Olympian Korir, Tuliamuk Victorious at USATF 20 km Championships

Olympian Korir, Tuliamuk Victorious at USATF 20 km Championships

Provided by USATF

NEW HAVEN, Connecticut -- Deep fields led to dramatic finishes Labor Day morning at the USATF 20 km Championships, as Olympian Leonard Korir and Aliphine Tuliamuk each scored big wins in New Haven, Connecticut, hosted by the Faxon Law New Haven Road Race.

The USATF 20 km Championships are the seventh stop on the 2016 USATF Running Circuit. Next up on the circuit, the USATF 5 km Championships take place on September 18 in Providence, Rhode Island.

With cool temperatures and a calm breeze, the men’s field got off to a conservative start Monday, as nearly twenty men made up the lead pack for the first half of the race. Taking turns leading, Matt Llano, Tim Ritchie, 2014 champion Girma Mecheso and U.S. Army teammates Leonard Korir and Elkanah Kibet formed the front of the group, while moving the group through a first 5K of 15:05 and a 10K split of 30:16.

Just past the seven-mile marker, Kibet surged to the lead, stringing out the field, with a small group of six hanging together in Kibet, Korir, Ritchie, Diego Estrada, Sam Chelanga and USATF Running Circuit standings leader Christo Landry.

As the six-man pack ran through the eleventh mile, Kibet and Korir worked together to push the pace, a tempo Estrada, Landry and Ritchie could not handle. With a mile to go, Chelanga sprung to the lead and started to make a final push to the finish. Kibet dropped off pace, but Korir hung on.

With less than a half mile remaining, Korir shot past Chelanga, hoping it was enough to hold off the Tucson-based runner. Chelanga responded and the two ran stride for stride until the final 100 meters of the race, when Korir’s closing speed was simply too much for Chelanga. Korir put in one final push towards the finish and crossed victoriously in 59:15, earning his first USATF Running Circuit title.

Chelanga never relented and came away with a big runner-up finish one second back in 59:16 and well ahead of third place finisher Landry, who narrowly beat Kibet 59:24-59:25. Ritchie held on for fifth place, crossing the finish in 59:29.

Rounding out the top ten, Estrada finished well while holding off Jim Spisak, as the two placed sixth and seventh in 59:44 and 1:00:04. Shadrack Biwott took home an eighth place finish in 1:00:10 while Ridouane Harroufi and Fernando Cabada placed ninth and tenth overall, both finishing in 1:00:13.

A brisk start in the women’s race found USATF 25 km champion Tuliamuk and Emily Sisson well ahead of the field after the first mile and by the 5K mark, it was clear it would be a two woman race to the finish. Passing through 16:50 for 5K and 32:51 for 10K, Tuliamuk and Sisson ran stride for stride nearly the entire way Monday.

Behind the leading duo, a small chase group of Lindsey Scherf, Brianne Nelson, Maddie Van Beek and Tara Welling worked together well, maintaining a 20-30 second gap behind the leaders, that is until just past four miles, when Nelson and Scherf easily established themselves in third and fourth place.

Tuliamuk and Sisson owned over a minute lead on the field coming through nine miles and it was only a matter of time before one of the two made a move to try and break the other runner. Meanwhile, Nelson pulled away from Scherf with less than three miles to go, as Maddie Van Beek also put space between herself and the rest of her chase group to move into the fifth position.

With two miles to go, Tuliamuk used her long stride to power herself down the large descent, putting a small gap on Sisson, one she would never relent. Into the final mile, Tuliamuk continued to pour it on, putting ground on Sisson and earning her second straight USATF Running Circuit title, winning in impressive fashion with a final time of 1:05:47.

For Sisson, Monday’s performance gives the Providence-based runner plenty of momentum for the rest of her 2016 campaign, as she finished second in 1:06:03, nearly two minutes ahead of third place finisher Nelson.

Nelson’s third place finish of 1:07:53 not only signaled another strong USATF Running Circuit race, but indicated she’s in fine form as the TCS New York City Marathon approaches, where she’ll be one of the notable American entries. Finishing in the top five, Scherf held off a late charge from Van Beek, 1:08:08-1:08:30.

Completing the top ten USATF Running Circuit scoring runners, Sarah Crouch used a strong second half of her race to place sixth overall in 1:09:06, well ahead of seventh place Semehar Tesfaye, who crossed the line in 1:09:23. Two other runners broke the 70 minute barrier, as Kelsey Bruce and Alia Gray placed eighth and ninth in 1:09:34 and 1:09:57. USATF Running Circuit standings leader Welling hung on for tenth in 1:11:48.

In the USATF Running Circuit standings, Landry’s third place effort grows his USATF Running Circuit lead with another 10 points, giving him a total of 64 points. With three races left on the 2016 USATF Running Circuit, Landry now sits 31 points ahead of second place Craig Lutz, while Jared Ward is third with 32 points.

On the women’s side, while Welling maintains her overall standings lead with 46 points, Scherf’s fourth place finish moves her into third place with 34 points, eight points behind Desiree Linden’s second place total of 42 points. Tuliamuk’s victory earned her another 15 points, giving her 30 overall and placing her in a tie with Amy Cragg in fourth, while Nelson moves into sixth with 25 total 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 $42,250 in prize money is awarded at the USATF 20 km Championships.

The first ten U.S. runners earn points at each USATF Running Circuit race. For the USATF 20 km Championships, scoring is set as 15 for first, 12 for second, 10 for third, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2 and 1, 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