Tuesday, July 27, 2010

This Day in Villanova T&F History

On this day in 1985 Villanova great Sydney Maree set an American Record by 10 seconds over 5000 meters, running the third fastest time in history and chasing Said Aouita to a new World Record. 1985's Bislett Games in Oslo, Norway saw Morocco’s Said Aouita, overtaking Sydney Maree on the final homestretch after a great last-lap battle, run 13:00.40 to break Dave Moorcroft’s record of 13:00.41 by the barest of margins. Maree followed in 13:01.15 to break Alberto Salazar’s American Record
(13:11.93 from July 1982). Aouita would soon be the first man to break 13:00 for the 5000, running 12:58.39 on July 27, 1987.

Sports Illustrated described the race this way, in its August 5, 1985 edition:

Two men were out to get him. Sydney Maree, the former 1,500 record holder, and the Olympic champion at 10,000, Alberto Cova of Italy. Both are renowned finishers. After Torstein Brox of Norway and Bob Verbeck of Belgium had rabbited past halfway at near-record pace, Aouita took over and kept up a steady flow of 63-second laps. Only Maree and Cova stayed with him. "From 3,000 to the end, I felt very bad," said Aouita. "Not in my legs, but in the stomach." Aouita is all chest and legs and teeth. He has run a 1:44.37 800, but speed training is said to hurt his flat feet.

Maree stayed second, so close that Aouita would always sense him. "From 2,000 meters, I knew he was there and going well and that he would attack," said Aouita. "The question was when."

And whether Aouita could respond. "I felt [then] that I couldn't do it today," he said. "At 3,000 I even thought of dropping out of the race."

With 600 to go, the pace got to Cova, and he fell away. Ten meters before the last-lap bell, Maree took off. The sight of him cutting in ahead jolted Aouita. "I liked it very much when he attacked," said Aouita later. "He helped the last 400 meters."

Aouita came to Maree's shoulder with 200 to go, and Maree held him there, outside, running farther on the turn. But Aouita fought even with 150 to run, pulled ahead off the turn and sprinted through the stretch. "I knew," he said. "I knew when Sydney sped ahead it was going to be a world record."

That was an awful lot of certainty for what turned out to be a very near thing. He hit the line in 13:00.40,.01 faster than Dave Moorcroft's great solo run at Bislett in 1982.

Aouita's last lap had taken but 54.4 seconds. Maree had given Aouita the world record with his long charge, and Aouita acknowledged it. "If he had gone from 800 meters, we'd have broken 13 minutes," he said, greedy and happy at the same time.

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