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Daniele Meucci Wins Healthy Kidney 10K

The Italian held off Ethiopians and Kenyans.

The Italian held off Ethiopians and Kenyans. 

(c) 2012 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved. Used with permission.

NEW YORK — Daniele Meucci wrapped up a productive two-week trip to the United States with a come-from-behind victory at Saturday’s UAE Healthy Kidney 10K on a sunny and crisp morning in Central Park.  The 26 year-old athlete from Pisa, who is sponsored by Nike and represents the C.S. Esercito club, became the first Italian to win in the eight-year history of the race.

“Thank you, New York,” Meucci told an enthusiastic crowd which had assembled at the post-race awards ceremony.  “I love you!”

PHOTO GALLERY: 2012 Healthy Kidney 10K

Meucci, who has already been selected for the Italian Olympic team for the 10,000m, remained patient when Ethiopia’s Tesfaye Girma shot away from the field in the early stages of the race, building up an 11-second lead over the main field by the 5 kilometer mark (14:07).  Meucci was part of a seven-man chase pack which included Kenyans Leonard Korir and Gilbert Okari; Americans Bobby Curtis, Abdi Abdirahman and Meb Keflezighi; and Australian Ben St. Lawrence.  The group knew they needed to catch Girma soon in order to stay in the hunt for the win.

“I think they’re taking this seriously now,” said New York Road Runners professional athletes manager Sam Grotewold via cell phone who was riding on the lead vehicle.

In the “Mile of Truth,” the uphill fourth mile from Lasker Rink in the Park’s north end to Engineer’s Gate at East 90th Street, Girma began to slow.  Meucci, Abdirahman, Keflezighi, Korir, and Curtis were now the primary chasers.  Curtis, who had been running well, suddenly slowed down.

“After mile four I got a significant cramp and I slowed down for a few minutes,” Curtis told reporters after the race.

Descending Cat Hill to the 8K/5 mile mark, Meucci began push the pace and close down the lead on Girma.  He cut the gap to six seconds going down the hill, but still wasn’t sure if victory would be his when he reached the finish on the other side of the park.

“Until 100 meters to go I wasn’t sure I could win,” Meucci said through a translation supplied by his manager, Marcello Magnani.  “But I started to push.”

Girma only had a nominal lead at 8K/5 miles (23:01), and within a few more strides Meucci was in front for good.  Korir, who would later today attend his Iona College graduation ceremony here in Manhattan, managed to stay close to Meucci, but could not match the Italian’s power on the uphill finish.  Meucci ran 2:08 for the last 800m, finishing the race with a classic negative split: (14:18/14:11). Meucci broke the finish tape in a personal best 28:28 with Korir two seconds behind in his professional road racing debut.

Meucci saw today’s effort as another sign that he will be ready to compete well in Olympics, his first.  Two Sundays ago at the Payton Jordan Cardinal Invitational at Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif., Meucci finished third in a career best 27:32.86 to lock in his place on the Italian team.  He went from there to Beaverton, Ore., to visit the Nike headquarters and did one interval workout with American 10,000m record holder Galen Rupp.  He then flew to New York on Tuesday for today’s race.

“I am in very good shape, but not at the peak,” said Meucci who won $25,000 in prize money, the largest first place prize for any 10K in the world. “My shape is growing.”

Curtis, who hopes to make the USA Olympic team at 10,000m, managed to overcome his cramp and finish third in 28:37, a personal best.

“It’s good to get out and see where my fitness is,” said Curtis, who is sponsored by Reebok.  He called the race “a step along the way to making the Olympic team.”

Girma held on for fourth (28:38), and Abdirahman took fifth (28:56).  The other 2012 Olympians in the race finished sixth (St. Lawrence), seventh (Keflezighi) and 15th (Ryan Hall) who had a bad day.  Abdirahman, Keflezighi and Hall make up the USA Men’s marathon team for the Olympic Games.

The women’s race, which did not have a recruited international field, saw locally-based Ethiopian Bekelech Bedada take the win in 34:54.

A preliminary tally by race organizers showed 7918 finishers, a race record.  There were over 11,000 entrants.

The UAE Healthy Kidney 10-K was founded in 2005 by the New York Road Runners and the embassy of the United Arab Emirates, the race sponsor.  The late UAE leader, Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, received a kidney transplant in the United States in 2000, and UAE officials wanted to create an event to honor the late sheikh who died in 2004.  The race benefits the National Kidney Foundation.

Top Results
1. Daniele Meucci, 26, ITA                28:28 PB  $25,000
2. Leonard Korir, 25, KEN                 28:30 PB   12,500
3. Bobby Curtis, 27, Wayne, PA            28:37 PB    8,000
4. Tesfaye Girma, 29, ETH                 28:38       5,000 + 1,000^
5. Abdi Abdirahman, 35, Tucson, AZ        28:56       2,500
6. Ben St. Lawrence, 30, AUS              28:59       1,250
7. Meb Keflezighi, 37, Mammoth Lakes, CA  29:08         750 + 500^
8. Gilbert Okari, 33, KEN                 29:15         500
9. Mengsti Tabor Nebsi, 34, ETH           29:23         200
10. Henry Kiplagat Rutto, 29, KEN          29:31         100

1. Bekelech Bedada, 20, ETH              34:54       $1,000^
2. Alemtsehay Misganaw, 31, ET           34:57          500^
3. Muliye Gurma, 28, ETH                 36:37          250^
^Earned NYRR member award