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Americans Headline Half Marathon Field at Rock ‘n’ Roll Seattle

Pat Rizzo, Hansons-Brooks athletes will do battle in The Emerald City on Saturday.

More than 27,000 runners will take to the streets of Seattle on Saturday morning for the second Rock ‘n’ Roll Seattle Marathon & ½ Marathon benefiting the American Cancer Society.

American Patrick Rizzo leads this year’s field, returning after finishing as the runner-up in last year’s half-marathon with a personal record of 1 hour, 5 minutes, 34 seconds. The 26-year-old went on to finish 10th overall at the 2009 Bank of America Chicago Marathon and has already set his personal bests this year over 10,000 meters and 30K. He will be challenged by several of his former teammates from the Hansons-Brooks Distance Project, including former Washington State University runner Drew Polley.

Drew Polley. Photo courtesy of PhotoRun.net.
Drew Polley. Photo courtesy of PhotoRun.net.

A graduate of South Kitsap High School near Seattle, Polley made his pro road racing debut at last year’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Seattle half-marathon finishing fourth overall. He followed up the performance making his marathon debut in November, finishing as the top American (8th overall) at Rock ‘n’ Roll San Antonio. At the Boston Marathon in April, Polley finished as the fifth-fastest American in 2:16:36, qualifying for the 2012 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials.

“It’s kind of nice for it to come full circle because this is where I kind of got my foot in the door last year and kind of got my name going within the elite running community,” said Polley. “I definitely would like to finish in the top 3 and I’d be pretty excited about that.”

Polley will be joined in the race by Hansons-Brooks teammates Luke Humphries, Sage Canaday and Chad Johnson. Humphries, who finished eleventh overall at the 2008 ING New York City Marathon, took home third place earlier this year at the P.F. Chang’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona half marathon. At the age of 21, Canaday was the youngest participant in the 2008 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials. Johnson won the Disney Half Marathon in January and owns a PR of 1:04:01 for the 13.1-mile distance.

Leading the international challenge is Andrew Letherby of Australia, who ran his 1:03:17 half-marathon best last year in Japan. A frequent competitor on Australian world cross country and half-marathon teams, Letherby, 32, also represented his country at the 2002 Commonwealth Games, where he earned the marathon bronze medal.

“Seattle offers a challenging but enjoyable course which the athletes will relish and we’re delighted to attract such an intriguing men’s race in the half-marathon,” said athlete coordinator Matt Turnbull. “With a predominantly American field looking to run under 65:00, it’s certainly going to be tough to predict the winner.”

Competing in the women’s half marathon is Mari Ozaki, who owns a marathon PR of 2:23:30 and has represented Japan at numerous World Championships. Ozaki will be challenged by Australian Benita Willis, who won the 2004 World Cross Country Championships. 2000 Olympic Marathon silver medalist Lidia Simon of Romania rounds out the international contenders coming off a fourth place finish at the Osaka Marathon in January, where she posted a time of 2:27:11. Leading the American challenge is last year’s marathon runner-up Leah Thorvilson, who recently qualified for the 2012 Olympic Trails by winning the Fargo Marathon.

In the marathon, the men’s field is led by 2008 Detroit Marathon champion David Cheruiyot of Kenya, who owns a PR of 2:12:02. Entering as the favorite in the women’s race is Oregon-based Sopagna Eap, who owns a marathon PR of 2:40:19 from the 2008 U.S. Olympic Trials. Eap recently set a course record at the 9th Dirty Half Marathon, which served as the first-ever USA Half Marathon Trail Championships.