Past Champion, U.S. Olympians Headline Carlsbad 5000

Off her past two performances in the Carlsbad 5000, Ethiopian Aheza Kiros should be considered the favorite for the race’s 26th running on Sunday, April 3, 2011. However, there is a strong international field arrayed against her, including Americans Christin Wurth-Thomas and Jen Rhines.

Kiros, the 2009 champion and 2010 runner-up to world record-holder Meseret Defar, has a 5,000m personal best of 14:56.33 on the track from 2009, and has run 15:26 at Carlsbad. The 25-year-old Ethiopian, who lives in Addis Ababa after growing up in the Tigray region, began running at a young age and almost always won her races during physical education classes. By the age of 16, she was representing her school at the All-Ethiopian School Championships, winning the 5,000m. Now, she is mostly a 10,000-meter runner and represented Ethiopia at that distance at the 2007 World Championships.

Meanwhile, Wurth-Thomas and Rhines should be in close pursuit of Kiros. Wurth-Thomas, the 2008 U.S. indoor champion at 1,500 meters, the 2007 and 2009 outdoor runner-up, and 2008 Olympian, is looking to improve her endurance by running a 5k. She is one of only five Americans to break four minutes for 1,500 meters with a clocking of 3:59.59 last year. She said her goal for this year is to return to the World Championships, where she finished fifth in the 1,500 in 2009.

“I want to get back there (World Championships) and medal this time,” the former Arkansas standout said. “I’m excited to run a good race at Carlsbad. My training has been going very well, so why not? I’m coming off an 11-second PR indoors. I’m pretty fit and ready to go, so the sky’s the limit. I’m looking for competition. This will be my first outdoor race (of the season).”

The 30-year-old is competing at Carlsbad for the third time and is anxious to race in front of the enthusiastic spectators Carlsbad in known for.

Aheza Kiros of Ethiopia won the women's race at the 2009 Carlsbad 5000. Photo: PhotoRun.net

“The community and the town are amazing,” she said. “It’s fun to see so many people come out for the race. It’s unique. There’s always great support from the spectators.”

Rhines also is excited about competing again at Carlsbad. Four years ago, she finished second to Defar in her road PR of 15:21. She has won back-to-back U.S. championships over the half-marathon and 15K, and also won the Zappos.com Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas Half Marathon in December. A seasoned veteran at 36, she has competed at three Olympics (2000, 2004 and 2008) at three different distances (5,000, 10,000 and the marathon). She also has run in four outdoor World Championships, one World Indoor, four World Cross-Country Championships and one World Athletics final.

“I feel really strong,” the ex-Villanova runner said. “I’ve been running some longer races. Now, I’m transitioning to shorter ones.”

Rhines started her career as a sprinter in the eighth grade. Her goal for Sunday is about 15:22.

“In a road race, it’s hard to predict what the time will be,” she said. “Some road races are fast, some are slow. I’m comfortable with a tactical race. I like to keep up with the pack. I don’t run well off the pace. It should be a very competitive race.”

“I enjoyed running there before,” she added. “I’m glad to get back to Carlsbad. You definitely get a lot of support from the crowd. Your name is on your bib and people recognize you and cheer for you.”

In addition to the two top Americans, Kiros can expect challenges from Pauline Konikwiang of Kenya, seventh at the recent World Cross Country Championships and the national junior record-holder with a 5,000 PR of 14:45.98, who is making her debut on the roads; Olesya Syreva of Russia, the European indoor silver medalist over 3,000 meters, the national indoor record-holder for two miles with a 5,000 PR of 15:19.96; Eloise Wellings of Australia, the 2010 national 5,000 and 10,000 champion with a 5,000 PR of 14:54.11; and Adrienne Herzog of the Netherlands, the national record-holder for two miles with a 5,000 PR of 15:34.37.

Both the U.S. and world records for 5000 have been set at the Carlsbad 5000, which is internationally known as the “World’s Fastest 5K.” Defar established the world mark of 14:46 in 2006 and Deena Kaster set the U.S. mark of 14:54 in 2002.

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