Cool temperatures and an overcast sky led to fast times and competitive races at Saturday morning’s USATF 25 km Championships in Grand Rapids, Michigan, as Aliphine Tuliamuk and Sam Chelanga came away victorious.
The USATF 25 km Championships, hosted by the Fifth Third River Bank Run, are the fifth stop on the 2018 USATF Running Circuit.
From the start of the women’s race, a quartet of Sarah Crouch, Aliphine Tuliamuk, Emma Bates and Belainesh Gebre took to the lead, quickly separating themselves from the rest of the field, while after the first mile, Gebre started to trail the others, mile by mile falling further back.
Tuliamuk, Bates and Crouch would continue to take turns leading over the next ten miles, running an honest pace, distancing themselves from the rest of the field and it seemed as though it would be a dash at the finish – that is until Tuliamuk broke open the race up front with a powerful surge in the eleventh mile.
As Tuliamuk made her move, the two-time defending champion opened up her stride and charged up a small hill, leaving Crouch and Bates well behind. Tuliamuk would continue to grow her lead over the final miles, ultimately crossing the line victoriously in 1:25:34.
Tuliamuk’s win not only marked her third straight USATF 25 km Championship title, but earning 30 points for her win gave her 45 points on the USATF Running Circuit season, moving her from a tie for sixth into first place overall, with a 12 point lead over second place Molly Seidel.
While Bates couldn’t maintain the pace of Tuliamuk, the Boise-based runner held form well enough to easily distance herself from Crouch and take home a runner-up finish in 1:25:55. Crouch finished third overall, just over two minutes ahead of fourth in 1:27:03.
Despite falling back from the leaders early on, Gebre was able to settle in and run her own pace the rest of the way, earning herself a fine fourth place finish in her first USATF championship event since becoming an American citizen. Gebre finished in 1:29:04, while veteran Esther Atkins came in fifth overall in a time of 1:29:33.
Team USA Minnesota’s Katy Moen earned a sixth place finish in 1:29:59, while Kelsey Bruce ran to seventh place in 1:30:34. Allison Mendez-Cleaver took eighth in 1:30:44, Lauren Totten finished ninth in 1:31:02 and Christina Murphy capped off the top ten in 1:32:57.
On the men’s side, an honest early pace strung out the field, leaving a pack of seven men following the lead of HOKA ONE ONE Northern Arizona Elite’s Scott Fauble. Fauble, along with Sam Chelanga and U.S. Army runner Samuel Kosgei, ran at the front of the pack, setting the tone and keep an even cadence until just past 10 miles.
At 10 miles, 2017 USATF Marathon runner-up Tyler McCandless took over, with the lead group whittling down to a group of six. Another mile later, with Fauble taking back over, the lead group was down to four, with McCandless, Kosgei, Chelanga and Fauble eyeing the finish.
The next two miles saw Fauble and Chelanga pull away from the rest of the lead group and into the final mile Fauble and Chelanga charged, each taking turns trying to pull away from the other.
With the finish coming in sight, Fauble made one more valiant effort to pull away from Chelanga, but the wily veteran used a tenacious kick to outlast Fauble to the finish, winning 1:14:52-1:14:55.
Behind the lead duo, Abinet Adraro ran an impressive final 5 km to nearly catch Chelanga and Fauble at one point, but his charge wouldn’t last, settling for third in 1:15:14. McCandless started his 2018 USATF Running Circuit season with a fourth place showing in 1:15:23, while Kosgei finished fifth in 1:15:26 and Kiya Dandena finished sixth in 1:16:25.
Rounding out the top ten, Nicolas Montanez held on for seventh place overall, having run with the lead pack for much of the race, finishing in 1:17:04. Nathan Martin, who already owned two top ten finishes at the USATF 25 km Championships, placed eighth overall in 1:17:56, while veterans Malcolm Richards and Will Nation earned themselves ninth and tenth place finishes in 1:18:08 and 1:18:23.
With Chelanga’s victory, securing another 30 points towards his USATF Running Circuit total, he now sits only three points behind leader Leonard Korir, 51-48. Fauble’s 24 points moves him up into sole procession of third place with 28.5 points, while Kosgei’s 12 points give him 19 points overall and moves him into fifth place.
The sixth stop of the USATF Running Circuit takes place on July 4, as the USATF 10 km Championships bring together top-notch fields in Atlanta, hosted by the AJC Peachtree Road Race – the largest road race in the United States.