By David Monti, @d9monti
(c) 2022 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved; used with permission
BOSTON (16-Apr) — Two athletes with strong Boston ties won today’s 12th annual B.A.A. Invitational Mile held on the streets of Back Bay this morning. Johnny Gregorek, who grew up in nearby Seekonk and attends law school at Suffolk University here, and Annie Rodenfels, who moved here last fall to join the Boston Athletic Association’s High Performance Team, got the wins in tactical races. Gregorek was timed in 4:08.16 and Rodenfels in 4:35.51.
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Gregorek, 30, who represents Asics, used a patient strategy today. The race is run around a long city block, and after the first of three laps he was sitting in last place within the 11-man field trying to save energy.
“I knew it was windy and blustery, and I watched some old race videos,” Gregorek told Race Results Weekly. “I know that last turn is the most important part, so I saved as much energy as I could.”
On the second lap, Olympic steeplechaser Mason Ferlic (adidas) and USA indoor 1000m record holder Shane Streich (Atlanta Track Club) were on the lead, and the pace was slow.
Ferlic had run the B.A.A. 5-K earlier this morning (fifth place, 13:39), but still looked strong. Gregorek remained patient and began to position himself for the final left turn out of Exeter Street on to Boylston Street. The race finishes just next to the Boston Marathon finish line.
“I blasted around the final turn and gave it everything,” said Gregorek, clapping his hands together for emphasis.
Coming around the outside, Gregorek had at least two steps on Kasey Knevelbaard (Under Armour) and Streich. They finished second and third in 4:08.88 and 4:09.28, respectively.
“It feels fantastic, absolutely,” said Gregorek about his win. “Winning’s always such a joy especially at home. My friends are here, my family’s here.”
Rodenfels took a different approach. Instead of running at the back, she kept herself close to the leaders for the first two laps, running just one stride off of the front.
Olympic 1500m runner Heather MacLean led for the first two laps despite running the 1200m leg of an indoor distance medley relay last night where she and Kendall Ellis, Roisin Willis and Elinor Purrier ran a world best of 10:33.85. Rodenfels didn’t feel great in the early going.
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“The plan was to ‘go’ over on that side,” Rodenfels said, pointing to the Newbury Street part of the course which is effectively the backstretch. “And honestly through the first lap I didn’t feel great, kind of flagging a little bit. With a lap to go I felt OK. I was like, I’ve got to at least make an effort, go after it.”
On Newbury Street on the final circuit, Rodenfels was surprised that she was still close to MacLean and the other leader, Taryn Rawlings. She was feeling a little better, but was still doubting herself. She’s a steeplechaser, she thought, and these women are milers. How can I outkick them?
“Everyone else has a kick better than mine, pretty much, not being a miler,” Rodenfels lamented. “I was around the corner and I was like, I’m in it. I might as well try.”
Rodenfels was clearly at her limit as she made the final turn for the short finish straight. She leaned in to her final sprint and gutted her way to the front, just holding off Rawlings. Crossing the line first on the outside she won by just 8/100ths (Rawlings was given the same official time). Emily Lipari managed to get around MacLean to take third in 4:36.98, and MacLean got fourth in 4:37.24.
Rodenfels, 25, who grew up in Centerville, Ohio, has blossomed under B.A.A. coach Mark Carrol. During the indoor season she got her 3000m time down to a world class 8:46.07, and ran the sixth-fastest time in the world for 5000m: 15:08.80. She also finished seventh at the USATF Indoor Championships at 3000m and she even got engaged to her boyfriend Collin Woodruff.
“The move to Boston is proving to be the best decision of my career yet,” she said smiling broadly. “Easily.”
PHOTO: Johnny Gregorek wins the 2022 B.A.A. Invitational Mile in 4:08.16 (photo by Jane Monti for Race Results Weekly)
PHOTO: Annie Rodenfels just edges Taryn Rawlings to win the 2022 B.A.A. Invitational Mile (photo by Jane Monti for Race Results Weekly)