- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 13, 2007

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Placing third at the Fifth Avenue Mile is impressive. Winning back-to-back titles at Penn Relays in the Olympic Development Mile is even more so.

But running a 4:09.32 for 1,500 meters, as Erin Donohue did here Friday evening, is almost unheard of.

In a return to the University of North Carolina — her alma mater — the All-American from New Jersey won the metric mile at the UNC Elite meet at Irwin Belk Track and Fetzer Field. It was a personal best by five seconds and a huge leap from her 4:16.08 best last year.

Donohue, who celebrated her 24th birthday just three days earlier, was set up perfectly by former UNC teammate Shalane Flanagan. It was Donohue last month who paced the first mile and change of Flanagan’s thrilling 5,000-meter American record in 14:44.

Flanagan returned the favor Friday evening, staying even with the Nike-sponsored Donohue through 1,200 meters in 3:20 before stepping off the track. Donohue then powered away from UNC sophomore phenom Brie Felnagle, who ran a 4:11.86 to improve upon her own collegiate-best time. Felnagle’s time moved her to second all time at UNC in the 1,500 as she narrowly missed breaking Flanagan’s record time of 4:11.60.

In the 800, masters runner Alisa Harvey (41) of Manassas broke her own U.S. 40-44 record with a 2:07.57, runner-up against collegians half her age.

Last chance — The 2007 World Masters Athletics Championships will be held Sept. 4 to 15 in Riccione, Italy. Entries must be submitted to the USATF national office by tomorrow.

Seeing it through — Although Susan Graham-Gray lives in Greencastle, Pa., she races a lot in the Washington area.

Graham-Gray won the inaugural National Marathon last year and was second in March in 2:55:57. She was ready to give up her longtime hope of qualifying for the 2008 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials as the 2:47 “B” standard slipped further and further away from the legally blind athlete.

But last weekend at the second annual Pocono “Run For the Red” Marathon in Stroudsburg, Pa., Graham-Gray, just 11 days to her 39th birthday, won the race and broke the course record in 2:45:32.

“By all the information I can gather, she is only the second legally blind U.S. athlete to ever qualify for the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials,” said Mike Spinnler, her coach. Marla Runyan, who also was legally blind, qualified in 2002 with a 2:27:10.

“It was a remarkable effort,” Spinnler said. “Logically it shouldn’t have happened, yet it did. The power of the human spirit is utterly remarkable. What a great story and inspiration is Susan Graham-Gray.”

First timer — It is hard to imagine being a longtime world-class runner living and training not far from Central Park but never having raced there.

Such is the case for U.S. marathon record holder Khalid Khannouchi, who has lived and trained in nearby Ossining, N.Y., for more than a decade. But not for long. According to an official at the New York Road Runners, Khannouchi will announce tomorrow that he will make his New York professional debut at the Healthy Kidney 10K on Saturday in Central Park.

“I’m very excited about running in New York City, especially in what has so far been a disappointing season,” said Khannouchi, who dropped out of last month’s London Marathon with an injury.

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