Moving elite athletes from one international race to another is very much like a chess match, in that it takes a great deal of foresight (and the occasional bold move) to make everything click.
As the elite race coordinator for the Allstate Sugar Bowl Crescent City Classic, Andrew Lilly knows this. He works countless hours poring over race results from far-flung countries, meeting with agents, and coordinating schedules — all with the hope he can bring the best field of road runners to New Orleans’ biggest road race.
Lilly’s chessboard took a hit, however, when he learned that 2013 CCC champion (and 2014 runner-up) Isaiah Koech of Kenya wouldn’t be participating this year. A couple other “big pieces” Lilly hoped to bring to New Orleans (Albert Rop of Bahrain and Yomif Kejelcha of Ethiopia) also confirmed through their agents in the past few days that they wouldn’t race in the CCC, either.
Still, Lilly will have other elite runners at the ready when the 10-kilometer (6.2-mile) CCC is held Saturday. The course, known worldwide as a fast track, begins at the Mercedes Benz Superdome and ends at City Park. The race starts at 8 a.m.
“I’m a little bummed because Isaiah Koech isn’t here,” Lilly said. “He had visa problems and that happens sometimes. I was kind of counting on him to be here and lead our field, but the field is still a good one. There’s a lot of experience there.”
Abdi Abdirahman is a name known to many American racing fans and he will be in the CCC. The 38-year Somalia-born and naturalized American has been a member of four U.S. Olympic teams (three times at 10K and once in the marathon.) He has won four U.S. 10K championships, and finished runner-up twice in the event. His personal best time at 10K is 27 minutes, 16 seconds.
Lilly said Abdirahman seeks to make a fifth Olympic team and should be on his game for the CCC.
Other top runners in this year’s CCC include Mourad Marofit of Morocco. Marofit participated in the 2008 Olympics at 5K with a time of 13:02. Now 33, he is the top returning male from the 2014 CCC (he finished fourth overall with a time of 28:32.)
Julius Kogo, a 29-year old Kenyan, is a veteran road racer who finished second in the Azalea Trail 10K Run in Mobile, Alabama on Saturday. He finished sixth in last year’s CCC with a 28:59.
Dominic Ondoro, a 27-year old Kenyan, won the Cooper River Bridge 10K in Charleston, South Carolina. His time of 29:22 should come down considerably on the flat course in New Orleans.
Geoffrey Kenesi, another 27-year old from Kenya, has a 10K personal best of 28:14 on the road and also will run the CCC.
“It should be a competitive race,” Lilly said of the men’s elite competition. “There are some runners with some great credentials coming.”
In the men’s masters (over 40) field, Lafayette native Kevin Castille is a CCC fixture and is expected to lead the division in 2015. Castille, 43, was the first American to finish the 2014 CCC (30:05, ninth place overall.) He has set numerous masters running records since turning 40, and in this year’s race, will attempt to break the American Masters 10K record, Lilly said.
Castille came close to the mark in 2013 when he finished only two seconds off the record time of 29:37.
Haron Lagat of Kenya, a professional pacer, is expected to push Castille until the 4-mile mark, when (if all goes to plan,) Castille will jet ahead and push for the masters record.
Last-minute registration for the 37th annual CCC will take place Thursday and Friday at the 2015 Health & Fitness Expo at the Hyatt Regency from 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Cost is $45. More than 25,000 people of all abilities are expected to take part in this year’s race.
For more information on the CCC, the expo, and much more, go online to www.ccc10k.com.