The world cross-country champion looks to defend her title in Albany.
From: Running USA
ALBANY, N.Y. — Officials at the Freihofer’s Run for Women, the only 5K road race in the world to hold a prestigious (silver) label designation by the International Association of Athletics Federations, the sport’s worldwide governing body, have announced that Emily Chebet will return to New York’s capital city on Saturday, June 4th to defend her 5K title.
The Kenyan speedster, who shaved six seconds off the previous best time of 15 minutes, 18 seconds set by Morocco’s Asmae Leghzaoui in 2005 – the largest in the history of the race – is expected to be a front runner once the air horn sounds.
“We’re always excited to have our defending champion return,” said Elite Athlete Recruiter John Tope, who has also recruited Kenyans Everlyne Lagat and Risper Gesabwa to the field. “However, it won’t be an easy task for Emily to retain her crown. We have a strong international field and I expect a very close race.”
Chebet, winner of last year’s World Cross Country title in Poland, will be joined in the lead pack by Aheza Kiros (Ethiopia), who last month cruised to victory at the speedy Carlsbad 5000 (15:12); Mamitu Daska (Ethiopia), winner of the 2011 Houston Marathon (2:26.33) and runner-up at the 2009 Freihofer’s (15:30), and Misiker Mekkonin (Ethiopia), 2011 Lilac Bloomsday Run 12K winner.
Kiros, Daska and Mekkonin will battle the field with countrywoman Tigist Tufa, who has been running with consistency this year, and placed 3rd at the 2011 Cherry Blossom 10 Mile; Meseret Mengistu, 8th 2011 Rome Marathon, and Alemtsehay Misganaw, 1st 2011 Shamrock 8K.
Benita Willis, who earned three Freihofer’s titles between 2006-08 – only the third woman to accomplish that feat – is also expected to set the pace. The three-time Australian Olympian (2008 – Marathon, 2004 – 10,000m, 2000 – 5000m) and 2004 World Cross Country champion knows the course better than any anyone (www.timesunion.com/freihofersmap/) and this inside knowledge – coupled with her blistering track speed (14:47 – 5000m) – could help vault her from 7th place in 2010 back to a podium spot.
Willis isn’t the only competitor with Olympic credentials. Decorated Mexican Olympian Dulce Maria Rodriguez (2008 – 10,000m, 2004 – 5000m, 2000 – 5000m) has also signaled her intention to compete, as has Burundi’s Diane Nukuri Johnson (2000 – 5000m), who crossed the line first at the 2011 Marion Arts Festival and finished 4th at the 2011 Honda LA Marathon.
South African sensation, Irvette Van Blerk, 23, who successfully defended her nation’s 10K title in Port Elizabeth on Sunday, will be another newcomer hoping to pocket the $10,000 winner’s check. The two-time World Cross Country team member, who will be competing in her first 5K on U.S. soil, has been making a name for herself since she was 14, when she finished second in a senior 10K in Durban.
For more information about the 33rd Freihofer’s Run for Women event including the inaugural Freihofer’s Junior 3K Run, visit freihofersrun.com. From the home page, there are links to the event’s Facebook, Twitter and YouTube pages.