INDIANAPOLIS – Olympian Meb Keflezighi and returning USARC standout Mattie Suver lead the way Sunday at the USA Haf Marathon Championships in Houston, Texas, hosted by the Aramco Houston Half Marathon.
The USA Half Marathon Championships are the first stop on the 2014 USA Running Circuit, which concludes this fall with the .US National Road Racing Championships. The top ten finishers at each race on the circuit qualify to compete in the .US National Road Racing Championships.
Two-time Olympian Keflezighi is set to contend for the overall title Sunday morning. The 38 year old finished second at the 2013 USA Half Marathon Championships and is in good form as he seeks another U.S. title.
While Keflezighi gets much of the pre-race attention, the first race of the USARC season sees four of the top five 2013 USARC overall finishers entered among Sunday’s field, too.
USARC champion Shadrack Biwott had an extremely consistent 2013 racing season, which he hopes to improve upon this time around. Runner-up finishes at the USA 20 km Championships and .US National Road Racing Championships, as well as a third place finish in the Aramco Houston Half Marathon give Biwott a big edge in Sunday race.
USARC third place finisher Aaron Braun and fourth place finisher Josphat Boit should both contend for the title, too. Braun won the inaugural .US National Road Racing Championships over an extremely talented field back in November and seems poised for a big season on the roads in 2014. Boit finished second at the USA Marathon Championships and was one of the most consistent performers in the USARC last season.
Meanwhile, half marathon ace Luke Puskedra and USARC fifth place finisher Timothy Ritchie have the talent to contend for top three. Puskedra has finished top five twice in Houston, including a fourth place performance in 2013, when he ran 62:32. Fernando Cabada will certainly have his presence felt up top throughout much of the race, as he looks to jump-start a big 2014 season.
In addition, experienced pros Ben Bruce, Craig Curley, Joseph Gray, Craig Leon, Daniel Tapia, Sean Quigley, Tyler Pennel and Matt Llano should all contend for top five finishes.
On the women’s side, Mattie Suver, who placed third in the 2013 USARC standings after runner-up finishes at the USA 20 km and 25 km Championships, headlines Sunday’s action. She finished fifth last year and certainly has the talent to challenge for the win. Suver’s teammates, Alisha Williams and Wendy Thomas, both eye top five finishes as well.
Experienced road race veterans Serena Burla and Dot McMahan offer strong challenges to Suver and are focused on coming away with the win in Houston. Burla ran a US#2 marathon mark in 2013, running 2:28:01 at the Amsterdam Marathon. McMahan had similar success over the 25 km distance, winning the USA 25 km Championships.
Two athletes who surprised many with big-time performances in 2013, and may surprise again on Sunday, were Kelly Brinkman and Becky Wade. Brinkman, who finished third at the USA Half Marathon Championships, had arguably the best breakthrough performance of the 2013 USARC season. Meanwhile, Wade ran a US#5 marathon mark of 2:30:41, winning her marathon debut at the Cal International Marathon.
Clara Santucci and Team USA Minnesota’s Meghan Peyton both enter Sunday’s competition with strong 2013 credentials. Peyton won the USA 20 km Championships, her first national title, while Santucci ran two of the top ten American marathon times on the season, including her US#7 2:31:39 performance at the Chicago Marathon.
Other notable top ten contenders include veterans Sara Hall, Renee Baillie, Caitlin Comfort, Tera Moody and Melissa Johnson-White, along with young pros Jennifer Bergman and Dani Stack.
A live webcast of the USA Half Marathon Championships will begin at 7:50 a.m. ET on USATF.tv with Juli Benson and Jorge Torres calling the action. Live updates of the USA Half Marathon Championships will be available at www.USARunningCircuit.com
. Video of the race, post-race interviews and photos will be available shortly after the race in cooperation with RunnerSpace.com. Join the conversation on Twitter with the hashtag #USARC
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 $83,000 in prize money will be awarded at the USA Half 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