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Rupp, Goucher 3rd a NYC Half

Farah, Rotich Win NYC Half
Rupp, Goucher third at 6th edition

Rupp leads in NYC Half

Rupp leads in NYC Half

NEW YORK CITY – (March 20, 2011) – Alberto Salazar’s Oregon Project hit on all cylinders on Sunday morning at the 6th NYC Half.

“It’s finally coming together,” Salazar said after watching his three athletes all make podium finishes.

It was no big surprise that the 32-year-old Kara Goucher, on the comeback trail after giving birth to son Colton last September and prepping for next month’s Boston Marathon, placed third behind two tough Kenyan competitors.

But with a deep international men’s field including five of America’s top male distance runners, going 1-3 for the Oregon Project was not necessarily a sure bet.

It turned out that the American with the least road experience, Salazar’s protégé Galen Rupp, nearly stole the show. The 24-year-old in his professional road race debut, racing a distance twice as long as he has ever raced, clung to the leaders until nearly the finish.

Not even a collision with defending champion Peter Kamais 10 kilometers and 29 minutes and 32 seconds into the race – first taking down Kamais and then sending Rupp hard to the pavement on his right hip – could stop the 2008 Olympian and U.S. indoor 5000 meter record holder.

It took devastating kicks by Rupp’s new training mate Mo Farah and 2010 New York City Marathon champion Gebre Gebremariam in the last 200 meters to send Rupp back to third over 13.1 miles.

“I’m very happy with third, but I would have liked to have won,” said Rupp, who finished seven seconds out of first in 1 hour, 30 seconds. “Unfortunately, I fell. I got tangled up with [Kamais]. But I don’t think it affected my race…I kept telling myself ‘relax, relax, relax and get back up there’.”

At that point in the race, still completing the loop in Central Park, 10 men were in the mix. Nearly everybody took turns leading, and surging away from the rest of the 10,225 starters on a cool sunny day.

“The first 10K was on-and-off which made it tough,” said Ryan Hall, one of America’s bright hopes who is deep in Boston Marathon preparation. Hall eventually fell off the lead group and ended 21st in 1:03:53.

After 10 miles, Rupp surged ahead 15 meters to break the pack. Gebremariam, the 26-year-old Ethiopian who won five major U.S. races last year with his missile-like close, quickly reeled in Rupp. Farah and Ethiopian Tesfaye Girma made it a four-some.

The four continued to pull away from the field, sticking together through Miles 11 and 12. Down the final mile of West Side Highway, closing in on the Battery Park ending, Rupp turned up the heat. Girma started to fade, then Farah surged into the lead. Gebremariam tossed his hat and immediately responded, leaving Rupp behind.

“We’re friends off the track but we really want to beat each other,” Rupp said of Farah, the British indoor and outdoor 5000m record holder who had outrun Rupp in all five previous meetings including a 5000 meter track race in Birmingham, England, last month.

Gebremariam threw down one last spurt with 200 meters to go, headed for victory. But Farah, who pitched his hat too, had other plans.

“Galen is a good runner and Gebremariam is strong,” Farah explained. “It was a matter of hanging in, hanging in, and getting close to the finish and sprint.”

He did sprint, right past Gebremariam and 75 meters to the tape in 1:00:23, the third-fastest time in the six-year race history here. Farah earned $20,000 of the $100,000 guaranteed prize purse.

Gebremariam was just two seconds back, taking home $10,000. Rupp banked $5500 for third.

On the women’s side, two Kenyans – Caroline Rotich and 2010 ING New York City Marathon and Honda LA Marathon victor Edna Kiplagat – were still in contention as the lead pack of seven women passed Times Square at eight miles. Shortly after, the 26-year-old Rotich and the 31-year-old Kiplagat pulled away and Goucher could not longer hold on.

“At the turnaround at the 10-mile mark, I felt like we were sprinting,” Goucher said. “And I was dying.”

This was not the case for Rotich, who came to New York with a personal best 1:10:23 and is preparing for the Virgin London Marathon next month.

“I was feeling still great and strong and I felt like I could push more,” Rotich said. “Today’s race was a nice one…but I need more speedwork. The last 10 minutes were flat.”

By the 13-mile mark, Rotich pulled away from Kiplagat and sped away with a smile on her face, winning her debut NYC Half in 1:08:52, handily shattering the course record of 1:09:25 set by Mara Yamauchi of Great Britain last year. Kiplagat, also her first time here, followed in a 32-second personal best 1:09:00.

And then came Goucher three seconds later.

“I’m tired of finishing third,” Goucher joked. “Third at Worlds, third at New York City Marathon, third at Boston, third here. I’m ready to win one. Third is great being on the podium but I’d like to win one once.”

6th NYC Half-Marathon
New York, NY, Sunday, March 20, 2011

1) Mo Farah (GBR), 1:00:23, $20,000
2) Gebre-Egziabher Gebremariam (ETH), 1:00:25, $10,000
3) Galen Rupp (USA / OR), 1:00:30, $5500
4) Tesfaye Girma (ETH), 1:00:35, $3500
5) Peter Kamais (KEN), 1:00:46, $2500
6) Alistair Cragg (IRL), 1:00:49, $1500
7) Moses Kigen Kipkosgei (KEN), 1:01:19, $1000
8) Marilson Gomes Dos Santos (BRA), 1:01:23, $750
9) Shawn Forrest (AUS), 1:01:25, $600
10) Ezkyas Sisay (ETH), 1:01:56, $400
11) Dylan Wykes (CAN), 1:02:14, $300
12) Alejandro Suarez (MEX), 1:02:16, $250
13) Reid Coolsaet (CAN), 1:02:42, $200
14) Girma Tolla (ETH), 1:02:46, $100
15) Meb Keflezighi (USA / CA), 1:02:52, $100

1) Caroline Rotich (KEN), 1:08:52*, $20,000
2) Edna Kiplagat (KEN), 1:09:00, $10,000
3) Kara Goucher (USA / OR), 1:09:03, $5500
4) Shewarge Alene Amare (ETH), 1:09:25, $3500
5) Werknesh Kidane (ETH), 1:09:32, $2500
6) Jo Pavey (GBR), 1:09:33, $1500
7) Jessica Augusto (POR), 1:10:00, $1000
8) Olesya Syreva (RUS), 1:10:18, $750
9) Irvette Van Blerk (RSA), 1:10:56, $600
10) Madai Perez (MEX), 1:11:12, $400
11) Janet Cherobon-Bawcom (USA / GA), 1:11:38, $300
12) Adriana Pirtea (ROU), 1:12:03, $250
13) Aziza Aliyu (ETH), 1:12:47, $200
14) Fiona Docherty (NZL), 1:12:49, $100
15) Malika Mejdoub (MAR), 1:12:58, $100

*course record (previous record, 1:09:25, Mara Yamauchi (GBR), 2010)

By Steve Nearman, Running USA wire