.  With nine sub-27:00 athletes in the field, Nelson was shooting for a top-15 finish, representative of the number of finalists taken in the 5000m. Though he fell just short of that goal, Nelson clocked 28:18 in a credible World Championships debut, wrapping up what has been a banner 2009 year for him.

Three days later, his teammates hit the track in the prelim of the 5000m.  Matt Tegenkamp and Chris Solinsky ran intelligently in what turned out to be a rather briskly-paced first heat of two, keeping themselves within reach of one of the five automatic qualifying spots at all times. With six athletes getting separation in the final lap, Tegenkamp would secure automatic qualification to the finals by crossing the line second, behind Kenenisa Bekele, while Solinsky finished sixth, first in line to earn a time qualifier.  Coming home in 13:20, Solinsky admitted to easing back a bit in the final stretch, given that the pace was as fair as it was, and expecting that his time would hold up for one of the five time-qualifiers.

2009 WC FinalsFollowing the “veterans” in the second heat was Evan Jager, who faced an even stiffer draw, with five legitimate medal threats contending.  Although the field in the second prelim knew that Solinsky’s 13:20 was the time to beat, all were willing to let the pace dawdle early on.  However, Moses Kipsiro of Uganda went to work mid-race, and in the end, the final 2k was covered in a brutal 5:05.  Through the initial laps, Jager conserved as much energy as possible, content to sit on the rail at the back of the pack, but even after exhibiting such smart tactics, the searing late pace got to him, and he fell back with a little over 600m to go.  Teammate Solinsky commended Jager for forcing himself to “suffer” as long as possible, and as a newcomer on the world scene, Jager will be well-served by the experience.  With the 2nd prelim led by Kipsiro in just 13:22, the slow early pace of Heat 2 ended up sealing Solinsky’s qualification to his first international final.

On the final day of the championships, Tegenkamp and Solinsky ran with the same tactics with which they had found success all season: Tegenkamp at the back of the pack and Solinsky on the rail, directly behind the race leader.  Indeed, as Bekele led, both KIMbia men were well-positioned as the race developed, with Solinsky able to quickly react to the numerous short surges, and Tegenkamp patiently moving around runners as they cracked, one-by-one.

2009 WC Tegenkamp KicksAt the bell, well over half of sixteen-runner field was still in contention, and Solinsky fell back first with a little over 300m to go.  Entering the final turn, Tegenkamp had put together a textbook race, sitting in 6th place, right at the heels of a train of runners five-strong and well within striking distance.  Unfortunately, Tegenkamp would later say that he just didn’t have that extra gear in the final straight, and he would finish 8th.  Though unable to replicate his 4th place, near-medal race in Osaka in 2007, Tegenkamp’s performance helped erase the bitter taste from his race in Beijing, and confirmed his ability to compete as well as anyone in the world.  Solinsky was 12th in 13:25 and, with Tegenkamp hitting 13:20, in the balance of things, running so fast just days apart speaks to both men’s fitness and strength, and hints at faster clockings — and higher finishes — in their future races.

Full Results from Worlds can be found here.

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