Three former winners of the Allstate Sugar Bowl Crescent City Classic were in this year’s field, but one stood above the rest.
John Muritu, a 19-year-old Kenyan, repeated as champion in the 38th running of the 10-kilometer race, held Saturday on the streets of New Orleans. His time of 28 minutes, 4 seconds was enough to hold off fellow Kenyan Silas Kipruto, who was second in 28:09. Muritu’s time was 52 seconds faster than the winning time he posted last year.
Dominic Ondoro, who finished second in 2015, was third this year in 28:16. And Isiah Koech, who won in 2013, finished fourth in 28:40. Both are from Kenya. Ethiopia’s Belete Assefa, the 2011 champ who was a late addition to this year’s field, was sixth.
Buze Diriba, a 22-year-old Ethiopian, led the women’s field in 31:59. Monicah Ngige of Kenya was second in 32:12; Jen Rhines, a 41-year-old American who has been part of 15 U.S. national teams, placed third in 33:24 — also the day’s fastest female masters time.
[RELATED: Click here to see full race results.]
The seven elite men in the field streaked ahead in the beginning stages on Poydras Street. Koech crossed the 1-mile marker at Canal Place in a swift 4:27, but when he led the pack onto North Peters Street, they all were greeted by a stiff headwind. Kipruto, Assefa and Tolossa Gedefa (who finished fifth) stayed right on Koech’s heels through the second and third miles, while the others began to fall behind.
By the time the leaders reached the corner of Esplanade Avenue and North Rocheblave (nearing the fourth mile), it was Muritu, Kipruto and Koech pushing the pace. Koech fell behind by the fourth mile marker, with the remaining Kenyan duo running stride for stride in 17:54 at Mile 4.
When they entered City Park, Muritu nudged ahead and became the first man to break the tape at the race’s new finish line in front of the New Orleans Museum of Art.
“The weather was good, and the course was also good,” Muritu said. “Also the pace-making was good. This year I was very comfortable. It was my choice to push (the pace) on (Esplanade). I’m happy, happy, happy.”
Kipruto, the oldest elite male in the field at 31, said he felt like the race was his to win, but he added that the final 300 meters were his downfall.
“I was ready to run, but he got ahead of me,” he said. “I like the course, though. It’s fast. But the humidity was (tough).”
The temperature for the 8 a.m. start was 59 degrees, but the humidity was over 80 percent.
In the women’s field, Diriba proved again that she likes running in New Orleans. In addition to her win Saturday, she also is the two-time defending champion of the Shamrockin’ Run 8K, held here March 13.
Diriba pushed ahead early and easily outdistanced the seven other elite women in the field.
“I am happy today,” she said. “The weather was good. It wasn’t too hot. I like the (competition) in New Orleans.”
Rhines is a U.S. racing legend, having participated in three Olympics: the 10,000 meters in Sydney, the marathon in Athens and the 5,000 meters in Beijing. The New York native set the masters women’s record for the current course configuration.
“This is my first time in this race and my second time running in New Orleans,” she said. “I was here for the track nationals way back in 1998. I enjoyed this one today. It was really fun. It felt like a fast, smooth course.”
Brandon Wingate, a 41-year-old from New Orleans, won the masters men’s race in 32:36. He would have been the top local finisher as well, but that honor went to Richard Bouckaert, who finished in 33:00. Besides elites, runners can only win one award/prize per race.
“I felt pretty good,” Wingate said. “But the humidity was definitely tough today. This is in my hometown. The top area runners come out. There’s good competition. It’s something to look forward to.”
Laura Carleton was the top local female with a time of 36:59.
Michael Iverson (35:01) was named the top local masters male runner since Wingate won the overall honor. Byron Adams II (37:20) was the top grandmaster (over 50), and Phil Jones was the top senior (over 60) in 37:01.
Gigi Vanlangendonck was top local masters female in 42:01. Mary Grace Rome was top grandmaster at 45:33, and Susan Opelka was the top local senior in 51:05.