By Kyle Ringo,
AFEWERKI Berhane did his best to remove any drama from the men’s pro race at the Bolder Boulder on Monday and he succeeded nearly all the way to the finish line.
But two-time champion Allan Kiprono wasn’t going away quietly. Instead of fading into a distant second place as so many opt to do in Boulder’s Memorial Day classic, Kiprono surged as he entered Folsom Field.
Perhaps he sensed Berhane slowing to bask in the roar of the crowd about 60 yards in front of him. Kiprono was attempting to become the first man in race history to win three consecutive times, but Berhane realized the roar of the crowd wasn’t only for him just in time and picked up the pace to win by a little more than 1 second.
Berhane crossed the finish line on a picturesque day beneath the Flatirons in 29 minutes, 11.37 seconds to give Eritrea its first individual victory in the race in its first year participating. Kiprono wished he hadn’t waited quite so long to make his move, falling just shy of making history and finishing in 29:13.01.
“It was too late for me,” Kiprono said, still trying to catch his breath a few minutes after one of the most exciting finishes in Bolder Boulder history.
Berhane’s winning time was the fastest at the Bolder Boulder since Ethiopia’s Tilahun Regassa won in 28:17 in 2009. It was the second-fastest time in the past 11 years. Six runners finished in less than 30 minutes, the most since 2008.
“I am so happy to win and put my country on the map,” Berhane said through translator Yohannes Amanuel.
Berhane, who finished fourth last week in the Bay to Breakers in San Francisco, said he expected to win before the race started and knew he was strong enough to pull away at 4-kilometer mark.
Berhane’s victory was only the first reason for team Eritrea to celebrate Monday. Teammates Samson Gebreyohannes and Kiflom Sium finished fifth and 10th, respectively, to give Eritrea the victory in the International Team Challenge.
Sitting around a lunch table on the club level in Folsom Field several hours after the race, the three Eritreans gave an emphatic ‘Yes’ when asked if they will return to Boulder in the future.
Sean Quigley was the first American to cross the finish line. Running for the USA White team, Quigley finished in 30:04.67. Ryan Hall was the second American finisher running for USA Red in 30:12.97.
Hall teamed with Bobby Curtis and Luke Puskesdra, who finished 11th and 12th, respectively, to finish third in the team challenge.
Ethiopia had won the team challenge in six of the past seven years and also had produced two of the top three individual finishers in seven consecutive years until Monday. The Ethiopians finished second in the team challenge.
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