PARKERSBURG-The men's field for the 28th running of the News and Sentinel Half Marathon still does not include any of the top four finishers from a year ago. But, that doesn't mean fans lining the streets of downtown and southside Parkersburg won't be treated to an exciting race.
"I think it (the men's field) is beginning to take shape," veteran race coordinator Chip Allman said. "It's still early. This is the month that many of the elite runners begin making out their schedules of races."
Kenyan Julius Kogo, the race record holder with a time of 1 hour, 1 minute and 47 seconds in 2011, made it four-in-a-row last August with a dominating start-to-finish victory over runner-up Aschalew Neguse of Ethiopia. Kogo covered the 13.1-mile race in 1 hour, 2 minutes and 7.4 seconds to beat the 25-year old Neguse (1:03:32.8) by nearly 85 seconds.
Fellow Kenyan Julius Koskei (1:03:44.9) and Ethiopia Haile Tegegn (1:30:52.8) finished third and fourth, respectively.
And, what has been the case since Colorado's Dan Browne crossed the finish line first in 2001, the field will again be loaded with runners from Kenya and Ethiopia looking to take home the $3,000 prize.
The most recent to add their names to the list of runners that will make up the Elite field are Ethiopians Bereket Alem, Diriba Degefa, and Tesegaye Asefa Hirpo and Kenyans Richard Kessio and Geoffery Kiprotich.
Alem (29) and Hirpo (37) have both covered the half marathon distance in 1 hour and 3 minutes while 40-year old Kessio's personal best is 1 hour and 6 minutes. Three of the group are coming off of impressive victories as Kessio made it back-to-back wins at the Bermuda Men's Marathon when he broke away from second-place Teklu Deneke at the 15-mile mark en route to winning the race with a time of 2 hours, 24 minutes and 8 seconds.
Kiprotich did the same at the Medical Mutual Glass City Marathon in Toledo (Ohio), pulling away from the field at the 18-mile mark to win in a time of 2 hours, 24 minutes and 2 seconds. The 26-year old Degefa overcame a calf injury to capture the Slattery's Turkey Trot in 24 minutes and 43 seconds.
The group joins Nic Schweikert (Canton, Ohio), John Piggott (Williamsburg, Va.), Terry McCluskey (Vienna, Ohio), Ethiopians Demesse Tefera, Tilahun Manesho and Leul Aleme and Kenyans John Njoroge Maina, Isaac Mwangi, Peter Mwololo and Peter Njoroge as runners to watch when the gun sounds at 8 a.m. at the Juliana Street starting line.
Aleme (22) has recorded the fastest personal time having covered the distance in 1 hour and 1 minute. But, Tefera (1:02.12) and Maina (1:02.34) as well as Manesho (1:04), Alem and Hirpo have all posted times fast enough to challenge for the Road Runners Club of America's National Half Marathon title.
The women's field continues to grow as well with the addition of Ethiopians Ethferahu Temesgen and Sisay Haile Yayi. Temesgen has recorded a personal best of 1 hour and 11 minutes which would give the 29-year old an outside chance of breaking the course mark of 1:10:19 established by Ethiopian Mare Dibaba in 2010.
More than 300 runners and walkers already have registered for the race on Saturday, Aug. 16. Applications are being accepted via e-mail at NewsandSentinelHalf-Marathon.com or by mail at The Parkersburg News and Sentinel, 519 Juliana Street, Parkersburg, WV 26101.