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Dejen Gebremeskel 3-peats At Carlsbad 5000

Geleta Burka wins a tight women's race in 15:26.

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Geleta Burka wins a tight women’s race in 15:26. 

CARLSBAD, Calif. — The possibility of a world-record was out the window by the 1-mile mark, but that didn’t worry Ethiopian Dejen Gebremeskel on Sunday afternoon. Victory was his only objective.


Sitting pretty in a pack of 13 through a strategic first mile split of 4:22, the 23-year-old bided his time through the first hairpin turn 1.25 miles into the race before countryman Yenew Alamirew ratcheted down the pace with a 4:17 second mile split into a headwind heading north along Coast Boulevard. Gebremeskel and John Kipkoech of Kenya were the only two runners that went with the 22-year-old Ethiopian’s strong surge, and with a half mile to go Gebremeskel asserted himself as the man to chase. Coming off the final turn toward the finish line, Gebremeskel was clear of his two pursuers and held his lead through the finish line to win in 13 minutes, 21 seconds — the slowest winning time at the World’s Fastest 5K since 2008.

PHOTOS: Carlsbad 5000 Race Winners

“Today was special for me to win three times,” said Gebremeskel, the silver medalist in the 5,000m at last summer’s Olympic Games in London. “Carlsbad is like family so I will come every year. I’m glad to get the win. After winning Carlsbad last year I had a lot of success, and hope that this year I will have a lot of success with the World Championships. I hope to win a medal.”

Kipkoech crossed the line in 13:26 to finish second, one second ahead of Alamirew, who finished 12th in the 5,000m final at last summer’s Olympic Games.

Will Leer, 27, of nearby Claremont, Calif., was the top U.S. finisher in fourth place, clocking 13:36. The reigning U.S. indoor 3,000m and mile champion, Leer battled with fellow American miler David Torrence through 2.5 miles before pulling away and out-kicking four runners over the final quarter mile. Leer, who only entered the race earlier in the week, was thrilled with his first Carlsbad appearance.

“It was great,” Leer said after the race. “I just drove down from L.A. yesterday and bam, here I am. David and I are great friends, we love competing against each other. I would make a move, he’d cover it. He’d make a move, I’d cover it, so it was pretty much a two-man race at that point. Anyone else I caught was just a bonus.”

Geleta Burka Captures Women’s Title

In the women’s race, Ethiopian Geleta Burka made her first trip to Carlsbad a memorable one, outlasting Kenyans Mercy Cherono and Paskalia Kipkoech to win the final sprint to the finish line in 15:26. Cherono and Kipkoech were both credited with the same time (15:28), but the nod for second went to Cherono while Kipkoech took third. Last year’s runner-up, Werknesh Kidane of Ethiopia, finished fourth in 15:36.

Burka’s winning time was the slowest winning time since Aheza Kiros of Ethiopia broke the tape in 15:38 four years ago.

The women’s elite race also went out slowly, with a large pack hitting the mile mark in 5:15. After the turn onto Coast Boulevard the pace picked up with a 4:54 second mile split, sending the pack into all sorts of disarray. Burka, Cherono, Kipkoech and Kidane separated from the rest of the field before Cherono tried to make a break with a kilometer to go. Burka covered the move, and had given herself all the breathing room she needed with half a mile to go.

Middle distance specialist Brenda Martinez was the top U.S. finisher in fifth, crossing the finish line in 15:44. For the 25-year-old Martinez, who lives and trains in southern California, the race was the culmination of her strength phase of training before she turns her attention back to the 1,500m and 800m on the track this summer.

“The plan was to work on the strength this year,” Martinez explained after the race. “This race challenged me mentally, and the only thing coach (Joe) Vigil told me to do was go with them regardless of the pace. If it’s fast, good. If it’s slow, good. I just didn’t want to lose contact and I was really excited to finish that way.”

Lenor Montgomery Breaks 80-84 Age-Group World Record

In the age-group races, 82-year-old Lenor Montgomery broke the women’s word record for 82 year olds with a 28:55 clocking, over 20 seconds up on her 29:16 posting from 2011 but slower than she ran last year as an 81-year-old (28:46).

Christian Cushing-Murray of Santa Ana, Calif., won the men’s Masters division, breaking the tape in 15:40 to win by two seconds over Rusty Snow of Santa Barbara, Calif. In the women’s Masters race, Dorota Gruca of Las Cruces, New Mexico won for the second year in a row, posting a time of 16:40 — 43 seconds up on second-place finisher Julie Ertel of Irvine, Calif.

The men’s 30-39 race was won by Roosevelt Cook for the third year in a row, breaking the tape in 15:02, five seconds up on Nick Meis of Las Vegas. Jennifer Santa Maria, a U.S Olympic Marathon Trials qualifier from San Diego, came from behind to win the women’s race in 17:11, seven seconds ahead of Lara Johnson of Greeley, Colo. Drea McLarty of Santa Barbara led the race through 2 miles before leg cramps forced her to fall back to seventh place.

The final age-group race of the day, the under-29 race, was won by 28-year-old Ryan Ripley of Las Vegas, the only runner under 15 minutes in 14:52. He was followed by Jorge Montes of El Cajon, Calif., in 15:06, while professional triathlete Lukas Verzbicas continued his comeback from a bad bike crash last year to finish third in 15:22. Claire Rethmeier of San Marcos repeated as the under-29 champion, dominating from the start to win in 16:49. Julie Sawyer of Solana Beach was second in 17:30 and Kristin Schleicher, also of Solana Beach, finished third in 17:48.