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Pennel, Erb Win USA Titles

Esther Erb

ST. PAUL, Minn – October 5, 2014 – First-time marathoner Tyler Pennel of Blowing Rock, N.C. and last year’s women’s third-place finisher Esther Erb of Richmond,Va. earned victories at the 33rd Medtronic Twn Cities Marathon Sunday.  Pennel clocked 2 hours,13 minutes, 32 seconds on the course that starts in downtown Minneapolis and finishes on the State Capitol grounds in St. Paul. Erb ran 2:34:01.

The victorious pair earned USA Marathon Championship titles with the wins and pocketed $25,000 each for their efforts.

Pennel, who was content to be part of a seven member lead pack at the half-way mark, was building a lead by mile 21 that stretched to a comfortable 29 seconds by the finish line. Jared Ward of Provo, Utah finished second in 2:14:00, while Scott Smith of Oklahoma City was third in 2:14:40.

“I wanted to relax until 20 miles,” Pennel said. “Scott went first, then I did. I was scary to run the last few miles alone. Miles 23 and 24 were all out. I was happy when I got to Summit, because those earlier hills really hurt.”

A relaxed, early pace led to a men’s lead pack of nearly 15 athletes for the entire first half of the race. Pennel and Ian Burrell (Tucson, Ariz.) 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, Ward (Provo, Utah) ran a terrific final 10K, 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 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.

Erb survived a sleepless night, and mid-race stop.

“I couldn’t sleep last night I was so excited,” Erb admitted. “I was up for about three hours in the middle of the night thinking about the race. I was trailing them for a really long time. I had to stop at mile 20 for the bathroom and I made up time pretty quickly.”

In the USA Masters Marathon Championships held in conjunction with the event, 49-year-old Mbarak Hussein of Albuquerque won a record-setting fifth title in 2:22:27. At the finish line, he learned his wife Liana had gone into labor with their first child. In women’s masters competition, Sheri Piers, 43, defended her title in 2:42:46.

In wheelchair competition, defending champions Josh George of Champaign, Ill. and Susannah Scaroni of Urbana, Ill. defended their titles.  George clocked 1:39:16; Scaroni finished in 1:57:21.

“We were blessed with a lovely day for running, and we were so pleased to provide the opportunity for so many people to achieve such a major life accomplishment,” Twin Cities In Motion Executive Director Virginia Brophy Achman said. “The Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon is a community treasure, and we couldn’t have done it today without the over 5,000 volunteers and 300,000 spectators who made the day what it is.”

In the Medtronic TC 10 Mile held earlier in the day, Jon Peterson of Minneapolis defended the men’s title in 48:12, while Allison Mendez of Austin, Texas won the women’s race in 56:27. Twin Cites In Motion regrets that the course this year was short due to an error with the lead vehicles. Missing the turn to 11th Avenue from West River Parkway cut 0.14 miles off the 10 mile course. Runners rejoined the correct course when they turned on 13th Avenue.

In the marathon, 8,867 runners finished the race, a new event record.  A new field record was also set at the companion Medtronic TC 10 Mile with 8,574 runners finishing the race.  All told, more than 24,441 people participated in Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon Weekend events which included a 5K run/walk, 10K, and family events.

On Saturday, Jacob Marotz of St. Paul and Kaitlin Mincke of Farmington won the men’s and women’s divisions of the TC 10K, presented by Sprint, the opening race weekend event.

Marotz clocked 31 minutes, 57 seconds to win by a wide margin over runner-up David Duede of Eagan (35:26) and third-place finisher Kevin Doe of Fridley (35:39). Mincke ran the course which started and finished at the State Capitol grounds in 37:57.

Alanna Bernacchi of Phoenix, Ariz. was the women’s runner-up (39:44), while Darolyn Walker of Winnipeg, Manitoba was third (41:10).

The TC 10K, part of a full morning of competition for runners of all ages and paces, was followed by the TC 5K Run/Walk, presented by Fredrikson & Byron, where Dan Greeno of St. Paul won the men’s competition in 14:58 and Maria Allen of St. Paul topped the women in 18:26. More than 4,600 runners competed in the TC 10K and TC 5K.

In addition, more than two thousand runners, mostly kids, competed in the Diana Pierce Family Mile, part of the Medtronic TC Family Events which also included a diaper dash, toddler trot and half mile for its youngest participants.

40 corporate teams raced in the TC 5K Corporate Team Challenge, with another 35 teams participating in the TC 10K.

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.  With double points being awarded at Sunday’s race, Pennel moved into second place in the USA Running Circuit standings with 49 points.

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