Taking the recommendations of friends, Kenyan-born Aron Rono of Sante Fe, N.M., and Canadian-born Olympian Carmen Douma-Hussar of Ardmore, Pa., entered the Grandmaâ€™s Minnesota Mile for the first time and won Sunday morningâ€™s elite race titles on Superior Street.
Rono, 27, set a course record in 3 minutes, 58.18 seconds in the fourth annual event. He broke the mark of 3:59.69, set last year by Kenyan Haron Lagat, a teammate with the Ameri-Kenyan Running Club. Lagat had encouraged Rono to try the race.
Douma-Hussar, 33, ninth at 1,500 meters in the 2004 Summer Games, smashed the womenâ€™s course mark by more than five seconds in 4:35.60. Two-time winner Carrie Vickers of Carbondale, Colo., ran the previous best of 4:40.99 last year. Douma-Hussar was in Duluth after hearing about the race from former Villanova University roommate Carrie Tollefson of St. Paul, who has run the event. The winners each earned $2,000 from a $12,500 prize money purse.
â€œI want to try to make Kenyaâ€™s track team for the 2012 Summer Olympics, and my coach and I are deciding between 5,000 and 10,000 meters,â€ said Rono, a seven-time NAIA All-American in track and cross country through 2009 at Azusa Pacific University in Azusa, Calif. â€œI have never run under four minutes in the mile and it was very important for me to do that. It shows I have some speed and proves Iâ€™m more of a 5K guy.â€
Rono, 5-foot-8 and 124 pounds, won two straight NAIA cross country titles and two straight 1,500-meter outdoor track titles as a collegian, and has a track mile best of 4:01.30. He was part of a small group that broke away from a 29-runner elite field at about 800 meters, then tucked in behind with 400 meters to go and stepped out and around a few bodies with 20 meters left. It was his first road mile.
Minnesota native and former Stanford University star Garrett Heath of Palo Alto, Calif., was second, three-tenths of a second behind in 3:58.48, while Kenyan Felix Kiboiywo of Auburn, Ala., was third in 3:59.33. The top Duluthians were Justin Grunewald, 24, who was 17th in 4:15.63 and Jeremy Polson, 32, who was 19th in 4:18.88
â€œIt has been almost a month since my last race (a 1,500 event in France) and this was painful,â€ said Heath, 24, an eight-time state champion in cross country, track and Nordic skiing at Winona High School. â€œThe last 400 meters was a little out of my comfort zone and I didnâ€™t have that last gear to win, but I couldnâ€™t have run any faster than I did.â€
Douma-Hussar has eased her way back into racing after giving birth to her daughter, Pippa, 14 months ago. She was looking to redeem herself after a fourth-place at 1,500 meters in 4:17.79 in the Canadian Championships in July in Toronto. Her most recent road mile was a 4:22.8 to win the 2007 Fifth Avenue Mile in New York City.
â€œI didnâ€™t really look at who was racing here, but I knew Amy Mortimer was running and I knew this would have to be a hard effort,â€ said Douma-Hussar, a three-time NCAA Division I champion, including at 1,500 meters outdoors. â€œIt was fun to race here because I felt at home. I have seen all of the Great Lakes now, after seeing Lake Superior, and itâ€™s beautiful.â€
Mortimer, 29, from Leonardville, Kan., and a 12-time All-American at Kansas State, was second in 4:36.00 to win $1,250 near the end of a busy racing season. She won the Grand Blue Mile road race in 4:35 on April 20 in Des Moines, Iowa, and was sixth at 1,500 meters in 4:16.89 at the U.S. Championships on June 26 in Des Moines.
Heather Dorniden, 23, of Minneapolis of Team USA Minnesota, was third in 4:39.40 to win $1.000, just two days after being married.
There was a record 532 entrants in four mile events, including the largest elite fields in race history.
â€œWe made a substantial effort to recruit more elite runners and to continue to make this one of the best road mile events in the United States,â€ said Grandmaâ€™s Marathon executive director Scott Keenan.
Winners in the Duluth Mile were Robert Jenson, 20, of Duluth in 4:49 and Katie Lovrien, 36, of St. Louis Park, Minn., in 5:24. Winners in the All City Mile were Tony Moen, 34, of Proctor in 5:29 and Gina Slotness, 29, of Duluth in 6:11.
The point-to-point race went from the Fitgerâ€™s Brewery Complex at about 600 East Superior to Fourth Avenue West. The weather was sunny and about 53 degrees.
FOURTH GRANDMAâ€™S MINNESOTA MILE
Elite Mile Men
1. Aron Rono, 27, Sante Fe, N.M., 3:58.18 ($2,000); 2. Garrett Heath, 24, Palo Alto, Calif., 3:58.48 ($1,250); 3. Felix Kiboiywo, 23, Auburn, Ala., 3:59.33 ($1,000); 4. Kevin Chelimo, 27, Eugene, Ore., 3:59.63 ($750); 5. Will Leer, Eugene, Ore., 4:00.13 ($500); 6. Philip Lagat, 27, Toledo, Ohio, 4:01.73 ($250).
Masters — 1 Ovidiu Olteanu, 40, Romania, 4:34.93 ($500).
1. Carmen Douma-Hussar, 33, Ardmore, Pa., 4:35.60 ($2,000); 2. Amy Mortimer, 29, Leonardville, Kan., 4:36.00 ($1,250); 3. Heather Dorniden, 23, Minneapolis, 4:39.40 ($1,000); 4. Gabriele Anderson, 24, Perham, Minn., 4:42.20 ($750); 5. Breeda Willis, 40, Stevens Point, Wis., 4:42.50 ($500); 6. Jamie Cheever, 23, Minneapolis, 4:49.20 ($250).
Masters — 1 Willis, 40, 4:42.50 ($500).
Duluth Mile Men
1. Robert Jenson, 20, Duluth, 4:39; 2. Kyle Smith, 23, Wright, 4:42; 3. David Hyopponen, 30, Duluth, 4:45; 4. Mark Mickow, 20, Duluth, 4:46; 5. Ted Lillie, 25, Bloomington, Minn., 4:47.
1. Kate Lovrien, 36, St. Louis Park, Minn., 5:24; 2. Gabrielle Cyr, 24, Duluth, 5:29; 3. Amanda Lepisto, 28, Duluth, 5:39; 4. Janet Ochocki, 39, Minneapolis, 5:39; 5. Erika Sorgatz, 30, Chicago, 5:45.
All City Mile Men
1. Tony Moen, 34, Proctor, 5:29; 2. Mike Hickey, 47, Duluth, 5:30; 3. Evan Hunter, 22, Duluth, 5:30; 4. Glen Flanagan, 38, Saginaw, 5:31; 5. Thomas Hon, 34, Duluth, 5:31.
1. Gina Slotness, 29, Duluth, 6:11; 2. Jessca Landwehr, 28, Superior, 6:15; 3. Rebekka Stumme, 36, Duluth, 6:17; 4. Marie Van Overmeiren, 42, Superior, 6:25; 5. Tracy Malkovich, 31, Duluth, 6:31.