Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Runaway Champion Keflezighi Beats Bridge, Culpepper

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Runaway Champion Keflezighi Beats Bridge, Culpepper

Article excerpt

Two years ago, Meb Keflezighi had a late lead in the Gate River Run that fell apart at the bottom of the Hart Bridge, as he was overcome by Todd Williams.

This time, Keflezighi left no such chance.

The 25-year-old from Chula Vista, Calif., led for the final six miles, expanded his lead over the bridge and won the race with a time of 43 minutes, 16 seconds. Keflezighi earned $10,000, nearly a fifth of the race's total prize money, and in so doing became USA Track & Field's national champion at the 15K distance.

He beat out Alan Culpepper, 28, who took a first-mile lead, then fell into a shoulder-to-shoulder pace with Keflezighi, and finally took second place in 43:37.

"It was a great start for Culpepper," said Keflezighi. "I had a feeling he was going to try to open it up, and I wanted to stay right with him early."

Culpepper said he believed Keflezighi was the favorite to win.

"I wanted to push the pace at the beginning because Meb was in such good shape," Culpepper said. "I felt like I had a good chance to win it. When he moved ahead, I just tried to keep it close, but he never slacked off at all."

Deena Drossin won the women's division for the second year in a row with a time of 49:09. She also earned $10,000.

"I never really felt like I was in control of the race," said Drossin, 28. "I felt the pressure the entire way. It was only in the last 10 meters that I knew I had the race."

Drossin was pushed primarily by Sylvia Mosqueda (49:22), who finished second. Drossin said the women's field was as strong as in any race she has run.

"Sylvia set a blistering pace early," Drossin said.

So did Keflezighi, who was on pace for Williams' course record of 42:22 in the early going.

Mindful of his collapse two years ago, Keflezighi twice looked back to assess his lead over Culpepper during the residential leg of the race, once while turning the corner at River Road and River Oaks Road, and again at the corner of Hendricks Avenue and Alexandria.

"I was making sure I had room," Keflezighi said. "I knew Alan would save something for the end, and I wanted to put enough distance between us to handle that. Fortunately, I built a bigger lead heading onto the bridge than I had over Todd two years ago. …

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