PARKERSBURG - Kenyan Julius Kogo already owned the course record and here Saturday at the 27th running of the News and Sentinel Half Marathon he sealed legendary status by becoming the first four-time champion.
Although Kogo's final time was a more than solid 1 hour, 2 minutes and 7 seconds, he just missed out on his own 2011 course record of 1:01:47.
Unlike last year when he made it three consecutive News and Sentinel Half Marathon titles in a row, the 27-year-old was heavily challenged for the better part of half the race before showing his talents and stamina as he pulled away from the rest of the elite field.
Photo by Jeff Baughan
Julius Kogo stops his watch as he crosses the finish line on Market Street following his fourth straight victory at the News and Sentinel Half Marathon.
"Today, we crossed 13 minutes at the 10K you know, the pace was slow," Kogo said. "But, the second 10K was very fast.
"When I came back to run today there were so many guys who were pushing me. We were bunched together from the first 3 miles and to about 8 miles. I just pushed around mile 7 and 8."
Indeed that was the case as Kogo kicked it up a notch to easily finish ahead of runner-up Aschalew Mekete Neguse. The 25-year-old Ethiopian clocked in at 1:03:32. Kogo earned $3,000 for the win, Neguse cashed $2,000 while Julius Kibet Koskei (1:03:44) and Hailie Tegegn (1:03:52) followed to finish out the top four. Koskei was awarded $1,500 and Tegegn was awarded $1,000.
Initially, through the first few miles, the pack was nearly a dozen and a half strong, but that started to dwindle to a dozen by the fourth mile. By the time the competitors had reached South Hills Golf Club on Gihon Road they had become a grouping of seven. However, it wasn't long after that the top four pulled away from Kiprono Kurgat (fifth, 1:03:54), Eliud Ngetich (sixth, 1:04:21) and eventual 11th place finisher Daniel Kipkoech.
"I came from Kenya on Wednesday then Thursday I went to North Carolina and I came here Friday with my manager and then today I just run it," Kogo added.
"This is the fifth time I've run this race and in Kenya where I train there are some hills that are the same as this here."
Long before Kogo reached the massive 13th Street hill he already had a long lead on the rest of the field. In fact, by the time he was racing off old Camden Avenue and on toward West Virginia 95 it was all but over.
Before the pack started to dissipate, Kogo used several zig-zag motions across various parts of the road and could be heard hollering at the other runners who were right on his heels.
"You know, these guys when you are running they don't want to go to the front and they like to stay and are on this side," Kogo said.
"Then we run and we are side to side and (I'm like) don't stay with me. I was pleading with them 'please guys, I need room, you stay on this side. Don't stay behind of me all the time.'"
A huge fan favorite who got many cheers along the half marathon course, Kogo expects to come back in 2014 and do his best to win for a fifth straight time.
"I was feeling well. I was feeling well and I was prepared (from training) from home," he added. "God willing. God willing I will be here (next year)."