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Fernando Cabada Tops Field (And Hills) At Rock ‘n’ Roll San Francisco

Two-time defending champions Chris Mocko and Elle Pishny finish third and second, respectively.

Two-time defending champions Chris Mocko and Elle Pishny finish third and second, respectively. 

SAN FRANCISCO — The road to Boston fittingly passed through hill-laden San Francisco on Sunday morning.

Fernando Cabada, one of the top American entrants in next month’s Boston Marathon, took home the overall title at the Transamerica Rock ’n’ Roll Half Marathon San Francisco, breaking the tape in a course-record 1 hour, 6 minutes and 25 seconds. In the women’s race, Tania Morimoto, also prepping for this year’s edition of the world’s oldest annual marathon, pulled away from her closest pursuers with five miles to go, taking home the win in 1:20:54.

The 32-year-old Cabada grabbed control of the race from the start, opening up a 10-second gap by the 1-mile mark (5:30) en route to his wire-to-wire win. Cabada rolled through 5K in 16:03, 38 seconds up on his closest pursuers, two-time defending champion Chris Mocko (3rd, 1:10:02) and Xavier Rodriguez (2nd, 1:09:44). At 10K (32:42), Cabada’s advantage had grown to 1:16 over Rodriguez and by 10 miles (50:38), he had added another minute to his already comfortable cushion. Heading up Polk Street just past 11 miles—the course’s final uphill section—Cabada focused on keeping his effort level in check so he could enjoy the screaming downhill finish into Civic Center Plaza.

“Today I just had fun out there,” said Cabada, who got a charge out of seeing his cousin, Chris Velez, running in the opposite direction on the Golden Gate Bridge just after Mile 7. “I really didn’t even worry about pace. I just wanted to break 1:07. Those hills were tough but I liked the way my body was feeling.”

Cabada, a Newton-sponsored athlete who lives and trains in his hometown of Fresno, Calif., has been quietly putting together a string of impressive race results over the past 15 months. In 2014, he clocked personal bests in the half marathon (1:02:00 at Houston in January) and marathon (2:11:36 at Berlin in September), and last month he finished 14th overall at the stacked and wind-stricken NYC Half in 1:03:23, giving him the confidence that he’s hitting his stride at the right time.

“I love racing here in California,” Cabada said. “It gives me a lot of pride to represent the Central Valley and represent California. This is where it all started for me. I’ve been away a long time but last year I came back for good and it’s been a lot of fun. In the past couple years I’ve been going in the right direction. I’m heading into the prime of my career and I just want to take advantage of it.”

In three weeks Cabada will line up for his second Boston Marathon (he finished 16th in 2:18:23 in 2013), where he’ll be part of a strong American lineup along with Meb Keflezighi, Dathan Ritzenhein, Nick Arciniaga, Matt Tegenkamp, Jeffrey Eggleston and others. Sunday’s race served as his final long tuneup before the April 20 race, where he hopes to reap the benefits of a solid training block laid out by his coach, Brad Hudson of Boulder, Colo., while continuing to steadily build momentum toward the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon in Los Angeles just under 11 months from now.

“I’m tired of hearing myself talk about how good everything is going,” Cabada said. “I just want to go and race now and run how I know I’m capable of running [at Boston]. There’s 22 days until Boston and I feel confident. I’m excited to mix it up with everybody.”

Morimoto Wins Women’s Race

Women’s winner Tania Morimoto didn’t have time much time to talk following her 1:20:54 win at the Transamerica Rock ’n’ Roll San Francisco Half Marathon—she had another hour to go run after the race.

The Redwood City, Calif., resident and Stanford grad student, who says she just wants to “get out there and see what I can do” at Boston next month, put in a little surge coming off the Golden Gate Bridge right around Mile 8 to distance herself from two-time defending champion Elle Pishny of San Francisco. She hit the finish line at Civic Center Plaza 49 seconds ahead of Pishy, and was only 30 seconds off her personal best, set in 2013 at the much flatter Rock ’n’ Roll San Jose Half Marathon.

“It was fun,” Morimoto, a member of the Strava Track Club, said of Sunday’s race. “The bridge was beautiful this morning. It was good to get a little tuneup and get on the start line and get that adrenaline going again. I felt pretty good.”

A field of 9,000 runners scaled the notorious hills of San Francisco for the third straight year. The scenic course starts on the Great Highway and makes its way through the Presidio before traversing the Golden Gate Bridge just over 4 miles into the race. Coming off the bridge at 8 miles, runners head toward Crissy Field and the Marina district before climbing Polk Avenue toward the finish line at Civic Center Plaza.

Transamerica Rock ’n’ Roll Half Marathon San Francisco Results

Top-5 Men

1. Fernando Cabada, 1:06:25.
2. Xavier Rodriguez, 1:09:44
3. Chris Mocko, 1:10:02
4. Matt Lenehan, 1:10:25
5. Benjamin Mears, 1:11:24

Top-5 Women

1. Tania Morimoto, 1:20:54
2. Elle Pishny, 1:21:43
3. Michelle Meyer, 1:25:26
4. Gemme Kenessy, 1:28:58
5. Shambra Clifford, 1:29:21