Meucci Takes $25,000 back to Italy, Nipping Iona Grad Korir for UAE Healthy Kidney 10k Title
Americans led by 3rd-place Bobby Curtis; Ryan Hall struggles home nearly 2 minutes behind leaders
May 12, 2012
By Emory Mort
(New York, NY) - One year after Leonard Komon set a course record 27:35, 26-year-old Italian Daniele Meucci outsprinted Iona graduate Leonard Korir to finish in 28:28 and nab a big $25,000 payday as the 2012 champion of the UAE Healthy Kidney 10k put on by the New York Road Runners Saturday in Central Park. The American Olympic marathon trio of Abdi Abdirahman (5th), Meb Keflezighi (7th) and Ryan Hall (15th) came in well beaten by American track hopeful Bobby Curtis, who nipped the man who led much of the race, 2011 UAE Healthy Kidney 10k 6th-placer Tesfaye Girma, for the solid $8500 3rd place payout.
With clear skies and no wind, the runners competed in warm conditions. The pace, set by NY-local Girma, was constant by average through mile 1 and 5-miles, right around 4:35/mile. Girma surged to a 5km lead of 11 seconds (14:06), but his lead was whittled down by a mile to go. In the final mile, Korir and Meucci, running together for the entire race, caught Girma and surged for the top spot. Meucci, who plans to double 5,000/10,000 at both the European Championships in late June and the early August London Olympics, closed his 2-race trip to the United States (he ran 27:32 in Palo Alto) with a big payday heading into his championship track season. Making his pro debut with his father from Eldoret in attendance, 27:29 runner and 2-time NCAA champion Leonard Korir accepted his prize and prepared to don graduation attire to receive his Iona College diploma in political science at midday in New Rochelle. 'I think today is a good day for me," said Korir with a smile. Bobby Curtis, aiming towards the Olympic track trials, suffered a cramp in the 5th mile, dropped off the eventual winners' pace for 1 or 2 minutes, and then regained composure to finish well into the money.
Hailing from Pisa, Italy, Meucci arrived in New York on Tuesday after a brief spell training with Alberto Salazar's Nike group in Portland. Meucci, who finished one second behind Galen Rupp in the 2011 Daegu World Championships 5,000m, wraps up his American trip with a 27:32 personal 10,000m best and a lucrative road win earned on the last climb to the finish. 'I didn't know if I would win until the final 100m. We got to the climb and my legs felt good so I was able to push." Meucci will compete in track this year, but with so few 10,000m opportunities in Europe, may eventually move up to the marathon. Competing without full marathon preparation, he debuted in 2:13:49 in 2010 Rome. He is funded by the Italian Army and trains for the most part alone, with 2012 focused on two top track finishes for Italy in London after a pair of top-12 finishes in Daegu. Looking at his fitness now and the bigger races to come, Meucci said, 'I'm in very good shape but not in peak shape yet."
Leonard Korir raced in his yellow Iona singlet with Iona assistant coach Joe Pienta and some early-rising Gael teammates around the course to cheer him on. His father and some extended family didn't quite make it to the race in time, but they gathered afterwards to celebrate his professional and road-race debut and make the trip up to New Rochelle for a mid-day graduation. Korir, who came up through Brother Colm O'Connell's system in Iten before landing at Iona for his final two years of eligibility that became a great success, said that after graduation he hopes to pursue professional running, and is looking to find a camp of strong guys to train with. 'I want to go start running professionally," he said, noting that both the graduation and the race performance were very important to him.
With roughly five weeks standing between him and the Olympic trials, Curtis said he ran the race to test his fitness, and was pleased overall with his 28:37. 'I had a rough patch after the hills around mile four... I probably slowed down significantly for 1 or 2 minutes and then it went away and I was able to start catching up." As a point of reference, the fastest time on Central Park's 10k course by an American is Dathan Ritzenhein's 28:08 that won the 2007 edition of the UAE Healthy Kidney race. To secure 3rd, Curtis edged the leader for most of the race Tesfaye Girma. Girma ran the Zurich marathon in 2:11:28 for fourth just three weeks ago. Hindsight is 20/20 but if he knew a 28:30 was going to be in the contention for the win here and $25,000, he might have skipped Zurich. Last year, Girma ran 28:24 for 6th here and his best performance is his 4th-place finisher in the 2011 NYC Half Marathon (1:00:35).
Behind the big prize winners, the US Olympians had varying degrees of success, with Abdirahman and Keflezighi running strongly and Ryan Hall suffering a very sub-par 30:15 outing. Clocking 14:43 the first 5k, Hall clearly never got in gear as he was 25 seconds behind the chase pack that included Abdirahman and Keflezighi, only to close the final 5k in 5:00/mile pace. Though he looks fit, after the race he reiterated his pre-race comments, 'You know I just haven't done 10k work, my training is very specific to the marathon, even this far out I haven't done any 10k work and I think that was just a reflection of that today." Like each of the top Americans, Hall was full of praise for the New York experience. 'I have a lot of special memories from this course," said Hall who won the 2008 Olympic trials in exhilarating fashion in Central Park. Trying to put a positive spin on a dismal half-hour performance, Hall phrased it thus: 'It was... I wouldn't say a fun race for me, but a fun experience."
Asked about their preparations for London, with the marathon now 90 days away, the marathoners commented on their building fitness and their performance schedules. After Meb talked about decreasing his appearances in order to focus on a block of harder training, Abdi added with a grin, 'You could not say no to the New York Road Runners if they invite you to a race. If they have another race next week I'll definitely race."
Standing nearby, New York Road Runners head Mary Wittenberg let him know that they will be hosting a half marathon next weekend.
'There's also a 4-mile tomorrow," chimed in Meb. Abdi was game for it all.
'Yea I'll get in that, but I might be in the back. I gotta run 10 miles anyway so I'll hop in and jog the 4 miles."
1. Daniele Meucci, 26, ITA 28:28 PB $25,000
2. Leonard Korir, 25, KEN 28:30 PB 12,500
3. Bobby Curtis, 27, Wayne, PA 28:37 PB 8,000
4. Tesfaye Girma, 29, ETH 28:38 5,000 + 1,000^
5. Abdi Abdirahman, 35, Tucson, AZ 28:56 2,500
6. Ben St. Lawrence, 30, AUS 28:59 1,250
7. Meb Keflezighi, 37, Mammoth Lakes, CA 29:08 750 + 500^
8. Gilbert Okari, 33, KEN 29:15 500
9. Mengsti Tabor Nebsi, 34, ETH 29:23 200
10. Henry Kiplagat Rutto, 29, KEN 29:31 100
15. Ryan Hall USA 30:15
1. Bekelech Bedada, 20, ETH 34:54 $1,000^
2. Alemtsehay Misganaw, 31, ET 34:57 500^
3. Muliye Gurma, 28, ETH 36:37 250^
^Earned NYRR member award