Andy Baddeley of Great Britain edges 18-year-old Lukas Verzbicas to win the B.A.A. Invitational Men's Mile on April 17, 2011 in Boston.
BOSTON -- As the runners rounded the corner from Exeter Street onto Boylston Street, the overflow crowd lining the course erupted in cheer.
You couldn't blame them for being surprised by the leader. Even Lukas Verzbicas didn't expect that he would be out front.
The 18-year-old high school sensation from Illinois sprinted toward the finish, and appeared headed for an immense upset. But at the last possible moment, defending champion Andy Baddeley of Great Britain inched ahead and stole victory in the B.A.A. Invitational elite men's mile by one-tenth of a second in 4:16.7.
That thrilling result was followed up by a photo-finish in the elite women's race as Marina Muncan, a former Villanova standout of Serbian heritage, edged 2009 champion Anna Pierce and fellow American Trenier Moser by one-tenth.
Maybe if I went a little later I would have had it, Verzbicas lamented after his race. But this is Andy's race so I can't complain. It's a good enough finish I think.
It was the latest stellar performance by the precocious teen, who earlier this year attempted to break the indoor two-mile scholastic record running against Bernard Lagat as the Olympian broke the American record at the distance at the Armory in New York.
The Oregon-bound Verzbicas, who in December became the first back-to-back Foot Locker cross-country national champion in a decade, ran comfortably in fourth place after the first lap and moved up to second during the second lap. With 400-meters to go, Verzbicas made a move for the lead. As the race rounded onto the final straight, he couldn't believe he was in the lead.
I did not know what to do, he admitted. That is experience. I ran just to run because I was in a position that I didn't think I would be in. Related to this article Stories
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Baddeley, who spent the last four plus weeks doing long-distance training in Iten, Kenya, had attempted a wide turn before the final straight and left himself needing to pass Verzbicas and Craig Miller. He put on a burst of speed to get by Miller and closed onto Verzbicas' shoulder. As the two runners neared the narrow finish, Verzbicas appeared to give Baddeley a late shove but to no avail.
When asked after the race about the push, Baddeley jumped in and wouldn't allow Verzbicas to answer the question.
My take on that was he was celebrating or just excited and nudged me over, Baddeley said. It is a very narrow finish. He's here in front of you by right because he ran an awesome race today.
Verzbicas was visibly upset immediately after the race, throwing the finish tape to the ground in anger.
I went for it, Verzbicas said. Of course I wanted to win. What can you do?
Baddeley was impressed by the passion of his young competitor, and offered him encouragement.
He's nearly the one who should be giving me advice after that race, Baddeley said. The fact that you could see how disappointed he was to just lose it at the line shows that he's not afraid to mix it up with all the rest of us. He should keep training and never give up. Marina Muncan, Traniere Moser, and Anna Pierce sprint to the finish during the BAA Invitational Women's Mile on April 17, 2011 in Boston. Muncan edged Moser and Pierce by one-tenth of a second. Marina Muncan, Traniere Moser, and Anna Pierce sprint to the finish during the BAA Invitational Women's Mile on April 17, 2011 in Boston. Muncan edged Moser and Pierce by one-tenth of a second.
There was no quit in the three leading women either. Similar to the men's race, the women started off at a modest pace, with no one wanting to take on the headwind on Newbury Street.
I think everybody kind of defaulted to me, Pierce said of the early strategy. I was like, ‘Hell no.' I hit the brakes and let everybody go by.
As the runners rounded the final corner and headed for the straight, Pierce was in the lead but far from clear. Moser closed onto Pierce's right shoulder, and Muncan came from behind both of them on the outside.
Marina just came out of nowhere, Pierce said. I didn't feel them until we literally had five meters to go. I was like, ‘Quick, one last step.'
The three women crossed simultaneously and waited around for several minutes until Muncan was declared the winner by one-tenth in 4:58.7.
It was really interesting today, Muncan, who is known more for her work as a pacemaker, said. When we finished we didn't know the order of who finished in what place. I'm happy with the win. It's great that I came here to compete and not to pace. I was really excited to have that opportunity.