Half elite field still forming

PARKERSBURG-Three-time champion Julius Kogo hasn’t yet entered, but even without him the elite field for the 27th running of the News and Sentinel Half Marathon will be a very competitive one.

“Right now, we have 329 runners and walkers entered in the half and 70 for the 2-mile race,” race coordinator Lindsey Spanner said. “Entries are coming in steadily and we expect our numbers to be close to, or above, those from last year.”

A total of 13 elites have sent in their registrations to race director Chip Allman. Among that group is 2011 American champion Molly Pritz from Boulder, Colo., and three-time defending grandmasters champion John Brokenbrough from Murrysville, Pa.

Pritz missed last year’s race to compete in the USATF 20K Championship in New Haven, Conn., placing second overall with a time of 1 hour, 7 minutes and 21 seconds. She will look to take back the title from Huntington’s Emily Chaney, who edged out Vienna’s Brittany Schob (1:29.06), to win last year’s race with a time of 1 hour, 22 minutes and 29 seconds.

The men’s field is beginning to take shape with the return of Brockenbrough, who edged out Vienna’s Terry McCluskey (1:23.39), to win the grandmasters title with a time of 1 hour, 21 minutes and 23 seconds and 62-year old Gary Romesser-the No. 1 ranked senior grandmaster, who captured the 60-64 year old age group with a clocking of 1:26.03.

Kenyan Eric Kipkemei Chirchuir comes to town having posted a personal best half marathon time of 1 hour and 1 minute and will be joined at the Juliana Street starting line by top 2012 American finisher Josh Ordway, who slipped past Ridge Robinson (1:09.43) for the title a year ago, crossing the Market Street finish line with a time of 1 hour, 8 minutes and 5 seconds.

Adding their names to the list-of-runners-to-watch are 30-year old Moroccan Mourad Marofit (1:01.43 PR) and 29-year old Kenyan Julius Kibet Koskei (1:01.22) while 24-year old Dustin Hall (1:07.0), 27-year old Bryan Morseman, 48-year old John Piggott and Canton’s Nic Schweikert (1:05.08) will attempt to wrest the American title away from Ordway.

In the women’s field, defending champion Asami Kato from Japan has not committed to return as of yet, but that does not mean the field won’t have its share of standout runners as well.

Pritz, the No. 4 ranked American marathoner in 2011, headlines the early list of entries, but will receive all the competition she wants from 29-year old Russian Lyudmila Stepanova, who has run a personal best 1:14 in the half marathon, and 31-year old Stephanie “Pezz” Pezzullo.

The Charlotte (N.C.) native was the top American and third overall finisher at the Philadelphia Half Marathon (1:13.12) back on Nov. 18. She has posted top 10 finishes in the last five U.S. Championship Road Races in which she has competed.

Rounding out the field will be 48-year old Tammy Slusser. The Monroeville (Pa.) native will look to improve upon her second place finish in the Masters Division a year ago.

“Things are going much smoother than last year,” said Spanner, a senior-to-be at Ohio University who is serving her second term as race coordinator. “I am able to anticipate problems now before they occur.”

Entries for both races, as well as the Kids Races on Sunday, Aug. 18 at the Erickson All-Sports Facility, will be accepted until Friday, Aug. 16. Interested walkers and runners can pick up forms at various locations around the state or can enter online at newsandsentinelhalfmarathon.com.