ALBANY — After a steady diet of pancakes, Elaina Tabb took a bite of waffle on Saturday.
It tasted pretty good.
She has been pursuing racing goals on the track, and even her most recent road race, a sharp fifth at the B.A.A. 5k in Boston, was run on what she called a “pancake-flat” course.
The 41st Freihofer’s Run for Women 5k offered a profoundly different challenge, but the 27-year-old from Watertown, Mass., thrived on the rolling hills in Washington Park and was able to regain the lead late from Diane Nukuri to win in 16:02, with Nukuri just two seconds behind.
It was the second year in a row that a runner from the Boston Athletic Association High Performance team won Freihofer’s, after Sarah Pagano last year.
“I think there’s something to be said about the first mile being a gradual uphill, because there’s no break,” Tabb said. “Then the second mile is not necessarily fast because you’re winding and going up and down. But it was great to get in a hard effort like that.”
That’s because Freihofer’s could serve as a bridge between a 10,000-meter personal-record 31:55.72 she ran on the track at Stanford University a month ago and what she hopes is a little bit faster PR in Vancouver in two weeks that will shave the six seconds more she needs to qualify for the 2019 IAAF World Championships.
For the victory, Tabb, a native of Allison Park, Pa., who ran for William & Mary, earned $10,000 from the $23,000 prize purse for the top 10 finishers in the open division.
Congratulations to @ElainaTabb for winning #FRW2019! @995TheRiver @995TracyV @discoveralbany @BenitaZahn @TrishnaWTEN @mellank @d9monti @WomensRunning @runnersworld @MarkSingelais @Mike_MacAdam @SportsTU @dgazettesports @BAA @d9monti pic.twitter.com/lsEtbxiJBS
— Freihofer’s Run 5K (@FreihofersRun) June 1, 2019
The prize structure underwent an unusual bit of reshuffling this year because of the number of runners, including fifth-place finisher Kelsey Chmiel of Saratoga Springs High (16:33), who declined prize money to retain amateur status.
It was the third year in a row Chmiel was in that position, and this time it was $1,000 that she waived on down the line. The other three declining purse money were UAlbany’s Hannah Reinhardt (seventh, 16:38) and Chmiel’s Saratoga teammates, Ella Kurto (10th, 17:14) and McKinley Wheeler (12th, 17:58).
Tabb’s winning time was the slowest in the four years since the Freihofer’s Run shifted the course from a start-finish on the Madison Avenue hill to Washington Avenue, mostly because a cat-and-mouse theme was established early.
A single-file trio of Tabb, Nukuri and Maddie Van Beek went through the first mile in 5:16, two seconds slower than last year, and by two miles in 10:32, Van Beek had lost a little bit of contact with the top two, but was still solidly in third.
Nukuri took the lead just past the two-mile mark and had a two-stride advantage over Tabb as they turned onto the final straightaway on Washington Ave. leading to the final downhill.
“I got pretty nervous at that point, but I’m confident in my downhill running,” Tabb said. “I figured she might be, too. I was like, ‘I need to close this sooner than later, or else this is going to get too hard.’ I tried to move at the start of that downhill.”
Tabb didn’t wait long, answering back as they crossed Lark Street, getting shoulder-to-shoulder for a few strides before reasserting the front position, which she steadily held and gradually improved upon, using her downhill strength to keep Nukuri, who was third last year, at bay.
“I didn’t want to just sit on her until the end, so it was more fun when you can take the lead and make the race be honest,” Nukuri said.
“I was thinking she ran a marathon three weeks ago and, obviously, is very strong, and I tried to focus on what I think my strengths are,” Tabb said. “I figured just run within myself, and I’m pretty good at feeling out my body, so I didn’t pay attention to the clock.
“Yeah, she looked really strong. So that was a threat, but I didn’t want to lose it today. I was going to do everything I could.”
Van Beek finished third in 16:09, followed by Katie Newton in fourth (16:23) and Chmiel.
“I put myself in good position, but I couldn’t quite hang in the park,” Van Beek said. “I got gassed a bit. I thought they were going to fly away from me, but the gap kind off stayed the same. Then that last downhill, I was really trying to close, but couldn’t quite get it. This was fun.”
— Mike MacAdam (@Mike_MacAdam) June 1, 2019
Chmiel ran a strong race, going out with the lead pack and maintaining position once that group got more strung out in the park.
Her 16:33 was 14 seconds faster than she ran in top-10 finishes last year and in 2017.
She had posted a sub-2:13 split on a 3,200 relay leg for Saratoga High Friday night at the state qualifier.
“Today was a good day to try to get out and run hard,” she said. “I went pretty fast, and then in the middle of the race, I was just trying to keep people in sight.
“That [fifth place] was really exciting. I wasn’t really sure what I was going to get for place and time, so that was a really good surprise.”
Jennifer Rhines, 44, was the masters winner while finishing 11th in 17:20, followed by Melody Fairchild in 13th (17:59) and 40-year-old Dana Bush of Saratoga Springs in 15th (18:14).
Karen Bertasso of Albany was 14th in 18:04 and jumped into the 10th spot on the prize money list.
The race drew 3,445 starters.
For the results, click here.