Galen Rupp runner-up as U.S. shines at Boston Marathon

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Kenyan runners swept the Boston Marathon titles, but the U.S. had its best combined male and female finishes since 1985 on Monday.

Rio Olympic bronze medalist Galen Rupp finished second in his first city marathon, 21 seconds behind Kenyan Geoffrey Kirui. Kirui prevailed in 2 hours, 9 minutes, 37 seconds, on a warm day with temperatures in the 70s.

Jordan Hasay, who like Rupp trains under 1982 Boston winner Alberto Salazar, was third in her marathon debut. Hasay crossed 69 seconds behind champion Edna Kiplagat, who clocked 2:21:52.

The Boston Marathon started awarding prize money in 1986, a greater incentive for the world’s top runners to take part. This is the second year since that the U.S put male and female runners in the top three (Kara Goucher and Ryan Hall were both third in 2009).

Meb Keflezighi, the 2014 Boston winner, finished 13th in the men’s race, more than seven minutes behind Kirui. The 41-year-old Keflezighi ran Boston for the final time as an elite racer.

Full Boston Marathon results are here.

Rupp, 30, ran his first marathon last year after a decorated track career that included a 2012 Olympic 10,000m silver medal. He won the February 2016 Olympic Trials marathon before earning bronze in Rio.

Rupp entered Boston as one of the favorites given the field lacked the world’s best handful of marathoners.

Rupp and Kirui were alone when Kirui made his move with about three miles left. Kirui, 24, was not one of the pre-race favorites, largely because he had never contested a major marathon (nor won either of his previous marathons).

“Just didn’t have an answer for him,” Rupp said on NBCSN. “I was really happy with the way I ran. You know, I wasn’t sure two weeks ago if I was even going to be able to come here and start and run.”

Rupp withdrew before January’s Houston Half Marathon with plantar fasciitis in his left foot. Two weeks ago, he spoke of left foot discomfort after finishing 11th in a half marathon in Prague. But a cortisone shot worked wonders.

He ran Monday wearing a white cap given to him by two-time Boston winner Joan Benoit in the hotel lobby that morning. Rupp has a long way to go to reach the status of Benoit, the first Olympic women’s marathon champion, but he seems intent on chasing it.

“I have a lot of room to grow,” said Rupp, who plans to race his final season on the track this summer before moving full-time to the marathon.

The U.S. put six men in the top 10. Keflezighi was not one of them.

The Eritrean-born 2004 Olympic silver medalist has just one marathon left, the 26th of his career in New York City on Nov. 5. Keflezighi struggled Monday, finishing outside the top eight in Boston for the first time.

“I went for it early on, but it was pretty warm and really tough conditions, and training wasn’t the greatest training I ever had,” said Keflezighi, who noted Achilles problems before the race and quad issues after. “It’s not like a victory that I could have ended up with, but at the same time, I enjoyed every bit of it.”

Keflezighi said he broke down in tears about two minutes after finishing, flooded with the emotions brought on by support from the crowd along the course. He noted one sign telling him he was a hero.

“Everybody was saying you’re our hero, we love you, and all that,” said Keflezighi, the only U.S. male or female runner to win Boston since 1985. “Even if you finish 15th or 20th, they still love you.”

In a poignant finish-area moment, Keflezighi embraced the family of Martin Richard on Boylston Street, feet away from where Richard, then 8 years old, was killed in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings.

In the women’s race, the 37-year-old Kiplagat became the second-oldest winner in Boston history. Her time was the fastest-ever by a woman that old, according to the IAAF’s Jon Mulkeen.

Kiplagat has five children — two biological, two adopted from her sister who died from breast cancer and one adopted from a neighbor who died in childbirth, according to the Chicago Marathon. She has won two world titles and the London and New York City Marathons, but this was her first marathon win since 2014.

Hasay and two-time U.S. Olympian Desi Linden were part of a group of six leaders that began disintegrating after Kiplagat surged around the 19-mile mark.

Hasay’s ability to hang on for third proved to her that moving from the track to the roads at such a young age — 25 — was the right call.

“It was kind of a risky decision,” said Hasay, who ran the fastest debut marathon by a U.S. woman by three minutes. “We weren’t sure how it was going to play out, but it seems like this is definitely my distance. … I can’t wait to do another one.”

Hasay said she ran the entire 26.2 miles with the voice of her mom in her head. Teresa Hasay died unexpectedly at age 56 in November for a reason the family is keeping private.

Teresa used to call Jordan “Paula,” after Jordan’s idol, British marathoner Paula Radcliffe.

On Monday, Jordan repeated to herself, “Good job, Paula, good job, Paula,” along the course.

She always told me that I could be a great marathoner,” Jordan said of her mom.

Of all the Americans, many predicted Linden had the best shot at winning. She was disappointed in placing fourth. Linden remains the fastest U.S. female marathoner never to win a 26.2-mile race.

“I feel like I’ve poured everything into this to figure out how I can get better,” Linden said. “Maybe this is my peak, you know.”

Earlier, 17-time Paralympic medalist Tatyana McFadden finished fourth in the wheelchair division, weeks after surgeries for blood clots. McFadden had previously won each of the world’s four major city marathons each of the last four years.

Swiss Manuela Schar won Boston in 1 hour, 28 minutes, 17 seconds, a course record by nearly six minutes.

McFadden, born in Russia paralyzed from the waist down and adopted from a St. Petersburg orphanage at age 6 by an American, is the only marathoner, able-bodied or wheelchair, to sweep Boston, Chicago, London and New York City in one year, let alone four.

McFadden shockingly lost the Rio Paralympic marathon in a photo finish (video here).

In the men’s wheelchair race Monday, Swiss Marcel Hug won his third straight Boston title. Hug, the Rio Paralympic marathon champion, clocked 1:18:04, the fastest wheelchair marathon time ever.

The time does not count for record purposes as Boston is not a record-eligible course due to its point-to-point, net downhill layout.

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Pole vaulter, 84, sets her sights on more records

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BURLINGTON, Vt. — An 84-year-old pole vaulter isn’t putting her pole down anytime soon.

Flo Filion Meiler left Thursday for the World Masters Athletics Championship Indoor in Poland, where she’ll compete in events including the long jump, 60-meter hurdles, 800-meter run, pentathlon and pole vault, for which she’s the shoo-in.

The petite, energetic woman from Shelburne, Vermont, said she feels more like 70 than nearly 85.

“But you know, I do train five days a week. And when I found out I was going to compete at the worlds, I’ve been training six days a week because I knew I would really get my body in shape,” she said last week, after track and field training at the University of Vermont.

But she literally won’t have any competition in the pole vault in the championships, which runs March 24-31 in Torun, Poland. She is the only one registered in her age group, 80-84, for the sport, for which she set a world record at age 80. In the men’s pole vault, nine men are listed as competing in that age group.

Meiler said she the events she likes the best are the hurdles and the pole vault – one of the more daring track and field events, in which competitors run while carrying a fiberglass or composite pole, brace it against the ground to launch themselves over a high bar, and land on a mat.

“You really have to work at that,” she said. “You have to have the upper core and you have to have timing, and I just love it because it’s challenging.”

Meiler is used to hard work. She grew up on a dairy farm, where she helped her father with the chores, feeding the cattle and raking hay. In school, she did well at basketball, took tap and ballroom dancing, and, living near Lake Champlain, she water skied.

Meiler, who worked for 30 years as a sales representative for Herbalife nutritional supplements, and her husband, Eugene, who was a military pilot and then became a financial analyst, together competed in water skiing.

“Many times when I did water ski competition I was the only gal in my age group,” she said.

She’s a relative newcomer to pole vaulting and track and field, overall. At age 60, she was competing in doubles tennis with her husband in a qualifying year at the Vermont Senior Games when a friend encouraged her to try the long jump because competitors were needed.

“That was the beginning of my track career,” she said, standing in a room of her home, surrounded by hundreds of hanging medals. She took up pole vaulting at 65.

Athletics has helped her though some hard times, she said. She and her husband adopted three children after losing two premature biological babies and a 3-year-old. Two years ago, their son died at age 51.

And she desperately misses her training partner, a woman who started having health problems about five years ago and can no longer train. It’s tough to train alone, she said, and she hopes to find a new partner.

“She’s incredibly serious about what she does,” said Meiler’s coach, Emmaline Berg. “She comes in early to make sure she’s warmed up enough. She goes home and stretches a lot. So she pretty much structures her entire life around being a fantastic athlete, which is remarkable at any age, let alone hers.”

And it has paid off, said Berg, an assistant track coach at Vermont.

Berg herself first started following Meiler 10 years ago while she was a student at New Hampshire’s Dartmouth College, watching her at the annual Dartmouth Relays.

“She was like a local celebrity,” she said.

Setting a record at age 80 with a 6-foot (1.8-meter) pole vault at the USA Track and Field Adirondack Championships in Albany, New York, while her husband watched, Meiler said, was one of her happiest days.

“I was screaming, I was so happy,” she said.

The overall world record for women’s pole vaulting is 16.6 feet (5.6 meters), according to the International Association of Athletics Federations.

Meiler turns 85 in June, when she’ll head to the National Senior Games in New Mexico.

That will put her in a new age group, in which she hopes to set even more records.

Meiler’s athletic achievements are remarkable and something to be celebrated, said Dr. Michael LaMantia, director of the University of Vermont Center on Aging.

Pole vaulting clearly isn’t for everyone of her age, but in general, activity should be, LaMantia said.

“She can serve as a role model for other seniors,” he said.

Amateur boxing president steps aside during IOC inquiry

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LAUSANNE, Switzerland — With Olympic boxing under investigation by the IOC, the president of the sport’s governing body said on Friday he was stepping aside to let an interim leader take charge.

Gafur Rakhimov sai d he was not resigning as AIBA president, however, and did not call for new elections.

Rakhimov’s status on a U.S. Treasury Department sanctions list as an alleged heroin trafficker is part of an inquiry by an International Olympic Committee-appointed panel.

The panel will update the IOC executive board next week in Lausanne, Switzerland. AIBA could be derecognized by IOC members in June.

The IOC halted planning for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic boxing tournaments and blocked AIBA officials from contacting organizers in Japan.

“The allegations against me were fabricated and based on politically motivated lies,” Rakhimov said. “I trust that the truth will prevail. Nevertheless, I have always said that I would never put myself above boxing, and as president, I have a duty to do everything in my power to serve our sport and our athletes.”

Under AIBA statutes, an interim president is picked from among the five vice-presidents, who include several Rakhimov supporters. The executive committee is due to meet by telephone this weekend. The interim leader can serve only a maximum 365 days before fresh elections, however, meaning that arrangement can’t last through to the Tokyo Olympics.

When Rakhimov was elected last year, his supporters pushed for a plan to allow the president to step aside while still retaining key influence and being able to return at any time, but that was defeated.

It’s not clear if Rakhimov’s departure would be enough to calm the IOC, which has also criticized AIBA over how fights are judged, anti-doping measures, and its debts.

The IOC could try to host an Olympic boxing tournament without AIBA, and some national boxing officials have tried to form a group which could help the IOC stage the event.