JOHNSON THREE-PEATS AT 30th ANNUAL FREIHOFER'S RUN FOR WOMEN IN ALBANY, N.Y.: Australian Olympian Becomes Only Third Woman in Event's Storied
History to Accomplish Hat-Trick; Claims $10,000 First Place Prize by: Race Organizers
ALBANY, NY (May 31, 2008) — In winning the 30th edition of the
Freihofer's Run for Women for the third consecutive time, Australia's
Benita Johnson became only the third woman to accomplish that feat in
the event's storied history. (Lynn Jennings, an eight-time winner, and
Marla Runyan are the other two). In claiming this year's win in a time
of 15:46, Johnson, 29, turned back the race-long challenge of a
powerful Kenyan and Ethiopian contingent and claimed a prize purse in
the amount of $10,000. Second place went to Amane Gobena (ETH) in a
time of 15:52 ($5,000), with Azizza Aliyu (ETH) winning a very close
battle for third in 16:02 ($3,000).
"I didn't have a plan," asserted Johnson. "You never know how the race
is going to go. The early pace was very slow. And I got a cramp in my
leg (at the end) because I had to run the last kilometer so hard. This
win was the one that hurt the most. But I really wanted to win three in
Johnson dedicated the race to her father, who was terminally ill in
Australia. She was leaving Albany immediately after the race to return
home to be at his side.
"My father is very sick," she said. "He's only got a few days. This
race was for my Dad. But I can use things in my life as motivation to
go forward and to have strength."
Tragically, moments after finishing the event and calling her family
with news of her victory, Johnson learned that her father had died.
The strength that the Australian two-time Olympian and 2004 World
Cross-Country champion brought to this race was evident from the
outset. Always at the front of the pack, Johnson fronted a large pack
through an opening mile of 5:14 with Gobena, Genoveva Kigen (KEN), Jane
Gakunyi (KEN), Kathy Butler (GBR), Millicent Gathoni (KEN), Everlyne
Lagat (KEN) and a knot of others all holding close.
Approaching two miles, things began to change as Johnson maintained
relentless pressure and attrition began to take its toll. The two-mile
marker was passed in 10:20, and while Johnson and Gobena raced shoulder
to shoulder, daylight had begun to open on the rest of the field. With
the contenders reduced to just two, it was clear that it would be only
a matter of time before she made her move.
That point came at 4K. Johnson, concerned to avoid a sprint to the
finish line, injected an increase in pace that was clearly intended to
decide the outcome once and for all. Gobena fought hard to hang on; but
Johnson's strength and tenacity, coupled with her knowledge of this
hilly course, were insurmountable and, in the closing downhill half
mile, allowed her to turn an inch of daylight into a 16- second
Freihofer's is Johnson's only US race of the season. Following this,
her plan was to race a 10,000m on the track in Europe, and then decide
if that distance or the marathon will be her focus for the Beijing
Olympic Games in August. In Athens in 2004, Johnson placed a
disappointing 24th in the 10,000m.
Gobena, 25, held on for an isolated second place, while Azizza Aliyu
(ETH), 22, charged through in the closing mile to out-kick the
more-favored Gakunyi, a 2004 Olympian at 5,000m, and Gathoni, winner of
Monday's Bolder Boulder 10k. Aliyu and Gakunyi were both timed at
16:02, with Gathoni at 16:03. Respectively, they earned $3,000, $2,000
The masters' competition, for women over 40 years of age, went to Paula
Wiltse from Brockville, Ontario, who raced to a 17:29 victory.
Wiltse's win — which earned her $750 — defeated Marissa Hanson
(17:45), who as Marissa Sutera won this race in 1986. The over-50
division victory went to Joan Samuelson, who as Joan Benoit, won the
Olympic Games marathon in 1984. Samuelson's time of 17:50, was shy of
her objective, the 17:28 US record of Shirley Matson, set in 1991.
"Though we were saddened by Benita's family tragedy, it's quite plain
to see what a tremendous champion and great athlete she is," commented
Freihofer's Run for Women Event Director George Regan. "Because of her,
and because of the 3,385 women who followed her, this was a great day
This year's 30th edition also included the USATF National Race Walk 10k
Open and Junior Championships featuring some of the nation's top race
walkers, several of whom will be Olympic team contenders. Teresa Vaill,
45, of Gainesville, FL, formerly of Pine Plains, N.Y., won the event in
a time of 47:50 and took home the $500 first place check. Rounding out
the top three were Solomiya Login, 28, of Philadelphia, PA, (51:58;
$400) and Lauren Forgues, 20, of Boothbay, ME (52:42; $300).
Event sponsors include the Charles Freihofer Baking Company (a division
of George Weston Bakeries Inc.), Price Chopper Supermarkets, The City
of Albany, Fox 23 News, B95.5, and host hotel 74 State.
Freihofer's, a leading baker of wholesome products, is committed to
fostering the growth and recognition of women in sports and inspiring
all generations of women to experience the benefits of exercise and
good nutrition. Freihofer's continues to set the pace by sponsoring the
annual Freihofer's Run for Women 5K. Now in its 30th year, the event,
which is home to the Master's World & U.S. All-Comers record,
features thousands of women of all ages and abilities from Olympians to
recreational joggers, who challenge themselves on the picturesque
3.1-mile course. For more information, visit freihofers.gwbakeries.com.