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James Carney and Kate O'Neill Win First USA Titles at 2008 Aramco Houston Half-Marathon
By David Monti
(c) 2008 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved

HOUSTON (13-Jan) -- James Carney and Kate O'Neill got their 2008 racing campaigns off to a flying start by winning their first-ever USA titles at today's Aramco Houston Half-Marathon here.

Carney, from Boulder, Colo., ran boldly for a man who had never run a half-marathon before.  He launched to the lead through the first mile, and by the four-mile mark only Jason Lehmkule and Ryan Kirkpatrick were able to hang on to Carney's pace.

"I decided to take it out hard and hold on as long as I can," said Carney just after crossing the finish line and being presented with a massive silver belt buckle.  He added: "If I blow up, I blow up."

Through five miles (8 km) in 23:42, the three were still together, but Carney pushed the pace hard in the sixth mile, running a 4:36.  Kirkpatrick slipped back quickly and began running alone, while Lehmkuhle was just drifted off the pace by a few strides.  He was still within striking distance, but Carney was running strong.

"He was just pouring it on," said Lehkmuhle.  "I was just trying to hang on."

Carney hit the 10-K in 29:18, and by the 10 mile mark (47:11) he had a 12 second lead.  However, he was still a little worried about Lehmkuhle.

"I told myself if he beats me, he beats me," said Carney who banked a $12,000 payday.  "He's going to have to run fast."

With his form still crisp, Carney rolled to the finish in 1:02:21, an excellent debut over the distance.  Lehmkuhle crossed next in 1:02:32, a personal best, followed by a surprising Steve Sundell in third in 1:03:21, also a personal best.  Kirkpatrick faded to seventh in 1:03:54.  One of the prerace favorites, Dan Browne, ran in the second pack early in the race, but faded to 17th in 1:05:38.


The women's race was supposed to be a battle between O'Neill, Blake Russell and Elva Dryer.  But Russell never came to Houston because of an injury, and Dryer, who was struggling midway through the race, was forced to drop out.  The race quickly became O'Neill, a 2004 Olympian at 10,000m, against the clock.

"I was running pretty scared for the last few (miles)," said O'Neill at the post-race press conference wearing an enormous cowboy hat presented to the race winners.  "The wind was picking up; I was just working as hard as I could."

O'Neill, who was second here last year, was a little disappointed that her finish time of 1:11:57 did not lower her personal best, but she was elated to have won her first U.S. title at any distance.  "This is my first championship so I'm excited," she said.  "I'll run a fast time another day."

Running a very strong second half, Desiree Davila of the Brooks Hansons team, ran a huge personal best 1:12:10 in second place.  However, it was the third place finisher, Serena Burla, who really gave the rest of the field a shock.  The tiny runner, who formerly competed for the University of Missouri as Serena Ramsey, ran 1:12:22 in her debut to finish third, getting the best of Nicole Aish (1:12:30) in the final miles of the race.  Kristin Nicolini Lehmkuhle, Jason Lehmkuhle's wife, rounded out the top-5 in 1:12:58.  Nine of the top-10 women set career best times.

*Deeeper Race Results here
Top Results:
 1. James Carney, 1:02:21 DB
 2. Jason Lehkmuhle, 1:02:32 PB
 3. Steve Sundell, 1:03:21 PB
 4. Fernando Cabada, 1:03:41
 5. Patrick Gildea, 1:03:43 PB
 6. Rod Koborsi, 1:03:53 DB
 7. Ryan Kirkpatrick, 1:03:54 DB
 8. Josh Simpson, 1:03:54 PB
 9. Dylan Wykes, CAN, 1:03:54 PB
10. Matt Gabrielson, 1:04:07

 1. Kate O'Neill, 1:11:57
 2. Desiree Davila, 1:12:10 PB
 3. Serena Burla, 1:12:22 DB
 4. Nicole Aish, 1:12:30 DB
 5. Kristen Nicolini Lehmkuhle, 1:12:58 DB
 6. Kathy Newberry, 1:12:59 PB
 7. Tera Moody, 1:13:05 PB
 8. Dot McMahan, 1:13:10 PB
 9. Zoila Gomez, 1:13:11 PB
10. Melissa White, 1:13:13 PB

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