Coming into Saturday’s 40th running of the Allstate Sugar Bowl Crescent City Classic, New Zealand’s Jake Robertson was a little older, a little wiser and a little stronger.
He also was a whole lot faster.
Robertson, who last year broke a 20-year streak of Kenyan winners in the annual 10K road race, successfully repeated, winning the 6.2-mile race with a time of 27 minutes, 28 seconds, shaving 24 seconds off of last year’s time of 27:52.
“I really tried to change my approach, even though it didn’t look like it,” Robertson said. “I did slow down at one point because I knew what was coming, so I tried to save a little bit more for the last half. It worked well, I just still lost a lot in the last half-K.”
Robertson set a blistering pace from the start that had officials anticipating a new course record being set. His 5K time of 13:38 had folks at the finish buzzing, but Robertson fell a bit shy of the 27:10 set by Sammy Kipketer in 2002.
“I wanted to get that course record,” said Robertson, 28, who was a stellar runner in his native New Zealand before moving with his twin brother, Zane, to Kenya to train. “Every year I hope to get better, so maybe next year.”
His consolation came when it was announced that his official time tied him with his brother for the fastest 10K by a New Zealander.
“The twins are together,” he shouted.
The other elite runners, including second-place finisher John Muritu, stayed with Robertson for the first four kilometers.
“Right behind me, actually,” Robertson said.
Muritu, who won the Classic in 2015 and 2016, said he couldn’t keep up with Robertson. He finished with a time of 28:14. Edwin Soi of Kenya was third with a time of 28:18. Reid Buchanan was the first American finisher with a time of 28:56.
“He was just too fast for me,” Muritu said. “It wasn’t a good race for me. Maybe next year I’ll beat him.”
Monicah Ngige of Kenya won the women’s division with a time of 32.05. It was Ngige’s first win after finishing fourth last year and second in 2016.
“It was a good race,” Ngige said. “The track was fine, the weather was good.”
Sarah Pagano was the first American finisher with a time of 33:06.
Ngige said she had a group running with her for the first four miles until she pulled away. One of those was top local finisher Kevin Aucoin of River Ridge, who finished in 32:11.
“There was a pack of guys running with the elite women,” he said. “I was trying to shoot for top local. There were a couple of other guys with us, then about mile four, I wasn’t feeling good but neither was anyone else so I just tried to feel a little less bad, pick it up. I guess I took the lead with that little talk and managed to hang on a little bit. I was hurting coming into the park, but there were a lot of family and friends watching at that point so that picked me up and got me through.”
Rachel Paul, a transplant from Minnesota, was the top local female, finishing with a time of 35:42. That’s coming off her win in the Crescent City Fall Classic and a second place finish in the Rock ‘n' Roll Half Marathon on March 4. This was her first Crescent City Classic.
“It was really fun,” she said. “When I moved down here I heard about the Crescent City Classic and (how) good a race it was with the fast runners coming in, but also the tradition. Being the top local and being able to really know all of my New Orleans friends and runners, it was more of an exciting day to be a part of the community.”
An estimated 25,000 runners, walkers and ice-chest pullers were treated to a perfect spring day with temperatures in the 60s at the start, which apparently helped many set personal best times. Many of them stuck around for the post-race party, which celebrated the race’s beginning in the 1970s with a costume contest and lots of disco music by the Boogie Wonder Band.
“It was absolutely perfect,” race director Eric Stuart said. “Even talking to some of my friends, everyone of them PR-ed. The crowds out there were incredible. The retro theme was awesome.”