Olympic Silver medalist Meb Keflezighi (San Diego, Calif.) made an early move to stake his claim on the men’s title Sunday at the USA Half Marathon Championships in Houston, Texas, running 1:01:25 for his first U.S. half-marathon championship. 2008 U.S. Olympic marathoner Magdalena Lewy-Boulet won her first ever U.S. championship in 1:11:47.
The championships were hosted for the fifth time by the Aramco Houston Half Marathon with more than 100 of the top U.S. men and women joined a record field of 11,000 entrants for the eighth annual event.
After passing the first mile in a somewhat relaxed 4:44, Keflezighi and 2008 Olympian Dathan Ritzenhein (Eugene, Ore.) began to pull away from the field and by two miles Keflezighi had opened a ten meter lead on Ritzenhein.
Going through the 5 km mark on American Record pace in 14:07, Keflezighi held an eight-second lead on Ritzenhein. By mile five, Keflezighi had fallen off record pace but had opened a 12 second lead.
Reaching 10 miles in 46:27, Keflezighi had extended his lead to 19 seconds but Ritzenhein began to rally and closed the gap to 16 seconds at 11 miles. As Keflezighi started to suffer from tightening hamstrings over the final two miles Ritzenhein continued to close but only managed to get within 10 second at the finish.
Former All-American at Stanford University Bret Gotcher (Flagstaff, Ariz.) ran a personal best by nearly two minutes to finish third in 1:02:09, 12 seconds ahead of his McMillan Elite teammate Andrew Carlson (Flagstaff, Ariz.). 2006 Half Marathon champion Brian Sell (Rochester Hills, Mich.) rounded out the top-five in 1:02:36.
In the women’s race, Lewy-Boulet took a more patient approach, running in a pack of five women that included 2004 U.S. Olympian and Houston course record holder Colleen De Reuck (Boulder, Colo.), two-time Olympian Amy Rudolph (Providence, R.I.), Kelly Jaske (Portland, Ore.), and Desiree Davila (Rochester Hills, Mich.).
After running with the pack for nine miles, Lewy-Boulet made her move on the field and steadily opened a gap on Jaske who would go on to finish second in 1:12:06. Once again, masters standout De Reuck proved to be a contender in the open division as she finished third in 1:12:36. Davila and Rudolph followed in fourth and fifth, running 1:12:23 and 1:12:34 respectively.
About the USARC
The Aramco Houston Half Marathon was the first stop on the 2009 USA Running Circuit (USARC), and featured a total championship prize purse of $59,500 plus potential bonuses.
The 2009 USARC is a USA Track & Field road series, featuring USA Championships from one mile to the marathon and attracts the best U.S. distance runners, including Olympians Deena Kastor, Ryan Hall, Shalane Flanagan and Anthony Famiglietti. The 2009 USARC has ten events each for men and women.
The first ten U.S. runners earn points at each USARC race (15 for first, 12 for second, 10 for third, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2 and 1), with a final $12,500 grand prix purse ($6,000, $4,000, and $2,500) for the top three men and women point scorers overall. The USARC points at the USA Marathon Championships will be doubled.
The mission of the USA Running Circuit is to showcase, support, and promote U.S. runners. Since its inception in 1995, the USARC and its races have provided over $6 million dollars to U.S. distance runners.
For more information on the 2009 USA Half-Marathon Championships visit www.usatf.org.