HOUSTON (January 15, 2017) - Late-race breakaways led to first-time wins in the Chevron Houston Marathon Sunday, and Leonard Korir of the United States outleaned race record-holder Feyisa Lilesa of Ethiopia in the Aramco Houston Half Marathon on a humid, windy morning that hampered times in the longer races.
ONDORO, ASSEFA RACE TO MARATHON TITLES
After a runner-up finish in 2014 and a third-place effort in 2013, Meskerem Assefa of Ethiopia extended her nation's dominance in the women's marathon with a 2:30:18 to notch her first win and extend to 11 the streak of Ethiopian victories. Assefa and defending champion Biruktayit Degefa ran together until the 25-kilometer mark, where Assefa made a subtle move to put six seconds on Degefa over the next 5K. Steadily moving away from Degefa, Assefa hit 35K in 2:03:44, 26 seconds in front, and her lead increased to 40 seconds by 40K. Fighting cramps, Assefa held on over the final two kilos to win by 26 seconds as Degefa crossed the line at 2:30:44.
Local favorite Becky Wade, a former Rice all-American in track and field, was the top U.S. finisher, taking third in 2:35:57.
Kenya's Dominic Ondoro snapped an eight-race winning streak by Ethiopian men with his strong finish over the final four kilos, clocking 2:12:05. Ondoro was part of a large pack early in the race, which was whittled down to five at the 25K mark. The group became four over the next 5K, with last year's runner-up, Yitayal Atnafu of Ethiopia hanging on Ondoro's shoulder. Also in the group were Atnafu's countrymen Abayneh Ayele, a 2:06 man, and Andualem Shiferaw. Between 35K and 40K, Ondoro and Atnafu pulled away, with Ondoro breaking Atnafu and taking a 10-second lead by 40K. Atnafu had no answer for Ondoro's strength in the final two kilos and ended up second in 2:12:33. Assefa and Ondoro each earned $45,000 for their respective wins in the Chevron Houston Marathon.
Elkanah Kibet took honors as the top American man, placing sixth in 2:17:25.
NYARUAI 4TH FASTEST EVER, KORIR THRILLS WITH NARROW WIN IN HALF
Veronicah Nyaruai Wanjiru of Kenya helped control the pace through the early stages of the women's half marathon and then rolled out to a 12-second lead over Dera Dida Yami of Ethiopia by the 15K mark. Nyaruai's move dropped defending champion and race record-holder Mary Wacera of Kenya, and Jordan Hasay of the U.S. had moved up to fifth. Running by herself, Nyaruai added six seconds to her margin by 20K, with Hasay up to third. The last stretch saw Nyaruai lose some of her lead to Dida Yami, but she had enough to finish in 67:58, the fourth-fastest time in race history. That earned her a $10,000 time bonus.
Wacera passed Hasay to finish third in 68:38, but the former Oregon all-American shattered the American race record in fourth with her 68:40 that put her at No. 6 on the all-time U.S. list.
The most exciting finish of the day came from Korir and Lilesa, who elbowed each other as they approached the line. Korir came away with the win as both men were awarded a time of 61:14. A group of 10 men went through 10K in 28:51, and by the next 5K mark Korir and Lilesa were nine seconds back of Yigrem Demelash and Samsom Gebreyohannes.
Fikadu Tsadik and Hiskel Tewelde Ghebru were in a group of four with Korir and Lilesa at 20K, but all eyes went to the pair of Korir and Lilesa down the final stretch. The duo made a mad dash to the tape to finish three seconds ahead of Ghebru and Tsadik, with Korir clocking the sixth-fastest time in race history. Wanjiru and Korir each picked up $20,000 for their victories in the Aramco Houston Half Marathon.
For more information on the 2017 Chevron Houston Marathon and Aramco Houston Half Marathon, visit www.chevronhoustonmarathon.com.