Grand Slam Central


March 31, 2007

Surprise, surprise: Baker beats Mutuse

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The Papa John’s 10 Miler was not too difficult to handicap.

Just look back at the last two Papa John’s 10 Milers, which doubled as the USA Men’s 10 Mile Championship. In 2005, Kyle Baker placed 17th and James Mutuse finished immediately after him. In 2006, Baker placed 11th and Mutuse soon followed in 13th.

Baker and Mutuse were the top two runners returning to the Papa John’s 10 Miler on Saturday. So it was no surprise that they were the top two runners at the end – and that Baker won.

He made a decisive move to separate from Mutuse near the nine-mile mark and reached the finish line inside Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium with a 22-second lead.

“I thought that if I could surge one or two times, I could break him,” said Baker (pictured above). “I was picking points up ahead of us and thinking, ‘I’ll go hard to there, then slow down.’”

Mutuse, who won the Papa John’s 10 Miler en route to the Louisville Triple Crown of Running championship in 2002, admitted that Baker’s tactic worked.

“He’s tough,” Mutuse said. “I thought I’d take him down, but he stayed strong.”

Baker finished the race in 50 minutes, 55 seconds. Mutuse was second in 51:17, and Michael Friedberg was third in 51:35.

Mutuse actually was a late challenger. Friedberg dueled Baker for most of the race.

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“Kyle and I were together coming out of Iroquois Park, through seven miles,” Friedberg said. “Then James came out of nowhere. All three of us ran together for another half-mile or so. We were closing in on the eighth mile, and they just started running a little faster. I lost sight of them.”

“I knew that the hills in the park took something out of them,” explained the 29-year-old Mutuse (pictured at right), who was an All-American at Eastern Kentucky University and still lives in Richmond. “I saw them running conservatively, and there was no one in contention behind me. I thought that if I didn’t make a move then, the race might not change.”

Former University of Louisville standout Tim Kaiser, who just graduated last year, was fourth in 53:49.

“I’m definitely happy with fourth place,” Kaiser said. “I didn’t know who would show up, but there were good runners here.”

Mutuse hasn’t missed a Triple Crown race since 2001, but Friedberg had never run in one until Saturday. The Flagstaff, Ariz., resident has close relatives in Louisville.

“I owed my family a visit, and I wanted to do a race. This was a nice weekend for both,” said the 29-year-old Friedberg, who was an All-American at the University of Colorado. “I knew about this race and always wanted to do it.”

Baker, who lives in Grand Rapids, Mich., is beginning to make the trip to Louisville a habit. He ran in all three Triple Crown races this month, placing third in the Anthem 5K Fitness Classic on March 3 and second in the Rodes City Run on March 10.

“I was looking for races, and there aren’t many, especially up north, in the late winter and early spring,” said the 31-year-old Baker, who was an All-American at Michigan State. “And I have family and friends in Indianapolis; that’s an easy drive. So I’ll definitely come back.”