- The Washington Times - Monday, April 17, 2006

BOSTON — Meb Keflezighi’s third-place finish yesterday led a surprising resurgence by the United States at the 110th Boston Marathon.

Five American men — Keflezighi, Brian Sell (fourth), Alan Culpepper (fifth), Mark Gilmore (seventh) and Clint Verran (10th) — finished in the top 10 for the first time since 1985, the year before the event began awarding prize money to its elite athletes, paving the way for the Kenyan domination of the past 12 years.

The United States had not even placed more than two runners in the top 10 since 1986.

“I think for those of us that are in [long-distance running] … we’re not probably as surprised as some other people are, honestly,” said Culpepper, who was fourth last year. “We’ve seen it coming for a while, and we’ve seen it building. This has been a work in progress for the last five or six years. So you know, I think it bodes very well for the future.”

Kenyan Robert Cheruiyot won the marathon in a record time of 2:07:14. The 2003 champion coasted in the shadows until unleashing a surge at 21 miles.

Cheruiyot shaved a second off Cosmas Ndeti’s 1994 record, which was greatly aided by a major tailwind. In contrast, it was fairly calm yesterday. The record added $25,000 to the $100,000 Cheruiyot earned for the win, the 14th time in 16 years that a Kenyan man has earned the laurel wreath at Boston.

Rita Jeptoo gave Kenya its fourth Boston sweep in seven years by winning the women’s race in 2:23:38, the eighth-fastest time on the Hopkinton-to-Boston course.

She nearly didn’t make it to Boston after losing her passport two weeks ago at an embassy in Italy where she was training. It was found just days ago, and she arrived here Saturday.

Yet the 25-year-old Jeptoo was quite patient yesterday, cruising with the front-runners before leaving behind Latvia’s Jelena Prokopcuka, the 2005 New York City champ, and Japan’s Reiko Tosa with a devastating 5:06 mile after 23 miles to win her first race in the United States and improve upon her 2:24:22 personal best at the world marathon championships in August in Helsinki, Finland.

Keflezighi, making his debut here, was a marked man thanks to his silver-medal effort at the 2004 Olympics and his runner-up performance at New York just months later in a personal best 2:09:53.

He was seeded 10th coming into yesterday’s race, with Culpepper one spot ahead of him. He ran like a favorite, though, going with the lead pack from the start in a suicidal first half of 1:02:45, more than two minutes faster than Ndeti ran in his 1994 record run of 2:07:15.

Kenya’s Benjamin Maiyo was pushing the fast pace, and only Keflezighi and Ethiopia’s Deriba Merga, who later dropped out, could maintain it between the midway point and Mile 17, where the course turns up the first of the Heartbreak Hills.

But Maiyo, the No. 4 seed coming in, kept pushing, and Keflezighi had to let go. Soon, Keflezighi was passed by a charging Cheruiyot, who caught up to Maiyo in the next mile and surged unchallenged to the finish.

The 30-year-old Keflezighi, who was born in the tiny east African country of Eritrea, immigrated with his family to the United States in 1987 and became a U.S. citizen in 1998, held his ground and finished in 2:09:56.

Sell (2:10:55), of Rochester, Mich., was as far back as 13th place at the half in 1:05:17 and ran near-perfect splits to overtake Culpepper (2:11:02) in the last mile. Culpepper, seventh at the half, made his typically strong second-half run.

Gilmore (2:12:45) and Verran (2:14:12), fairly out of contention for much of the race, nailed the top 10 with personal bests on a tough course.

Wilson Komen (2:18:26), a 28-year-old Kenyan who trains part-time in Washington, had his best Boston Marathon en route to placing 14th.

Paul Rades of Silver Spring was the area’s second finisher in 2:26:56, good for 28th place.

Arlington’s Michael Wardian placed 37th in 2:29:51.

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