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Erb, Pennel claim first U.S. titles at USATF Marathon Championships

10/5/2014
 
INDIANAPOLIS – Tyler Pennel pulled away from a tight men’s race just past 19 miles, while Esther Erb ran a patient race to overtake leaders in the final three miles, as both athletes took home the win and first U.S. titles at Sunday’s USATF Marathon Championships, hosted by the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon, in Minneapolis.
 
The USATF Marathon Championships are the second-to-last stop on the USA Running Circuit, which concludes next month at the .US National 12K. The top ten finishers at each race on the circuit qualify to compete in the 2014 .US National 12K, which takes place Sunday, Nov. 16 in Alexandria, Virginia.
 
A relaxed, early pace led to a men’s lead pack of nearly 15 athletes for the entire first half of the race. Pennel (Blowing Rock, N.C.) and Ian Burrell (Tucson, Arizona)
took turns leading the early miles, as the group hit the half marathon point in 1:07:46.
 
Just after the 14-mile mark, Sergio Reyes (Palmdale, California)threw in a magnificent surge, which quickly strung the field out, as the leaders ratcheted down their pace from 5:02 at the 14-mile split to 4:48 at the 15-mile split. The pace slowed over the next four miles as the pack regrouped, but the harsh change in pace took its toll on many top runners.
 
Heading into mile 19, Scott Smith (Flagstaff, Arizona) threw in another surge, breaking the lead pack for good, as he and Pennel pulled away and built a lead of 40 meters by mile 20. While Scott couldn’t handle the pace of the past mile, Pennel carried on, pushing his lead over Smith to over 80 meters by mile 21.
 
Pennel continued to pour it on, extending his lead - mile after mile - until it was clear he would finish first in his marathon debut. Into the homestretch, the North Carolina-based athlete ran, soaking in the roar of the crowd, to cross the finish in 2:13:32.
 
Behind Pennel, Jared Ward (Provo, Utah) ran a terrific final 10 km, clearing the field over the final four miles and clocking a two-minute personal best as the runner-up in 2:14:00. Smith held on valiantly to place third in 2:14:40. Burrell hung on after pushing the early pace, taking home fourth in 2:15:08, while Tyler McCandless (Boulder, Colorado) ran a great final few miles to cross fifth in 2:15:26.
 
Rounding out the top ten, Nathan Martin (Spring Arbor, Michigan) set a new personal best of 2:15:47 to finish in sixth place overall, while 2010 USATF Marathon Champion Reyes finished seventh in 2:16:48. Brian Harvey (Boston, Massachusetts) Scott MacPherson (Austin, Texas) and Eric Ashe (Boston, Massachusetts) all broke the 2:18 barrier to finish 8-10, in 2:17:05, 2:17:19 and 2:17:56 respectively.
 
While a large men’s pack ran together much of Sunday’s race, the women’s race was significantly different. In the very early miles, Brianne Nelson (Golden, Colorado)
and surprise frontrunner Heather Lieberg (Helena, Montana) grabbed the lead, extending their gap by more than 40 seconds at one point.
 
Little movement took place behind Nelson and Lieberg, until Esther Erb (Lambertville, N.J.) and Ariana Hilborn (Tempe, Arizona) started to pick up the pace. At mile 19, it seemed as though Erb and Hilborn might start to make up ground on the leaders, until Erb hit a small rough patch and the lead Nelson and Lieberg owned continued to maintain.
 
Everything changed heading into mile 21, when Erb found a second wind and started to really close the gap on Nelson and Lieberg. As the two front-runners focused on their own dual, Erb broke from Hilborn and started to close the gab. With less than 5 km to go, Erb caught and quickly passed Nelson and Lieberg. Nelson rapidly fell off pace, while Lieberg tried to latch on, but Erb’s quick pass couldn’t be matched.
 
With Erb striding into the final stretch, she crossed the finish in 2:34:00 with arms raised and a big smile on her face, as she took home her first national title. Lieberg, who ran the breakthrough race of the day, finished second in 2:34:08, while Nelson maintained pack to place third in 2:34:22.
 
Hilborn tried to close on Nelson, but didn’t have enough over the final stages, settling for fourth in 2:35:20, but well ahead of fifth place Claudia Becque, who crossed in 2:39:12.
 
Rounding out the top ten, Elizabeth Herndon (St. Paul, Minnesota) finished sixth in 2:39:18, edging Christine Ramsey’s (Baltimore, Maryland) time of 2:39:31. Allison Macsas (Austin, Texas) crept up for eighth overall in 2:39:58, while Ruth Perkins (Puyallup, Washington) and local favorite Meghan Peyton finished ninth and tenth in 2:40:02 and 2:40:30.
 
With double points being awarded at Sunday’s race, Pennel moved into second place in the USA Running Circuit standings with 49 points. He sits well behind Christo Landry’s (Ann Arbor, Michigan) 76 points, but is 19 points ahead of Girma Mecheso (West Chester, Pennsylvania) in third place. Meanwhile, Nelson benefited most from her performance in Minnesota, scoring 20 points and jumping into a tie with Molly Huddle (Providence, Rhode Island) for second with 45 points, a mere two points behind Sara Hall (Flagstaff, Arizona), who has 47 points and the women’s USARC lead.
 
The final race of the 2014 USA Running Circuit takes place on November 16 in Alexandria, Virginia, as many of the top distance runners in the United States take to the streets to compete at the .US National 12K.
 
 
About the USARC
The USARC is a USA Track & Field road series featuring USA championships from one mile through the marathon and consistently attracts the best American distance runners with more than $500,000 to be awarded in total prize money. A total of $145,000 in prize money was awarded at the USA Marathon Championships.
 
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 those earning the most points receiving prize money at the end of the series.
 
The mission of the USARC is to showcase, support and promote U.S. runners. Since its inception in 1995, the USARC and its races have provided over $7 million to U.S. distance runners.
 
Contributed by Scott Bush


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