Canadian Olympian Nicole Sifuentes Wins B.A.A. Invitational Mile

She breaks course record in her first appearance at event.

By Barbara Huebner

Under a cloudless blue sky “on the most gorgeous day ever,” Nicole Sifuentes was asked how she felt. “Terrible,” she said.

The two-time Olympian for Canada, a 1500-meter bronze medalist at the IAAF World Indoor Championships, couldn’t have been happier about it, having just broken the tape in 4:33.7 to win the B.A.A. Invitational Mile, eclipsing the course record in her first appearance here.

The previous record was 4:35.4, set by Ethiopia’s Dawit Seyaum in 2015.

Runner-up was Cory McGee in 4:35.8, with Emily Lipari third in 4:36.9. Lipari, who runs for the Boston Athletic Association, said she heard plenty of “Go B.A.A!” cheers from fans along the three-lap course that started and finished at the Boston Marathon finish line, its bleachers packed with lively spectators on a perfect spring day.

Still appearing dazed in her post-race interview, Sifuentes explained the thought process that brought her to delighted exhaustion.

“If I run as hard as I can from start to finish,” she figured, “I will get the effort I need out of this race. Happily, it also meant that I won. At this level, you don’t win that many races; at least I don’t. So I’ve been trying to run harder and little bit more brave recently.”

She has the effort and grit of the University of Michigan women’s cross-country team to thank, having recently become a volunteer assistant coach at her alma mater. Last fall, the Wolverines came within a single point of winning the NCAA title.

“I felt so inspired,” she said. “I realized that when someone wins and makes it look easy, that’s fun but it’s not inspiring. I wanted to run in a way that if I saw myself run, I would be inspired by that.”

In the Girls’ Scholastic Mile, featuring two athletes from each of the eight cities and towns along the Boston Marathon route—Hopkinton, Ashland, Framingham, Natick, Wellesley, Newton, Brookline and Boston—it was Natick’s Grace Connolly who took the honors in 5:04.8 after a strong challenge from Newton’s Clare Martin, who finished second in 5:07.1 after leading much of the way.

Both ran under the seven-year-old course record of 5:10.5 set by Melanie Fineman of Newton in 2010.

The two young women are among the best high school athletes in Massachusetts, with Connolly the 2017 Massachusetts Division 2 state indoor champion in both the mile and two-mile after placing ninth at the 2016 Footlocker National Cross Country Championships and Martin the 2016 New England Outdoor Champion at 800 meters.

They are also huge fans of each other. Connolly called Martin “an insanely good runner. She’s a great competitor and pushes me to my max, so I’m grateful for that.” Martin repaid the compliment: “It’s wonderful to compete against Grace. She really brings out the best in me.”

For the third time since the event began in 2010, Newton took team honors, this time on the strength of Martin and Einat Gavish, who finished fifth.

Rounding out a record-setting day for women on Boylston Street, Emma Forde of Natick won the Girls’ 1000-Meter Middle School Run in 3:18.7, breaking the 2014 record of 3:21.8 set by Keara Westover of Boston. Thanks to Nicole Frail, Natick went 1-3 to claim its first team title.

Finishing between them was Vivian McMahon of Brookline, in 3:20.5.

Echoing Sifuentes, winner of the pro mile, Forde said: “I left everything out there I had.”