Falmouth Road Race Field Promises To Be Strong

Headlining the 42nd running of the New Balance Falmouth Road Race will be the second-fastest 10K athlete in history, the fastest 10K runner in the world so far this year, the new American record-holder for a women-only 10K, and 2014 Boston Marathon winner Meb Keflezighi, race organizers announced today.

They, along with the rest of the elite athlete field, will be vying for a share of the $89,500 in total prize money awarded to top finishers in the seven-mile race from Woods Hole to Falmouth Heights, which begins at 9 AM Sunday, August 17, and the Falmouth Mile, which kicks off at 5 PM on Saturday, August 16, at the James Kalperis Track at Falmouth High School. Rosters for the mile race will be announced soon.

On the men’s side, two-time New Balance Falmouth Road Race champion Micah Kogo returns to defend his title. The 28-year-old Kenyan will seek to become just the fourth man (after Bill Rodgers, John Korir, and Gilbert Okari) to win the race for a third time. A former world record-holder at 10K, whose time of 27:01 still makes him the second-fastest man in history, Kogo is also the 2008 Olympic bronze medalist at 10,000 meters.

Kogo’s most serious threat may come from compatriot Stephen Sambu (28, Tucson, Arizona), whose time of 27:25 in winning the BAA 10K in Boston last month is the fastest in the world so far this year. En route, Sambu ran the fastest 8K (22:02) ever recorded on US soil. Challenging them will be Kogo’s training partner, Emmanuel Bett, who ran the fastest 10,000 meters (26:51.16) in the world for 2012, and Kennedy Kithuka, the 2012 NCAA cross-country champion.

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Leading the Americans will be the previously announced Meb Keflezighi, the 2004 Olympic silver medalist and the first American man to win the Boston Marathon since Greg Meyer in 1983. He will be joined by fellow 2012 US Olympic Marathon teammate Abdi Abdirahman (37, Tucson, Arizona), a four-time Olympian and 10-time US champion on the roads; Chris Solinsky (29, Portland, Oregon), a former American record-holder at 10,000 meters; and Ben Bruce (31, Flagstaff, Arizona), who has represented the US on world championship teams in the 3,000-meter steeplechase, half marathon, and cross-country.

Headlining the women’s field is American Molly Huddle (29, Providence, Rhode Island), who is in the midst of a sensational stretch of success. Last November, she became the fastest woman in history at 12K (37:50) and followed that up in June by breaking the American record for a women-only 10K when she won the Oakley New York Mini 10K in 31:37, the first American victor since 2004. Then, earlier this month, Huddle broke her own American record for 5,000 meters on the track, running 14:42:64 in Monaco. Along the way, she has set personal bests this year at seven distances, from the mile to the half marathon. Just last weekend, Huddle won the USA 7-Mile Championship in 36:13, which coincidentally equals the fastest time ever run by an American in Falmouth (Lynn Jennings, 1992).

Kenya’s Mary Wacera, 25, is also ripping through the roads this year, winning a silver medal at the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships in March and following that up with victories at the World’s Best 10K in February, the Bloomsday Run 12K in May, and the Utica Boilermaker 15K earlier this month. Meanwhile, three-time NCAA Champion Betsy Saina (26, Colorado Springs, Colorado), owns the third-fastest 10K time in the world this year (31:10).

Returning to Falmouth is last year’s surprise runner-up, Gemma Steel of Great Britain. Steel, 28, is a two-time European Cross-Country Championship medalist who has five victories already this year and finished third in the Oakley New York Mini 10K in June.

For a return to the podium, however, Steel will have to get past the rest of a strong and deep field that includes two-time Olympian Diane Nukuri-Johnson of Burundi (29, Iowa City, Iowa); Kenya’s Risper Gesabwa (25, Marietta, Georgia) who has had six podium finishes on the US roads this year; Alexi Pappas (24, Eugene, Oregon) last year’s top American finisher here; and Jordan Hasay (22, Portland, Oregon), the former prep phenom who has posted back-to-back runner-up finishes at 10,000 meters at USA Outdoor Nationals. Hasay, who has set personal bests at all eight distances she has contested this year, from 800m indoors to 10,000m, is coached by two-time Falmouth Road Race winner Alberto Salazar.

Heading up the masters’ fields will be Kevin Castille, Mbarak Hussein, Jen Rhines, and Melody Fairchild. Castille (42, Lafayette, Louisiana), who holds US master’s records at 10,000 meters and 10 miles, was the outright winner of a half marathon in Eugene, Oregon, last weekend in 1:05:28. Hussein (49, Albuquerque  New Mexico), holds the US master’s records for 12K, 25K, the half marathon, and marathon.

Rhines (40, Boston), a three-time Olympian, joined the master’s ranks on July 1 and has since won titles at the AJC Peachtree Road Race 10K and Utica Boilermaker 15K. Fairchild (40, Boulder, Colorado), is the 2013 USA Master’s Champion at 5K, 15K, and the Trail Half Marathon, and runner-up in the 2014 Master’s Half Marathon Championships. 

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