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Korir, Bruce Claim Titles at the USATF Half Marathon Championships


PITTSBURGH, Pennsylvania – A pair of dueling finishes proved incredibly exciting Sunday morning in Pittsburgh at the USATF Half Marathon Championships, as veterans Leonard Korir and Stephanie Bruce came away victorious at the event hosted by the UPMC Health Plan Pittsburgh Half Marathon, the fourth stop on the 2019 USATF Running Circuit.

Running under an overcast sky and 55 degree temperature, the trio of Korir, teammates Stanley Kebenei and On ZAP Endurance pro Andrew Colley led the main pack from the gun, moving to the front of the field and putting space on the competition within the first three miles.

Kebenei in particular pushed the pace early, gapping the lead group by 15 meters during the second mile, forcing those in chase to choose whether or not to join him very early on.

As Kebenei, Korir and Colley came through the halfway point, it was apparent that Kebenei and Korir were starting to unlock their strategy with an eye on the finish. The duo pulled slightly ahead of Colley and would continue to build their lead with an honest pace over the final miles.

Kebenei and Korir continued to wage their two-man battle mile after mile, with Korir letting Kebenei do much of the work, sitting a half stride behind. With big prize money and USATF Running Circuit points on the line, each maintained form and seemed well aware of the other.

With two miles to go, the two leaders started their charge to the finish. The gap back to Colley continued to grow, no threat of a late race challenger disrupting their 1-2 placing, and it was only a matter of time before one made a decisive move.

Korir made that move with a mile to go, quickly putting a gap on Kebenei and then slowly growing it over the final half mile, running away to another USATF Running Circuit victory, crossing the finish in 1:01:52.

Kebenei continued to execute his race place to near perfection, coming away with a massive half marathon personal best, taking second in 1:01:57.

With their 1-2 finish, Korir and Kebenei now sit in first and second overall in the USATF Running Circuit standings. Korir’s 22.5 point victory gives him 50.5 points, while Kebenei earned 18 points, giving him a total of 39 points, pushing him just ahead of teammate Shadrack Kipchirchir, who now sits third with 37.5 points.

Colley was able to hang on to third place overall, fighting to maintain form over the final 5 km of the race, crossing the finish in 1:03:11.

Brogan Austin and Futsum Zienasellassie, who led the chase pack for much of the race, both finished well to earn fourth and fifth place marks in 1:03:39 and 1:03:55.

Rounding out the men’s top ten, Louis Serafini finished strong to take home sixth place in 1:04:00, while Tinman Elite runner Reed Fischer earned a seventh place finish in 1:04:23. James Wilson took home eighth place in 1:04:38, while Michael Iacofano and half marathon debutant Aaron Nelson also broke the 65 minute barrier, earning ninth and tenth place finishes in 1:04:42 and 1:04:52.

Unlike the men’s race, which spread out relatively quickly early on, the women’s lead pack maintained form for much of the first five miles. Veteran runners Bruce and Katy Jermann led the charge from the gun, setting the pace while winding through the streets of Pittsburgh.

Passing through the first 5 km in 16:47, a half dozen women started to pull away from the rest of the field, as Bruce, Jermann, Emma Bates and Sara Hall led the charge.

By the time the five mile mark came to, Bruce, Bates and Hall started to assert themselves up front, pulling away from the second group. The trio would then run the next four miles together, stride for stride.

It wasn’t until mile nine that one of the three would start to fall off pace. As Bruce and Hall continued, Bates started to slip a bit, dropping off just a bit, not able to regroup enough to catch back up, but also staying strong enough to continue at a good clip as to not relinquish third.

Into the final mile, Bruce and Hall continued to challenge one another. Each runner seemed to have another gear left for the final sprint to the finish, but it was ultimately Bruce who made the decisive push that Hall simply could not cover. With half a mile to go, Bruce firmly put herself in the lead and started her charge.

With the finish line in sight, Bruce let out a smile, as fans cheered her on. The Flagstaff-based runner kept her form and raised her arms in victory as she crossed the line, claiming her second national title, while earning a new personal best in 1:10:43.

Hall, despite having run the Boston Marathon less than a month ago, stayed strong in the final stages of the race, finishing second in 1:11:04, while Bates equaled her personal best with a third place effort in 1:11:13.

Behind the lead trio, Shannon Malone and Jermann claimed fourth and fifth overall. Malone was able to pull away from the chase pack in the final two miles of the race to run an impressive 1:11:58 time, while Jermann earned a new personal best with her 1:12:11 performance.

Finishing sixth, Bethany Sachtleben had another fine performance on the roads, crossing the line in 1:12:28.

With Bruce’s win giving her an additional 22.5 points in the USATF Running Circuit standings, and Sachtleben’s finish earning her 7.5 points, the two women now sit tied atop of the USATF Running Circuit, each owning 25.5 points. Erika Kemp, who won the USATF 15 km Championships earlier this season, sits third with 22.5 points.

After a strong first 10 miles of Sunday’s race, Samantha Palmer hung on for seventh place, crossing the finish in 1:12:56. Nell Rojas finished eighth overall in 1:14:17, while Taylor Ward and Eden Meyer placed ninth and tenth in 1:14:39 and 1:15:14, respectively.

Fans of the USATF Running Circuit can relive all the racing at the USATF Half Marathon Championships on USATF.TV. Next up on the USATF Running Circuit, the USATF 25 km Championships take place next Saturday, May 11 in Grand Rapids, Michigan, hosted by the Fifth Third River Bank Run.

About the USATF Running Circuit

The USATF Running Circuit is a USATF road series featuring USATF 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 $85,000 in prize money will be awarded at the USATF Half Marathon Championships.

The first ten U.S. runners earn points at each USATF Running Circuit race. For the USATF Half Marathon Championships, scoring is set as 22.5 for first, 18 for second, 15 for third, 10.5, 9, 7.5, 6, 4.5, 3 and 1.5, with those earning the most points receiving prize money at the end of the series.

The mission of the USATF Running Circuit is to showcase, support and promote U.S. runners. Since its inception in 1995, the USATF Running Circuit and its races have provided over $7 million to U.S. distance runners.

Contributed by Scott Bush

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