Carmen Douma-Hussar thought she would be enjoying a vacation in Florida yesterday, not running a race.
The Canadian Olympian canceled her trip Friday night because of Hurricane Jeanne; less than a day later, she easily won the Pennsylvania Avenue Mile elite women's race in 4 minutes 36.79 seconds.
Kenyan John Itati continued his mastery of the men's elite race, winning for the fourth straight year with a time of 4:04.57.
Douma-Hussar, 27, said she had already started slowing down after a busy and successful year. She finished ninth in the 1,500 meters at the Olympics and just returned from the IAAF Grand Prix finals in Monaco on Sunday, where she finished fifth.
"Our hotel [in West Palm Beach] was evacuated, so we didn't think it was a good idea to go down there," said Douma-Hussar, a Villanova graduate who lives in Philadelphia. "I already started my break because I didn't expect to race again right away. But I was excited to run so it wasn't that hard. I just did a little mind-set change, and I was ready."
Douma-Hussar set the pace for the 10-woman field from the beginning and pulled away steadily in the final quarter mile. American Amy Mortimer, a 23-year-old from Boston and an all-American while at Kansas State, finished second in 4:39.63, almost three seconds behind Douma-Hussar.
Earlier this year, Douma-Hussar established herself as a force in the middle distances, winning the 1,500 at the Boston Indoor Games and the Millrose Games and taking the silver at the World Indoor Track & Field Championships.
In the men's elite race, Itati looked like he might lose for the first time since 2000 when Australian Mark Fountain took control of the race in the last quarter mile. Itati, 30, trailed by a couple strides late but passed Fountain in the final 50 meters to win by .42 of a second.
"I had a strong finishing kick today," said Itati, who recovered quickly from running a half marathon in Philadelphia last weekend in 1:02:04. "The other guys kept coming, and I just tried to relax and run fast at the end."