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Elite Field Announced for AJC Peachtree Road Race

Date: 
07/03/2008 - 06:00

00_08ptee-logo.jpg July 3, 2008 from Running USA wire (ATLANTA, GA) While Georgia's historic drought has forced a change to the finish line of the 39th running of the AJC Peachtree Road Race, race officials expect little to change in the intense competition to get there first. Once again, many of the world's best runners have chosen to spend their July 4 morning in Atlanta - along with 55,000 others - traversing 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) along Peachtree Street on Friday.

"Despite this being an Olympic year, which limits participation from some top U.S. runners, we expect a very competitive field," said Atlanta Track Club Executive Director Tracey Russell. "At Peachtree, we have a history of strong performances in Olympic years, as many of the world's runners are at their best on July 4 as the Games approach."

Top 10 runners from 2007 expected to compete are Kenyans Peter Kamais (sixth in 2007) who this spring set his 10K personal best of 27:11 and Daniel Kipkoech (eighth last year) who placed seventh in the highly competitive Lilac Bloomsday Run in May.

Newcomers to Peachtree are expected to make up the rest of the challengers, including two Ethiopians, Burka Gebo and Tesga Dmessew, who both performed well at the tough Bolder Boulder 10K in Boulder, Colo. In that race, Gebo took third and Dmessew second. Their battle will resume in Atlanta along with the addition of Kenyan challengers, MacDonald Ondara (who finished ahead of Kipkoech at Bloomsday) and Robert Letting, who has finished no worse than second in any of his U.S. 10K races this spring and set a personal best of 27:45 to win the Crescent City Classic in New Orleans.

The top American in the field is Josh Moen, who last year finished 13th overall and was the sixth American as Peachtree hosted the USA Men's 10K Championship. This year, many of the top U.S. men and women are in Eugene, Ore. attempting to earn a trip to Beijing at the 2008 Olympic Track & Field Trials.

Three professional female runners return from last year's top 10, Kenya's Neriah Asiba finished fifth in 2007, consistent top Peachtree finisher Kathy Butler of Great Britain finished sixth, and Angelina Mutuku of Kenya finished ninth. Asiba has continued to run well this spring with four top four places in distances ranging from 10K to the half-marathon. Butler has finished in the top six at Peachtree for the past four years and Mutuku set a new personal record in March for the 10K in placing third at the Azalea Trail Run in Mobile, Alabama.

An early favorite on the women's side is Pauline Wangui of Kenya, who was to be the top seed last year but could not run due to visa problems. Other challengers include Nataliya Berkut of the Ukraine who finished fifth in 2006, Ethiopian Emebet Bacha, who finished fifth in this year's World Junior Cross Country Championships, and Kenyan Hyvon Ngetich, who has set 10K and half-marathon personal bests this year.

In the women's Masters division (40 years and older), it will not be the humidity, but the heat as the race should be intense this year. Last year's winner, Russian Firaya Sultanova-Zhdanova is expected to run as well as California's Sylvia Mosqueda who finished second, a mere six seconds back. Utah's Michelle Simonaitis, who was third, will also be in the field, along with four-time Olympian Colleen De Reuck of Colorado, who has three of the top 50 times ever run at Peachtree, including her personal best of 31:16. Finally, add in three more American masters, Donna Garcia, Jody Hawkins and Stephanie Herbst-Lucke, who all have recently run times equal to or faster than last year's fourth place time and this should be a great race to watch. Of local interest, both Garcia (Marietta) and Herbst-Lucke (Atlanta) currently reside in Georgia.

The men's Masters race should be a battle of three U.S. runners, Eric Ashton, Sean Wade (third last year) and Dennis Simonaitis (second last year) against two strong foreign runners, Kenyan veteran Gideon Mutisya (fourth last year) and Morocco's El Arbi Khattabi. Auburn graduate Scott Strand from nearby Birmingham could also challenge for a top position based on his performances this spring.

The Atlanta Track Club is the second largest running organization in the United States with more then 9,000 members. Aside from organizing the Peachtree, the country's largest running event of any distance, the Atlanta Track Club puts on more then 25 running events per year including The Weather Channel Atlanta Marathon and Half Marathon on Thanksgiving Day. For more information, visit: www.AtlantaTrackClub.org

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