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Arciniaga, Bersagel Take Home Titles at USA Marathon Championships

INDIANAPOLIS – Competitive fields, passionate spectators and exciting finishes led to a Sunday to remember at the USA Marathon Championships in Minneapolis, Minnesota, hosted by the Twin Cities Marathon. Despite completely different race tactics playing out, Nick Arciniaga and Annie Bersagel came away as victors.

The USA Marathon Championships are the tenth and final stop stop on the USA Running Circuit before it concludes this fall with the .US National Road Racing Championships on November 17 in historic Alexandria, Virginia. The top ten finishers at each race on the circuit qualify to compete in the .US National Road Racing Championships.

With a deep field in place, the early stages of the men’s race were tactical. Patrick Rizzo led the pack early, setting the tone through the first few miles. Rizzo was closely followed by many of the pre-race favorites, including Arciniaga, Josphat Boit, Tyler McCandless, Shadrack Biwott, Timothy Ritchie, Joseph Chirlee and Christo Landry.

Much stayed the same until mile 11, when Boit put in a strong move, gapping the field and pushing a short lead to a ten second lead by mile 12. Coming through the halfway mark in 1:06:47, the pack had spread out quickly. Boit continued to lead, bu Arciniaga led a chance pack of a handful of athletes, in pursuit.

By mile 16, the quartet of Chirlee, McCandless, Biwott and Arciniaga caught Boit and the five athletes battled for the next few miles, sizing each other as the most difficult miles of the race came into view.

By mile 17, Arciniaga dropped off the pack ever so slightly, with marathon veteran Sergio Reyes joining. Arciniaga rallied around mile 19 to catch back up, while Landry snuck back up into contention, as well.

The pack stayed consistent until mile 24, at which point Arciniaga, Reyes, Biwott and Boit broke away for what would be the final move before the sprint to the finish. With a mile to go, Arciniaga charged ahead, pushing the pace with only Boit being able to respond. Into the final stretch, Arciniaga put in one more surge, breaking Boit.

As Arciniaga crossed the finish with his arms raised in victory, it was a sweet conclusion to what many would consider a difficult two year comeback from injury and tribulation. The Flagstaff-based runner broke the finish tape in 2:13:11, while Boit finished an impressive second in 2:13:14, while Biwott and Reyes closed well in 2:13:26 and 2:13:34.

Landry’s late race move was gutsy and pushed the 2012 USARC co-champion to a fifth place finish in 2:14:44. Fellow USARC veteran Ritchie followed him closely in sixth, with a finishing time of 2:14:50.

Rounding out the rest of the top ten finishers, debut marathoner Jake Schmitt finished seventh in 2:15:09, while road race veteran Craig Curley finished eighth in 2:15:16. Coming in ninth and tenth were Malcolm Richards and Scott MacPherson in 2:15:49 and 2:16:02 respectively.

Arciniaga’s big finish gave him 30 points towards the USARC standings and a $25,000 prize on the day. Biwott’s third place performance netted him 20 points, pushing him into second place in the USARC standings with 52 points, eight behind leader Matt Tegenkamp. Boit’s performance gave him 24 additional points, ranking him third in the current standings with 50 points, while Mo Trafeh and Ritchie now round out the top five with 33 and 32 points respectively.

In the women’s race, a quick early pace set the tone for an exciting race, spacing out the field early on and allowing for late race theatrics over the last half of the race. Setting the tone from the gun, Atalelech Asfaw, who raced as a U.S. citizen at a U.S. Championship for the first time Sunday, pushed to an early lead, with Wendy Thomas, Meghan Peyton and Annie Bersagel falling in right behind. Veterans Esther Erb and Michelle Lilienthal trailed closely behind, as well.

Pushing through the first 5k in 17:38, Asfaw and Thomas pulled away ever so slightly, widening a gap between themselves and Peyton and Bersagel by 10k and holding a 12 second lead at the seven mile mark.

Around the eight mile mark, Thomas and Asfaw put in a strong surge, lengthening their grasp on the top two spots, holding a 32 second lead by mile ten. As Thomas and Asfaw crossed the 13.1 mile half way point, their split time of 1:14:19 put them in complete control.

Behind Thomas and Asfaw, Bersagel pushed into third on her own, leaving Peyton behind, while Laura Portis snuck up and took over fourth from Peyton around the fourteen mile mark.

By mile eighteen, Thomas started to pull away from Asfaw, extending a five second lead to ten seconds, then 15 seconds. While Asfaw faded Bersagel charged hard, catching her just past the 19 mile mark and the race was on to see if Thomas could hold off Bersagel.

The momentum Bersagel had approaching mile 21 was too much for Thomas, as the 2006 USA Half Marathon champion sprung to the lead and never looked back, pushing the pace for a big win in 2:30:53 and taking home $25,000 in prize money.

While Bersagel found another gear in the second half of the race, both Thomas and Asfaw faded. Portis ran well in the final stages of the race, finishing a surprise second in 2:33:46, while Erb and Lilienthal beat out Asfaw for third and fourth in 2:34:32 and 2:34:50. Asfaw finished fifth in 2:34:56.

Thomas finished courageously in sixth in a time of 2:36:01, while Nicole Camp placed seventh in 2:37:28 and masters runner Sheri Piers in eighth with a time of 2:38:35. Minneapolis-based runner Peyton finished up in ninth place in 238:59, while Sarah Cummings rounded out the top ten in 2:39:28.

With her win, Bersagel now sits in third place in the USARC standings with 30 points, ranking behind only Mattie Suver (47 points) and Janet Bawcom (45 points). Stephanie Bruce and Brianne Nelson sit in fourth and fifth, while Peyton sits sixth with 25 points. Thomas’ and Erb’s finishes push both into a seventh place tie with 22 points each.

About the USARC

The USARC is a USA Track & Field road series featuring USA championships from one mile through the marathon, which will conclude this fall with the .US National Road Racing Championships on November 17 in historic Alexandria, Virginia. The top ten finishers at each race on the circuit qualify to compete in the .US National Road Racing Championships. More information on the season-ending race is available at www.NationalRoadRacingChampionships.US.

The USARC consistently attracts the best American distance runners with more than $500,000 to be awarded in total prize money. The first ten U.S. runners earn points at each USARC race (15 for first, 12 for second, 10 for third, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2 and 1), with those earning the most points receiving prize money at the end of the series.

The mission of the USARC is to showcase, support and promote U.S. runners. Since its inception in 1995, the USARC and its races have provided over $7 million to U.S. distance runners.

Contributed by Scott Bush

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