Today’s races could witness history

PARKERSBURG -If the 27th News and Sentinel Half Marathon needs a theme song, perhaps History In The Making by Darrius Rucker would fit the bill.

After all, both of this morning’s feature races, the half marathon and the Two-Mile Race, may indeed witness history.

Start with the Half Marathon, which has seen three men win the race three times each. Today, two of those men will be competing against each other. Julius Kogo of Kenya not only has won the last three races, but he also owns the course record of 1:01:47. Given those two lofty accomplishments, he must be considered today’s favorite.

But Alene Reta of Ethiopia, who won the race from 2007 to 2009, also will attempt to win the 13.1-mile race for the fourth time.

Once again, the half marathon has attracted an international field of elite runners, with several other legitimate contenders capable of upsetting Kogo and Reta.

Start with a pair of 29-year-old Kenyans in Eric Kipkemei Chirchuir, who has run a 1:01 half marathon, and Julius Kibet Koskei, who has a 1:01:22 finish on his impressive resume.

Then there’s a pair of Ethiopians who can match those credentials in Aschalew Mekete Neguse, a 25-year-old who has been clocked in 1:01:37 and Mengistu Nebsi, a 35-year-old who has a 1:01:30 career best.

Given the perfect weather forecast for this morning, it’s possible the course record could fall.

As if the men’s field wasn’t strong enough, it also includes 3-time defending grandmaster champion John Brockenbrough of Murrysville, Pa., and Gary Romesser of Indians, the No. 1 ranked senior grandmaster and 65-year-old Terry McCluskey of Ohio, the top returning senior grandmaster.

Heading the women’s field are 33-year-old Debullu Gemechu of Ethiopia, whose resume includes a 1:11:07 half marathon, Kenya’s Gladys Tara, who has been clocked in 1:11:32, and 31-year-old Stephanie Pezzullo of Charlotte, N.C., who has run a 1:13:12.

On to the Two-Mile Race. For the past 12 years, two runners who graduated from Warren High School have dominated the race. First came Jason Linton, who broke the tape on Market Street six times. Then along came Tyler Cantley, who has equalled that feat and could become a seven-time champion today.

The Two Mile Race always attracts a strong contingent of high school and college cross country runners who are about to start their respective competitive seasons.

On Friday night, participants were treated to a pasta dinner. Following today’s race, they will be served a pizza luncheon. Those who receive awards will be presented with them at the Smoot Theater.