An event record field of more than 8,200 runners enjoy ideal conditions in San Diego
By Patrice Malloy
SAN DIEGO - (August 16, 2009) - Ernest Kebenei of Kenya and Belainesh Zemedkun Gebre of Ethiopia scored dominant victories at the 32nd America's Finest City Half Marathon (AFC Half) held under ideal conditions on Sunday in San Diego. Kebenei claimed the men's title in 1 hour, 4 minutes and 1 second in his AFC Half debut, while Gebre had a wire-to-wire victory in the women's division in 1:10:49, just 12 seconds shy of the course record set by Margaret Okayo in 2001.
In the men's race, Kebenei, 24, and countryman Stephen Muange, 28, were the first and only runners to pull away and distance themselves from the lead pack, doing so just two miles into the 13.1-mile race.
Unfamiliar with the course, Kebenei's plan was to get as much San Diego real estate between him and Muange as possible. "I wanted at least a 20-second lead since I did not know the course," said Kebenei, who recorded a 29:02 10K split. Muange held on for second (1:05:09) and Jynocel Basweti finished third (1:05:52).
The women's race was won in an equally dominant fashion. Gebre took the lead from the start and never relinquished it. "It was perfect weather and I've been training hard," said Gebre, 21, who finished third at the 2008 AFC Half (1:14:33). "I had a knee injury last year, but this year I am fine." Her time was the third fastest ever recorded in the event's history.
Two-time defending champion Hiromi Ominami of Japan was runner-up in 1:14:13. According to her coach, Masahiko Takahashi, Ominami had just started resuming training after recently competing in several track events in Japan. "I wanted to win, if possible," said Ominami through Takahashi, acting as an interpreter.
Daniela Cirlan, 28, of Romania finished third (1:16:06.) and Takami Ominami, Hiromi's identical twin sister, finished fifth in 1:17:05. The twins enjoyed a 1-2 finish in the 2007 event and 1-4 finish in 2008, respectively.
The men's and women's Masters divisions were won by John Reich, 40, of Scottsdale, Ariz. (1:12:52) and Sylvia Mosqueda, 43, of Los Angeles (1:18:32). Mosqueda, who won the event in 1988 and 2002 (1:11:31 and 1:12:34 respectively) and was 6th overall this year, now holds the fourth fastest women's Masters time in the event's 32-year history.
An event record field of more than 8,200 runners from 44 states and 18 countries participated in the sold-out America's Finest City Half Marathon and its accompanying AFC 5K under mostly cloudy skies and temperatures in the mid-to upper 60s.
The event benefits the Cabrillo National Monument Foundation, Lorenzen Cancer Foundation, the New Children's Museum and other local charities.
During its 32-year history, the America's Finest City Half Marathon has raised more than $3.4 million for non-profit organizations. The event is produced by Neil Finn Sports Management, Inc. of San Diego.
32nd America's Finest City Half Marathon
San Diego, CA, Sunday, August 16, 2009
1) Ernest Kebenei (KEN), 1:04:01, $1500
2) Stephen Muange (KEN), 1:05:09, $1000
3) Jynocel Basweti (KEN) 1:05:52, $750
4) Sergio Reyes (USA / CA) 1:06:03, $500
5) Crosby Freeman (USA / CA), 1:06:15, $300
Masters (40+): John Reich (USA / AZ), 1:12:52, $300
1) Belainesh Zemedkun Gebre (ETH), 1:10:49, $2000
2) Hiromi Ominami (JPN), 1:14:13, $1000
3) Daniela Cirlan (ROU), 1:16:06, $750
4) Leah Kiprono (KEN), 1:17:01, $500
5) Takami Ominami (JPN), 1:17:05, $300
Masters (40+): Sylvia Mosqueda (USA / CA), 1:18:32, $300
Complete results at: www.AFCchalf.com