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Ethiopian Amare heads women’s field

Jemutai, women’s 2009 winner, returns to race this year

August 11, 2011
News and Sentinel Half Marathon

PARKERSBURG-While the men's elite field for the 25th running of the News and Sentinel Half Marathon will contain its defending champion and course record holder in Julius Kogo, the women's field for the Aug. 20 race can't make that claim.

That isn't unusual for the race, as no female has won back-to-back titles since it began in 1987.

"It's always nice to have the defending champion return because it gives the other runners someone to shoot for," said race director Chip Allman. "That (no back-to-back) winners is hard to explain. We've had some women return, but there has always been someone out there that was just a little bit better that next year."

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There have been several two-time female winners of the 13.1-mile race. The last to accomplish the feat was Russian Alevtina Ivanova, who crossed the Market Street finish line ahead of the pack in 2004 and 2006, but was denied by fellow Russian Tatyana Chulakh, who won the 2005 race with a time of 1 hour, 15 minutes and 34 seconds.

The only other two-time winner was Colorado's Libbie Hickman (1998 and 2000), who held the course record (1:11:01) until Ethiopia's Mare Dibaba became the first female to eclipse the 1:11 mark with her course mark of 1 hour, 10 minutes and 19 seconds last year.

Looking to add her name to the list of two-time champions, however, will be 2009 champion Hellen Jemutai from Kenya. The then 27-year old Kenyan edged out Divina Jepkogei and Alentsehay Misgnaw over the final mile to win in a time of 1 hour, 15 minutes and 57 seconds.

Jemutai again heads an international field filled with runners from Kenya and Ethiopia, but will not be the favorite.

That honors falls to 23-year old Ethiopian Shewarge Alene Amare. Her coach, however, will be very familiar to racers in the area-Alene Reta, one of only two men to win the race three times.

Amare, who won the Charleston (S.C.) 10K with a time of 33 minutes and 6 seconds, already has run a time faster than the course mark established by Dibaba a year ago as the 23-year old posted a 1:09:25 in placing fourth at the New York City Half Marathon earlier in the year.

Prior to that race, the Ethiopian had clocked a 1:13:54 in winning the 2010 Bogata (Columbia) Half Marathon and a 1:13:39 while placing third at the 2009 Saltillo (Mexico) Half Marathon.

"She (Amare) looks to be the girl to beat," said Allman. "Her times have been coming down every time she runs the distance and she has a very good coach, who knows our course better than anybody, in Alene."

Giving chase will be an elite field led by 3-time NCAA all-American Pasca Cheruiyot, Ethiopians Hirut Mandefro, Tezeta Dengersa, Timgo Shiferawu, Serkalem Abrha and Yihunlish Bekele Delelecha, Kenyan Hellen Kimutai and American Becky Ordway.

The 25-year old Mandefro competed in last year's race, but a mix up by her agent sent the Ethiopian to Charleston, S.C., instead of Charleston, W.Va., and, while she was able to make it in time for the starter's gun to sound, the road trip was more than she could overcome as she dropped out before the finish line.

Another runner who could make a challenge for the title is Kimutai as the 34-year old has clocked a 1:09:27 at the 2009 Berlin Half Marathon.

"The overall field is not as deep as we've had in the past, but I still expect it to be a good race," said Allman. "And, we still have a couple of slots left for international runners and four remaining for Americans."

Looking to reclaim the Masters championship will be 46-year old Tammy Slusser. Last year's champion Ramilia Burangulova has moved up to the Grand Masters Division and will look to capture that race for the first time.

With less than two weeks remaining until the race there have been nearly 900 runners and walkers register. Interested individuals can still enter by going to

Copyright 2011 Parkersburg News and Sentinel. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.



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