McNamara breaks hex, wins elite division in Liberty Mile
August 1, 2014 9:03 PM
The Liberty Mile at the start on Penn Ave. About 1,000 runners took part.
By Alex Nieves / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
After falling just short of first in his past two attempts at the GNC Live Well Liberty Mile, Jordan McNamara was able to fight off Olympic silver medalist Leo Manzano and a field that included 10 sub-four-minute milers to claim his first victory in the elite running event.
For the crowd of spectators standing around the finish line in the middle of Liberty Avenue, the finish could not have been any closer, with McNamara and Manzano breaking the tape one-hundredth of a second apart.
But McNamara -- who finished in 4:02.93 -- immediately knew that he had done just enough to claim the victory. He threw up his hands just steps after the finish line, before dashing back up the course for a victory lap.
"Relief and adrenaline," he said about his high energy after the race. "I'm telling you, to finally break the tape first; it's a magical feeling. It will bring you back from the dead, I'm serious."
Although the 4:02.93 was the slowest winning time for the elite men's field in the three-year history of the event, McNamara said that claiming the victory was the only thing on his mind.
"After being second by half a second, second by a few one-hundredths, I didn't want anything but the win [Friday], that's all that mattered," he said. "No matter what the time, I wanted to win."
Despite coming up short in an event where he was considered the favorite, Manzano was happy with the way he ran. He had no complaints and saluted McNamara for his performance.
"I went out there, I did my best," Manzano said. "Fell a little short, fortunately Jordan is an incredible runner and an incredible competitor overall."
The women's elite field produced a race with similar drama minutes earlier.
Heather Kampf's reign as the only woman to win that bracket came to an end when Gabriele Grunewald beat her out for the top spot.
Grunewald pulled away from Kampf -- her teammate with Team USA Minnesota -- in the final 50 meters, winning with an event-record 4:31.68.
The victory marked the second time in Grunewald's career she had won a road mile event, and it was sweeter because she had her teammate by her side.
"I know any time I'm racing [Kampf] it's going to be close," Grunewald said. "The fact that we have the same coach tells me that when both of us are having success, we can both do it.
"It's really fun, I love to see both of us at the top."
Grunewald put a little gap between herself and her teammate, winning by about a half-second over Kampf, who finished with a 4:32.12.
But with a several hundred meters to go, Grunewald and Kampf where joined by Stephanie Brown, Sarah Brown and Lauren Penney in an extremely tight pack.
"We were lined up pretty strong, at the very end I couldn't really see what was going on behind me, it was only myself and [Grunewald] to really worry about," Kampf said. "But, coming around at the halfway point, everyone was still there."
Duquesne's Jim Spisak, who qualified for the Division I Outdoor National Championships in the 10,000-meter in June, orchestrated one of the most exciting performances of the night before the elite runners hit the course.
He finished second in the Unstoppable field -- the last race before the elite fields -- with a time of 4:05.68, crossing the line only after two-time Canadian Olympian Nate Brannen (4:02.85).
More than 1,000 runners competed in one of the five fields that make up the Liberty Mile.
Alex Nieves: email@example.com and Twitter @alexdnieves5.
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