Kurgat takes first in Apple Blossom men’s 10K
WINCHESTER — Kiprono Kurgat made his first Apple Blossom Valley Health 10K race a memorable one.
Running with the lead pack from the start, Kurgat, a 24-year-old native of Kenya, ran stride for stride with Mulugeta Genbere through the first mile and then surged into the lead.
Kurgat, part of a group of elite runners based in Chapel Hill, N.C., led by five seconds as the race headed out Valley Avenue and he never trailed the rest of the way in cloudy and cool conditions with temperatures in the 50s at the start of Saturday’s race.
Kurgat finished with a winning time of 29 minutes, 49 seconds, crossing the finish line nine seconds ahead of runner-up Genbere (29:58). Ricky Flynn, 25, of Lynchburg, followed in third place just two seconds behind Genbere. Demesse Tefera (30:09) and Temesien Ilanso (30:38) rounded out the top five.
Kurgat, who took home the $1,000 first-place prize, said he kept a good pace through the first portion of the race and then made his move just before the 5K split and just kept pushing from there with the support of the fans who lined up throughout the 6.2-mile course to cheer on the runners.
“It was about halfway [when I took the lead] and I felt fine,” said Kurgat, who averaged a 4:48 pace. “I’ve never run a 10K here [in the U.S.]. It was my first 10K and, I’m happy with the weather and the followers and it helped make this race successful.”
The top nine runners ran a sub-5 minute pace, but Kurgat, Genbere and Flynn, who was also making his debut in The Bloom’s 10K, all kept at least a 4:50 pace throughout.
Flynn said he took a conservative approach early on and just tried to slowly pick off runners during the second half of the race.
“I didn’t want to go out too hard and then pay for it at the end,” said Flynn, a 2009 graduate of Lynchburg College. “I kind of went out in the back of that [lead] pack and just worked my way up and all of the sudden I was in third place or fourth place. I was working with the third place guy and here comes second, and I was working real hard to try to get second but that last uphill finish [heading up to Handley Boulevard] isn’t much fun.”
Flynn, who finished 12th at the 2012 U.S. marathon trials, was about 10th at the mile split, but he started his surge to the front from there and found himself in fourth place at the 5K split.
“I passed [Tefera] about 100 meters before he made that last turn [on Handley Boulevard], and I was working up trying to get the next guy [Genbere] but I just couldn’t get him,” said Flynn, who won $600 for third plus $200 more as the top U.S. finisher.
Another runner who was running right with Flynn during the first portion of the race was former Millbrook standout Ryan Farnan. Farnan and Flynn both ran the opening mile in 4:50, and Farnan faded a bit over the second half of the race but still finished 12th overall (31:59) as the top local runner.
Farnan said he always likes to come home from college and participate in the hometown race.
“I think it was about 20 seconds [off my personal record],” said Farnan, a sophomore at Radford University. “It was fun. It was a good race.
“The first mile they went out and I went with them and I think it was about 4:50 or 4:51 and that was way too fast but it was a fun mile. I knew I was going to feel it at the end and I did.”
A current Millbrook standout — sophomore Tyler Cox-Philyaw — turned in big personal record, finishing 17th overall (and first in the 15- to 19-year-old division) in 35:00.
“I was shooting for 37 or 38 [minutes],” said Cox-Philyaw. “It’s my second time running [this race] and I had an invitational yesterday and I was just looking to go out and do a workout but I felt good the first mile and kept with it.”
Cox-Philyaw finished just one spot [and 12 seconds] behind former Sherando and Virginia Tech standout Ryan Witt, who placed 16th with a time of 34:48.
Other local age group winners included Chris Northrup, 50, of Winchester, who took first place in the Grand Masters division in 36:53, and Alec Schrank, 14, of Winchester, who won the 15-and-under age group with a time of 37:46.
Of the 1,458 finishers, there were 737 men and 721 women. The total finishers was 41 shy of the all-time race record set last year. And by all accounts, nearly all of the age-group winners enjoyed the atmosphere of the race — especially those who represented their hometown.
“I run it every year because it’s fun,” Farnan said. “I love the people cheering for me.”
Flynn said he liked the course and the event so much that he’d like to possibly give it another shot.
“It’s a nice turnout with a lot of friendly faces,” Flynn said. “The course is very honest. I thought it would be a little bit hillier but there’s not any really massive hills. It’s definitely an honest course for sure, and I liked it. It’s fun.
“I’d definitely like to come back next year. I’m hoping maybe next year with my training I’ll be in a little bit better shape and maybe I’ll compete for the win.”
— Contact Robert Stocks at firstname.lastname@example.org
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