Just 36 one-hundredths of a second separated Bangor High School graduate Riley Masters from his second national title of the year in Sunday’s 5,000-meter men’s final at the USA Track and Field championships in Des Moines, Iowa.
The former University of Maine and Oklahoma University All-American, who now runs professionally for Nike, finished fourth in the 19-runner field in 13 minutes, 30.23 seconds.
Paul Chelimo of the U.S. Army won the race in 13:29.47.
The race, which began more than three hours after its scheduled start time due to lightning in the area, turned into a tactical event with Masters one of a relatively small pack of runners ultimately battling for the victory.
“I knew I was going to find my way to the front with about a mile to go and I felt very good,” said the 28-year-old Masters, who in April won the USATF 1-mile road race championship. “I put myself into position with about 800 meters to go and the field started dwindling from there.
“There were about six of us at the bell (lap) and we all started kicking, and with 150 meters to go I swore I was going to win. But unfortunately I swung wide and there were just too many bodies in the home stretch to get around.”
Chelimo used a 55-second final lap to edge runner-up Ryan Hill (13:29.67) by two-tenths of a second. Hassan Mead (13:30.12) was third, with Masters running a 56.25-second final lap to place fourth.
“The U.S. championships have kind of been a learning curve of my career; I’ve tried to improve each time,” Masters said. “When you come to a race like this obviously you want to win but really the goal is to make sure you finish in the top three and while I wasn’t in the top three I was very close.”
Masters plans to run at least one 5K in Europe next month before representing the United States in the NACAC (North America-Central America-Caribbean) Track & Field Championships in Toronto in mid-August.
“There’s a world championship to qualify for next year and an Olympic team the year after that, and this (finish) makes me feel like I’m right there now,” he said. “I’m in the peak of my career and I’d like to finish in the top three the next two years so I can qualify for those USA teams.”
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