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Masai Wins New York Mini 10K

Kiplagat takes solid fourth in post-surgery comeback.

Written by: Chris Lotsbom
(c) 2010 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved

NEW YORK — Linet Masai took the NYRR New York Mini 10K in Central Park by storm on Saturday morning, cruising to victory over a world class field which included six world champions.

Masai, the 2009 IAAF World Championships 10,000-meter winner, broke away from the field at the North end of Central Park, running up and down the hilly course as if it was pancake flat. A piece of cake.

A familiar site emerged when the 39th running of the Mini-10k began, with four-time champion Lornah Kiplagat of the Netherlands taking control from the gun. Leading a pack of seven, which included Ethiopians Teyba Erkesso and Worknesh Kidane, Kenyans Masai and Emily Chebet, and New Zealand’s Kim Smith, Kiplagat hit the first mile marker in 4:56. A mile later, Kiplagat had slimmed the pack to five, then four — all past or current world champions — by the midway point, reached in 15:24 and on pace to break Asmae Leghzaoui’s course record of 30:29 set in 2002. That’s when Masai decided to take control.

With her braided hair bobbing from side to side, Masai passed the famous Fred Lebow statue after a 5:07 uphill mile to build a 12 second gap on her pursuers. Just short of the Central Park Boathouse, marking the five mile mark, Masai knew she had the win in her hands. She crossed the line alone in 30:48 after covering the second half in 15:23, two seconds quicker than the first.

“It is my personal best,” the soft-spoken Kenyan, still just 20, said after her US road race debut. “That was my plan. After 5000m, just pushing and try to run my best.”

Masai, who trains in Iten alongside her older brother, Moses Masai, now plans to concentrate on the track for the remainder of the summer, first focusing on the Kenyan Championships, then on the African Championships in July and the Commonwealth Games in October where she plans to contest the 10,000m.

Masai was asked why she chose to run this morning’s 10-K instead of the 5000m at the adidas Grand Prix, the IAAF Diamond League meeting to be held later today on New York’s Randall’s Island. Her reply was simple and blunt.

“I wanted to come to the 5000-meter race, but I was not invited.”

Behind Masai, Chebet injected a surge with 400 meters to go edge Kidane by five seconds in 31:13, personal bests for both. Kiplagat, coming back from an 18-month break from competition after surgery to remove a large cyst on her right knee, finished fourth in 31:40, and was clearly pleased to be back on the roads.

“I was feeling good, I wanted to see how I was, for this was my first competition [since the surgery],” said Kiplagat, who admitted she was not in peak condition for the race. “I knew the rest of the girls were in top shape, and I am looking to be in top shape in September.  I was absolutely happy with my performance.”

Magdalena Lewy Boulet was the first American, placing eleventh in 33:25.

But the star of the show was Masai. Will she return to Central Park next year? “Maybe,” Masai said. “Then I can go after the [course] record.”