24-year-old Kyle Merber
has enjoyed a breakout year on the track in 2015, including a 3:34 1500 PR, so his 3:58.38 third place finish in the Hoka One One Long Island mile wasn't exactly huge news by itself, but the young meet director of the inaugural event in his native New York was ecstatic about the turn out at St. Anthony's High School to watch two competitive elite miles on Wednesday night.
"It was an amazing opportunity for Long Island to show the entire country how great our running community is here, and I think we did just that," an elated Merber said after his race.
Despite not coming away victorious, Merber must've been especially pleased with the men's elite mile, which saw seven men break 4:00 in a race that marked the first sub-4 mile on Long Island in 17 years.
The meet director followed his fellow NJ/NY teammate and pacer Declan Murray through a quick opening lap of around 56 seconds, bringing David Torrence and Garrett Heath with him as the rest of the field remained well back. Led by Merber, the three men passed halfway in 1:55.
Heath took command of the lead at 1,000m in 2:24 with Merber and Torrence giving close pursuit, but as the trio hit the bell in 2:55, the crowd favorite Merber was beginning to fade, gassed from his early heroics. Heath and Torrence were well away with 300m to go, and with 150m to go it looked as if Heath was going to hold off his challenger.
But it would ultimately be Torrence, who swung wide to pass Heath in the last 100m, who would end up as the inaugural champion in 3:53.91, with Heath settling for 2nd in 3:54.51.
These two athletes are very familiar with each other, as they both competed collegiately in the Bay Area, Heath at Stanford and Torrence at Cal. Heath was 4th in the US 5,000m in June, while Torrence was 5th.
The pair will get a quick rematch from tonight's race as they will square off in the loaded 5th Avenue Mile on Sunday in New York City.
The women's mile was won by Amanda Eccleston in 4:29.99. Eccleston used a brilliant kick to pass Kerri Gallagher and Heather Kampf in the last 100m.
The performance was reminiscent of Eccleston's kick at Sir Walter Miler on August 7th when the Michigan alum finished second to World Championship qualifier Stephanie Garcia in a personal best of 4:29.06. In front of a similar roaring crowd Wednesday, Eccleston beat out World Championship qualifier Gallagher and 2015 U.S. road mile champion Kampf in a sprint finish.
Eccleston, Kampf and Gallagher will all meet again on Sunday for a rematch at the 5th Avenue Mile.