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Korir Keeps on Winning, Rogers Victorious in Debut at USATF Half Marathon Championships


COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Olympian Leonard Korir kept to his winning ways Saturday morning at the USATF Half Marathon Championships in Columbus, Ohio, taking home the title and his third USATF Running Circuit victory of the 2017 season, while Natosha Rogers, running in her marathon debut, ran her way to her first USATF title.


The USATF Half Marathon Championships, hosted by the Capital City Half Marathon, are the fourth stop on the 2017 USATF Running Circuit. Next up on the circuit, the USATF 25 km Championships take place on May 13 in Grand Rapids, Michigan.


With a deep and talented field in Columbus, the men’s race saw a large group of contenders pack up and run together for the first half of the race. Jon Grey and Aaron Braun did much of the early pacing, while the rest of the runners tucked in right behind.


The pack remained intact until Timothy Ritchie took over at the eight-mile mark and started to push the pace ever so slightly. With a number of runners unable to maintain form, the group of 14 quickly dwindled down to seven, with Ritchie and 2016 champion Christo Landry leading the charge.


While Ritchie and Landry led for the next two miles, the trio of Korir, Sam Chelanga and Flagstaff-based Kiya Dandena also kept with the pace, as the five led the charge with less than three miles to go.


Landry took charge as the group powered up the final incline of the race, as Ritchie dropped back ever so slightly. With one mile to go, Landry continued his charge, but was overtaken by Korir and Chelanga, who gapped Landry ever so slightly, while Dandena fell off the back.


With a quarter mile to go, it was Korir and Chelanga neck and neck, as the race to the finish had fans lining the course screaming and cheering on the runners. With ten meters until the finish, Korir clapped his hands, knowing his superior late-race speed would hold off Chelanga, and Korir kept his undefeated USATF Running Circuit going with his third win in as many tries.


Korir’s final time of 1:03:04 was the same as runner-up Chelanga, while Landry kept pace over the final mile to place third in 1:03:13. Dandena earned a surprising fourth place finish in 1:03:19, while Ritchie toughed it out over the final mile to take home fifth in 1:03:29.


Behind the lead five, Braun ran a tough final few miles to finish narrowly behind in sixth with a time of 1:03:44, while Grey also maintained form to take home seventh place in 1:04:10. Nathan Martin used a strong final three miles to outlast Tim Young and Ahmed Osman for eighth, finishing in 1:04:59, while Young’s 1:05:08 and Osman’s 1:05:10 earned them ninth and tenth place distinctions.


While the men’s race came down to a pack of contenders kicking home to the finish, the women’s race was much the opposite. From the gun, Rogers and reigning USATF Cross Country champion Aliphine Tuliamuk surged to the front of the field, pushing the pace early and often and putting a quick gap between themselves and the rest of the field.


The two would run side-by-side for much of the race, while Neely Gracey and Stephanie Bruce ran in the 3-4 positions well behind. Just past seven miles, Tulimauk put in a move to put space between herself and Rogers, but one mile later Rogers responded and caught back up to Tuliamuk.


The duo continued their shoulder-to-shoulder racing until with four miles to go, Rogers started to separate herself from Tuliamuk, putting in a decisive push that would ultimately never relent. Rogers was off to the finish and Tuliamuk was left trying to hang on to second.


Just as it seemed Rogers had a clear path to victory, Gracey started to close the gap and with under a mile to go, Gracey pulled to within less than twenty seconds of Rogers. However, Gracey ran out of real estate and Rogers closed strong, capturing her first USATF title in the process as she crossed the finish victoriously in 1:10:45.


Gracey finished second, despite running in third or fourth for much of the race, setting a new personal best with her 1:10:54 time. Tuliamuk hung on to take home third overall in 1:11:42, while Bethany Sachtleben and Belainesh Gebre ran tough over the second half of the race to place fourth and fifth respectively in 1:13:28 and 1:13:40.


Bruce had a challenging last few miles of the race, ultimately settling for sixth in 1:14:14, beating out seventh place finisher Mara Olson by 14 seconds. 2016 champion Tara Welling finished eighth overall in 1:14:42, while Sarah Rapp also broke the 75 minute barrier with her 1:14:51 ninth place showing. Veteran road racer Lauren Jimison Totten took home tenth in 1:15:11.


With his third USATF Running Circuit victory in as many tries this season, Korir now sits well atop of the overall standings with 60 points, while Chelanga’s second place showing moves him up to sit second overall with 40 points. Shadrack Kipchirchir sits third with 28 points.


On the women’s side, Tuliamuk’s third place effort moves her out of a three-way tie for first and into sole possession of first with a season total of 37.5 points. Similarly, impressive showings from Gracey and Rogers move them into second and third overall with 33 and 32.5 points.


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 $84,600 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 $9 million to U.S. distance runners.


Contributed by Scott Bush

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