Houseworth Makes It Big In Las Vegas

Willis wins women’s half marathon. Omae, Erdelyi capture marathon crowns.

Written by: Mario Fraioli

Sean Houseworth breaks the tape in 1:03:12. Photo: PhotoRun.net

LAS VEGAS — In a city where performers from all walks of life come to make it big, it seemed fitting that Sean Houseworth took over two minutes off his personal best to run away with the win at the Zappos.com Rock ‘n Roll Las Vegas Half Marathon on Sunday night.

The 24-year-old from Highlands Ranch, Colorado broke free from James Carney and Jason Lehmkuhle with just under four miles to go and held his lead all the way to the tape to win in 1 hour, 3 minutes and 12 seconds. Jason Hartmann of Boulder Colorado rallied over the final two miles to take second in 1:03:34, while Lehmkuhle held on for third in 1:03:37.

Photo Gallery: Elite Races At Zappos.com Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas

“This was a huge breakthrough for me and to do it in this kind of atmosphere and this big of a race it’s a great feeling,” said Houseworth, who finished third here in 2009 in 1:05:35. “I had a plan going in just to compete, not worry about the time. I was able to execute exactly how I wanted to. I paid the price for the quick early pace but overall I executed exactly.”

Houseworth, a 5K-10K specialist who was making the rare move up in distance, easily qualified for Olympic Marathon Trials with his low-1:03 clocking (the qualifying standard is 1:05), but is unsure if he will run the event in Houston in January.

“I haven’t decided whether or not I’ll do the Olympic Trials,” Houseworth said, “but if that’s something my coach Juli Benson and I decide to do then I’m sure she’ll have me ready for it.”

Photo Gallery–Strip At Night: Zappos.com Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas

A victorious Benita Willis raises her arms as she crossed the finish line on Sunday night. Photo: PhotoRun.net

In the women’s race, Australian Benita Willis ran what she called the “best race I’ve had since 2006″ to win easily in 1:10:40–42 seconds up on Amy Hastings of Mammoth Lakes, California.

“I was feeling really good from the start,” said Willis, who is hoping to qualify for the Australian Olympic Team at the Houston Marathon on January 15. “My goal was to have a really hard effort. I just needed to have a really hard run. My training has been going really well but I just needed to get it together for a race and see where I am racing wise. I really wanted to run here. I love the Rock ‘n’ Roll Races and it fit in really well to come here.”

Willis, who was joined by eventual second and third-place finishers Amy Hastings and Katie McGregor through a fast first 5 miles in just over 26 minutes, pulled away from the duo before the turnaround back onto Las Vegas Boulevard, gradually stretching out her advantage all the way to the finish line.

“It gives me a lot of confidence,” Willis said of her victory. “It shows that I’m in good shape and I can definitely do the time to make the Olympics.”

The half marathon wasn’t the only event taking place this evening in Sin City. Ninety minutes before the start of the half marathon some 8,000 marathoners took off the starting line. In the end, it was 33-year-old Kenyan Peter Omae and 23-year old Zsofia Erdelyi of Hungary who came away with the victories in 2:29:12 and 2:49:36, respectively.

“This is my hardest marathon I ever ran,” said Omae, who won the Newport Beach Marathon earlier this year in 2:22:42. “The course is good but the wind I never ran a marathon with wind, or at night. It was fun to run in Vegas, I will run this race again next year.”

Clay Wing, 37, of Washington finished second in 2:35:23, 32 seconds ahead of 47-year-old Rafael Cueto.

Erdelyi, making her marathon debut, reached the line completely spent, 38 seconds ahead of second-place finisher Melanie Peters of White Lake, Michigan. Marnie Staehky was third in 2:55:30. No athletes qualified for the Olympic Marathon Trials in either race.

Over 44,000 registered runners took part in this third annual event, including a handful of celebrities such as reality TV star Kate Gosselin, who ran her first ever marathon in 4:59:21. Bachelor stars Jason and Molly Mesnick finished the half marathon in 1:57:07 and 2:17:40, respectively. Amazing Race contestant Louie Stravato finished the half marathon in 3:00:43, while Mike McCready, lead guitarist for Pearl Jam crossed the finish line in 2:11:52.

Zappos.com Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas Marathon & Half Marathon

Half Marathon Results–Top-5 Men

1. Sean Houseworth, 1:03:12

2. Jason Hartmann, 1:03:34

3. Jason Lehmkuhle, 1:03:37

4. Sean Quigley, 1:04:14

5. Matt Gabrielson, 1:04:19

Half Marathon Results–Top-5 Women

1. Benita Willis, 1:10:40

2. Amy Hastings, 1:11:22

3. Katie McGregor, 1:11:45

4. Addie Bracy, 1:14:09

5. Kathy Newberry, 1:14:53

Marathon Results–Top-5 Men

1. Peter Omae, 2:29:12

2. Clay Wing, 2:35:23

3. Rafael Cueto, 2:35:55

4. Chris Heezen, 2:36:24

5. Albert Wint, 2:36:53

Marathon Results–Top-5 Women

1. Zsofia Erdelyi, 2:48:58

2. Melanie Peters, 2:49:36

3. Marnie Staehly, 2:55:30

4. Crista Kundu, 3:04:25

5. Tammy Tribett, 3:10:13

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