Antonio Vega Wins USA Half Marathon Championships; Patrick Smyth Finishes Second in Houston
January 18, 2010
Minneapolis/St. Paul - Jan. 18, 2010 - Team USA Minnesota's Antonio Vega won his first national championship at the USA Half Marathon Championships in a race hosted by the Aramco Houston Half Marathon on Jan. 17. His time of 1:01:54 was a personal best by more than a minute as well as the fourth fastest time by an American on the Houston half marathon course.
Vega was followed across the finish line by teammate Patrick Smyth, who was making his debut at the distance and ran 1:02:01. Two other Team USA Minnesota men also were in the top nine in the championship race including Josh Moen, who was sixth in 1:02:52 (previous best was 1:04:37), and Matt Gabrielson, who finished ninth in a personal best time of 1:03:43 (previous was 1:04:06).
The four Team USA Minnesota runners were in the lead pack from the gun. After a relatively slow first mile of 4:53, the four pushed the pace to 4:38 for the second mile to break up a pack of 20 men. By the fourth mile, Gabrielson had dropped back and then Moen lost contact with the lead runners by the 10k mark. At eight miles, Vega and Smyth were running side-by-side with one other runner trailing by about five meters. Vega made his move at the 180-degree turnaround, which is at the nine mile mark.
"My plan was to hit the throttle at the turnaround point and put a gap on the field," said Vega, who was making his second appearance at Houston, having finished seventh in the championship race last year. "I was just feeling really good so I tried to separate myself from the guys chasing me. I'm not the fastest guy in the world and I knew I wasn't going to win if it came down to a 100 meter dash at the end."
Vega, a Twin Cities native who ran collegiately at the University of Minnesota, said he has been putting in 120 mile weeks over the last six or seven weeks. "The training leading up to this race has been phenomenal because my teammates and I are all in sync which makes it easier to train," said Vega who the previous weekend ran an 8:06.73 best in the 3000 meters as a tune-up. "This was a breakout race for me. I thought I had a performance like this in me so it is nice to finally realize it. I wasn't a Big 10 champion or an NCAA champ in college so this is my first big win in my running career."
Next up for Vega will be the USA 15k Championships on March 14 followed by the Boston Marathon in April. "I am gearing up for Boston," said the 26-year-old from St. Paul. "I am going into my next marathon with confidence and high expectations."
Also running at the USA Half Marathon Championships were Meghan Armstrong, who finished in 11th place in a personal best time of 1:13:56 (previous was 1:14:57), and Michelle Frey, who was 19th in 1:17:11.
"It is pretty fantastic when our guys can go one-two in a national championship against good competition," said Team USA Minnesota coach Dennis Barker. "With the type of winter we've had this year, to have four PR's and a great debut was a really good day for our team."
There were 11,000 participants registered for the Aramco Half Marathon which has sponsored the USA Men's Half Marathon Championships the past six years and the USA Women's Half Marathon Championship for four years. Conditions at the 7 a.m. start of the race included a clear sky and 45 degrees.
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