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Simpson Leads World Championships Medalists on Fifth Avenue

Four newly crowned IAAF World Championships medalists, including 1500m champion Jenny Simpson, will compete in the 31st Fifth Avenue Mile on Saturday, Sept., 24, the New York Road Runners reported.

Simpson, 25, who lives in Monument, Colo., and trains in nearby Colorado Springs under coach Juli Benson, will be making her Fifth Avenue debut and will be running her first race in the United States since winning gold in a brilliant stretch run at the IAAF World Championships in Daegu, Korea. Her race on Fifth Avenue will close her summer track season, she said.

"After winning a World Championship medal, I can't think of a more American place to return than New York City," Simpson remarked through a prepared statement. "I want to share the excitement of my season with everyone who had touched my career in a positive way. The Fifth Avenue Mile's spirit of community running and celebration will be the perfect stage for me to complete my season. I’m so excited to be a part of it!"

Challenging Simpson in the women's division are two World Championships silver medalists from Daegu, Hannah England of Great Britain and Sally Kipyego of Kenya. England, 24, was the 1500m silver medalist behind Simpson where she used a powerful kick to pass most of the field in the homestretch and win her first global medal. Kipyego, 25, was beaten only by superstar compatriot Vivian Cheruiyot in the 10,000m. The former Texas Tech star, who now lives and trains in Eugene, Ore., in the Oregon Track Club Elite program, is making her Fifth Avenue debut.

Other important athletes in the women's field include World Championships finalists Alysia Montano/USA (4th in the 800m), Maggie Vessey/USA (6th in the 800m), Morgan Uceny/USA (10th in the 1500m), Ingvill Måkestad Bovim/NOR (6th in the 1500m), and Barbara Parker/GBR (14th in the 3000m steeplechase). Two-time defending champion Shannon Rowbury is also in the field.

"It has been a breakout season for Jenny, and a strong performance here in the most famous city mile in the world against a glittering lineup of rivals would put an exclamation point on her year," observed New York Road Runners president and CEO Mary Wittenberg, who will direct the race.

Leading the men's field --which boasts 17 sub-4:00 milers-- is World Championships 5000m silver medalist Bernard Lagat of Tucson, Ariz., Lagat, 36, has yet to win on Fifth Avenue (he was 2nd in 2008, 4th in 2009, and 2nd in 2010) and is looking forward to getting his first victory here.

"I said I'm coming until I win it, so this year I’m going to win it and will be prepared for that," said Lagat, an 8-time Wanamaker mile champion speaking by Skype from his summer training base in Germany. "I'm going to be tough to beat in New York."

Lagat's top challenger will likely be defending champion Amine Laalou, 29, of Morocco. Laalou had a disappointing world championships where he failed to make the 1500m final. He's making a special trip to the States just for this event.

Also looking for spots on the podium will be Australia's Ryan Gregson and Jeff Riseley (both making their Fifth Avenue debuts), Kenya's Boaz Lalang (the 2010 IAAF World Indoor Championships silver medalist at 800m), and America's Nick Symmonds (four-time USA 800m champion and the 5th place finisher in Daegu) and David Torrence (three-time USA road mile champion).

The race, a straight shot down Fifth Avenue from the Metropolitan Museum of Art to Grand Army Plaza, boasts 4 current World Championships medalists, 8 Olympians, 9 World Championships finalists, 11 sub-4:33 women and 17 sub-4:00 men. The course records are 3:47.52 by Sydney Maree in 1981 and 4:16.68 by PattiSue Plumer in 1990. The race winners will receive $5000 in prize money.

By David Monti (c) 2011 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved; Used with permission