Professional field announced for ninth Labor Day weekend road race; The Black Crowes post-race concert
VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - (September 2, 2009) - The professional athlete field is set for the ninth Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon in Virginia Beach on Sunday, September 6. For the first time, the event will include an international team challenge format with the U.S. squad going up against teams from Kenya, Ethiopia, Europe and Japan, each competing for over $30,000 in team prize money.
"The half-marathon distance is the most competitive in the sport," said Matt Turnbull, elite athlete recruiter. "The International Team Challenge will pit some of the world's best runners in a team competition to find the best half-marathon road racing team in the world."
It's ladies first in Virginia Beach as the professional women start 15 minutes ahead of the men. The powerful Kenyan team comes in as favorites, led by defending champion Edith Masai and two-time former champion Edna Kiplagat. Masai holds a half-marathon PR of 1 hour, 7 minutes, 16 seconds, and has won three individual gold medals at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships. Kiplagat owns a half-marathon best of 1:09:32, and is the only back-to-back winner in the history of the event (2006-07).
The Ethiopian team is expected to have a strong showing led by up-and-coming runner Abebu Gelan Adugna, 19, who finished fourth in February's RAK Half Marathon in the United Arab Emirates where she set a new world Junior best of 1:07:57. In January, she upset 2008 World Junior cross country silver medalist Emebet Etea in the Ethiopian National Cross Country Championships after finishing sixth at the World Half Marathon Championships in Rio de Janeiro last year.
"The Ethiopians are sending over a young team," said TV commentator Toni Reavis, who will host coverage of the Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon for FSN. "They certainly have the talent to win, but can they overcome the course knowledge and race savvy of the more experienced Kenyans? It's that new element of team competition that makes the international format so intriguing. It should make for a great battle between these two world rivals."
Running fans and race spectators also will have the chance to watch two outstanding local athletes competing against the world's best this Sunday. Representing the American team will be Virginia's own Natalie Sherbak and Susannah Kvasnicka. Sherbak hails from Virginia Beach and is a two-time ACC Champion at 10,000m and All-American in the mile at Virginia Tech. This spring she ran 34:11 for 10,000m at the Payton Jordan Cardinal Invitational in Palo Alto, CA. Kvasnicka, a native of Great Falls in Northern Virginia, won the 2005 Marine Corps Marathon and was a qualifier for the 2008 Olympic Marathon Trials.
Headlining the men's race and leading the European team is 2008 Olympian Andrew Lemoncello of Great Britain. The fastest European in the field over 10,000m, Lemoncello owns a half-marathon PR of 1:01:51, and while attending Florida State University he won 11 ACC Championships. He also set school records in the steeplechase, 5000m and 10,000m, as well as indoor records in the 3000m and 5000m. Joining Lemonello on the European team will be Marten Bostrom of Finland, winner of the 2007 P.F. Chang's Rock 'n' Roll Arizona Half Marathon.
Kenyan Linus Maiyo will look for a strong showing in Virginia Beach after his win at the Blue Cross Broad Street 10 Mile Run in Philadelphia this May. Joining Maiyo will be Kenyan teammates William Chebor and Samuel Ndereba. Chebor ran 1:01:06 earlier this year winning the Azkoitia Half Marathon in Spain, while Ndereba placed seventh in Virginia Beach in 2007 (1:02:47).
Leading the American contingent will be Luke Humphrey, Cele Rodriguez and Carlos Handler. Humphrey runs with the Hansons-Brooks Distance Project in Rochester Hills, Michigan. Last year, he finished eleventh at the ING New York City Marathon. As a collegiate runner at Adams State University, Rodriguez collected three individual NCAA Division II national titles. Post-collegiately, he has found the half-marathon to his liking with wins at the BAA Half Marathon in Boston, and the Napa to Sonoma Half Marathon and Avenue of the Giants Half Marathon in California.
The professional field will be introduced at the event press conference on Friday, September 4 at 11:00am in the lobby of the Virginia Beach Convention Center.
Sunday's event begins with an invitational wheelchair race at 6:40am. The wheelchair start is followed by the elite women's invitational at 6:45am, followed by the elite men's invitational and full field starting at 7:00am. Teams are comprised of 4-6 runners and will be scored cross-country style, with points awarded on the basis of finishing place not time. The team with the lowest score for its top two runners in each race will be the winner. Prize money will be awarded in both team and individual categories.
The largest half-marathon in the Commonwealth of Virginia offers a scenic course that starts on 19th Street outside of the Virginia Beach Convention Center, winds through the area's coastal communities, with the finish line along the oceanfront boardwalk. Combined with the Verizon Wireless American Music Festival, the race has contributed to Virginia Beach's appeal as an end of summer family destination, with 50% of registered runners traveling from out of state and approximately 75% of all event participants visiting from outside the Hampton Roads region.
Weekend festivities begin with a two-day Health & Fitness Expo at the Virginia Beach Convention Center on Fri, Sept 4 and Sat, Sept 5. Race registration will be available at the Health & Fitness Expo from noon - 7:00pm Friday and 9:00am - 6:00pm Saturday. The Health & Fitness Expo is open to the public and features over 100 exhibitors with the latest in endurance sports gear and nutrition products.
Event weekend concludes Sunday night with an evening headliner concert featuring The Black Crowes at the 5th Street Beach Stage. All participants receive a free concert ticket to the Verizon Wireless American Music Festival with their race entry.
For more information including the complete International Team Challenge athlete listing, visit: RNRVB.com.