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Posted: May 2, 2009  : Add to Mixx!

Athletics: Kenyan runners take top prizes at 2009 OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini-Marathon

Janet Cherobon wins third straight Mini-Marathon

By: Steve Brooks

INDIANAPOLIS (May 2, 2009) -- With temperatures barely hovering above 50 degrees and sunshine mixing with overcast skies, the conditions could not have been any better during the 2009 OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini-Marathon in Indianapolis. But it didn't appear inclement weather or much of anything else could have removed the smile from Janet Cherobon's face following the race.

The 30-year-old Cherobon made it three straight Mini-Marathon wins in a row, and did so in impressive fashion. She dominated the women's race, winning in a personal-best time of 1:12.22 -- more than two and a half minutes in front of second-place Anzhelika Averkova, a Ukraine native now living in New Jersey. Cherobon's time was well below her 2008 winning time of 1:14.53.

"I'm very excited. This feels great," said Cherobon, a Kenyan native who resides in Rome, Ga. "It was my best time ever. I can't ask for any more than that."

Cherobon -- an eight-time NCAA Division II All-American while running at Harding University in Arkansas -- said she was as prepared for this year's race as any of her previous attempts.

"My training has been great all year," she said. "It was better than it had been the past three years. I thought that this was my best shot to win it in the three years, and I did it." It didn't take long for Cherobon to establish her dominance. "I decided to run my own race, and I was leading from the (starting) gun," she said.

Cherobon is no stranger to winning. She won collegiate national championships in the 5,000-meter outdoor, the 5,000-meter outdoor and 10,000-meter outdoor. But Saturday's win was special. "I love it," said Cherobon, who received a rousing display of crowd support as she approached the finish line. "It was my third win (here). I can't say anything more about that. It was just great."

Kenyan Festus Langat made the most of his first appearance in the OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini-Marathon, winning the men's race in 1:03.55 to finish comfortably in front of fellow countryman Ernest Kimeli. Langat said he took the lead at the 5K mark and never was seriously challenged after that.

"It was just because of my training," said Langat, a resident of West Chester, Pa. "When I train in Kenya, I do a lot of it on speed courses. That made me go a lot faster today."

The combination of the weather and the crowd support made a strong impression on Langat. "I'm hoping to be back here next year," he said.

Tony Iniguez became a four-time champ in the wheelchair division, bettering his 2008 winning time by more than two minutes. The Illinois resident won the event in 44:59, coming in more than five minutes ahead of his closest competition.

"I try not to push it too hard so I have something at the end," said Iniguez, who sprinted to the finish line. "I knew I had a big lead and could go a little harder if I needed to. If someone started to push me, I felt I could still go even faster."

Iniguez -- who competed in the 2008 Paralympics Games in Beijing, China -- said winning four times hasn't lessened his desire to continue both racing and winning.

"I love to race. I love the sport," he said. "It really helps my health and helps me to stay in shape. I would say I'm on the downward slope of my racing career, so it's about staying healthy and staying fit."

The mission of the 500 Festival is to produce events and programs that celebrate the success of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race and enhance the quality of life for the citizens of Indiana and their guests. These events and programs, produced largely by volunteers, enhance the image of our city and state by showcasing our cultural, educational and social benefits to the world.

The 500 Festival, a not-for-profit volunteer organization, was created in 1957 to organize civic events celebrating the greatest race in the world. Over the past 52 years, the 500 Festival has grown to become one of the largest festivals in the nation.

Last year, over 500,000 Hoosiers and visitors participated in nearly 50 events and programs throughout the month of May. Whether they were athletes running the Mini, fourth grade students participating in the Education Program, families enjoying the state's largest festival for kids or spectators being dazzled by one of the nation's premier parades, they were there, celebrating the legacy.

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