Virginia Beach, VA — 19-year-old junior half marathon world record holder Abebu Gelan led a sweep of the women’s professional race, leading Ethiopia to victory in the first International Team Challenge at the ninth annual Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon in Virginia Beach. Countrywomen Tiki Gelana and Meseret Mengistu finished second and third. The Ethiopian women were ably supported by second and third place finishes by their teammates Feyisa Lilesa and Zenbaba Yigeze in the men’s professional race behind race winner William Chebor of Kenya.
The Ethiopian total of eight points, in the low-score format, was easily better than the 21 points compiled by the Japanese squad in second place. Kenya with 24 points finished in third place, but their chances all but disappeared when defending women’s champion Edith Masai was hit by a hamstring pull in the first mile, forcing her to jog, rather than race the 13.1-mile distance.
“The youth of Ethiopia prevailed today,” said FSN TV commentator Toni Reavis. “When Masai went out early, the Kenyans had no one to step into the breach. But notwithstanding, the Ethiopian performance should not be discounted. They ran beautifully as a team, and were worthy champions.”
The professional women started 15 minutes ahead of the men and the 20,000 regular runners in front of the Virginia Beach Convention Center on 19th Street. Even under near ideal conditions, the women began conservatively with a 6:00 first mile. They formed up into a nine-woman lead pack after a 5:42 second mile, with all three Ethiopians joined by the four-woman Japanese team, 2006 & 2007 champion Edna Kiplagat of Kenya and Europe’s top woman Daniela Cirlan of Romania.
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