A rainy, 60-degree day in New York City saw Jenny Simpson win her sixth consecutive title at the New Balance Fifth Avenue Mile, while men’s victor Jake Wightman of Scotland won his first-ever over four-time champion Nick Willis of New Zealand.
Simpson extends her career win tally at the race to seven, a record for the annual September event. The 32-year-old is a master tactician on both the track and the roads, as evidenced by her four global medals over 1500m. In Sunday’s race, she asserted herself immediately as race leader from her position in the middle of the pack.
To her right, Marta Pen Freitas of Portugal and Dom Scott-Efurd of South Africa put up a good fight during the early downhill portion but faded on the uphill climb to halfway. To Simpson’s left, Brits Melissa Courtney and Sarah McDonald battled in matching New Balance kits to out-stride the reigning champion.
McDonald briefly held the advantage before Simpson surged again. The pack passed through 1200 meters in 3:16 with Simpson, McDonald and Americans Colleen Quigley and Emma Coburn running nearly evenly.
Alexa Efraimson, the youngest in the field at 21, made a big surge to the lead to finally break things open. Simpson flew by her, but was closely followed by steeplechase specialist Quigley—who made a move for the lead, but ultimately could not match Simpson’s finishing speed.
Simpson’s winning time of 4:18.8 was just two seconds of her course record of 4:16.6, shared with Pattisue Plumer. Quigley took runner-up honors in 4:19.2 and Courtney was third in 4:20.2.
“It’s kind of slick so I wanted to play into that apprehension and take it out hard,” Simpson said after the win. “If you want to win this race, you’re gonna have to go with me and risk life and limb.”
The men’s race saw American Sam Parsons, fresh off his first-ever sub-four minute clocking at the Hoka One One Long Island Mile, take an aggressive lead in pursuit of the $1,000 cash prize for the leader at halfway.
The pack did not pass Parsons until only 400 meters remained with about 3:00 on the clock. Chris O’Hare of Scotland, who won the Long Island Mile earlier this week, made a big move but was quickly swallowed up by Wightman and Willis.
The 35-year-old Kiwi was no match for the much younger Scot’s speed, however, as the 24-year-old Wightman spirited through the line in 3:53.5 to Willis’ 3:54.2.
“I thought he was coming back to me,” Willis said of Wightman. “I ran the right tactics, I just wasn’t as strong as him. Who am I to think I could out-kick a 1:44 guy?”
Neil Gourley of Scotland would take third in 3:55.3. Eric Avila was the top American, placing fourth in 3:56.24.
Parsons ran 3:58 and thus stood to collect the $1,000 halfway leader bonus which is only redeemable by finishing under four minutes. Reigning Olympic champion Matthew Centrowitz ran 4:01; he revealed before the race that he missed two weeks of training in August due to a calf strain.