June 26, 2015
By Andrew Greif
EUGENE — The United States has never produced a 5,000-meter runner as fast as Molly Huddle, nor a 10,000-meter runner as enduring as Shalane Flanagan. But when the 5K’s unstoppable force and the 10K’s immovable object raced against one another throughout their careers, it was Flanagan who owned America’s distinction as distance royalty.
Head-to-head across all distances, Flanagan had beaten Huddle 19 times in 21 races, and gone 4 for 4 at 10,000 meters.
That all changed Thursday at the U.S. Outdoor Track & Field Championships. Separated by less than a second from Flanagan, a Portland resident, and her Bowerman Track Club training partner Emily Infeld with a lap to go in the 10,000 final at Hayward Field, Huddle surged ahead with 300 meters to go to win her first 10K national title in 31 minutes, 39.20 seconds.
Flanagan was second in 31:42.29 and Infeld third in 31:42.60, and all are bound for the IAAF World Championships in Beijing this August after each previously beat that meet’s qualifying standard.
“That’s definitely a milestone for me,” Huddle said of beating Flanagan. “She’s definitely a beast on the 10K on the track.”
Just as Flanagan has focused her energy more on the marathon in recent years, Huddle transitioned to the 10K this spring and grew confidence with road races at the distance; all in all, she said a national title this early in her switch did not register as a surprise. But years of racing against Flanagan taught her to remain leery of her finishing speed nonetheless.
“I’m not used to 10K pace,” Huddle said. “I wanted to make sure I knew what I was doing.”
The novice closed like an old pro with a 65.5-second last lap.
“She’s the future and so is Emily in the 10K,” Flanagan said. “As I got about six laps in, the wind and the heat was going to take too much of a toll so I had to revise, literally on the fly, the plan. … I knew with Molly being right there, I could tell she felt really good, and with Emily, her training has gone exceptionally well, that it was going to be a battle.”