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Mourad Morofit from Morocco, takes men portion of the Litchfield Hills Road Race. Pasca Cheriuyot from Kenya takes the woman's race. A story from John Torsiello.

POSTED June 12, 2011
BY Timothy W. Gaffney
Twitter: @TimothyGaffney


Moroccan Slaps High-Fives With Crowd on the Way to Winning Litchfield Hills Road Race

By, JOHN TORSIELLO

It was difficult to tell who was having more fun at the end of the Litchfield Hills Road Race Sunday afternoon, winner Mourad Morofit or the crowd cheering him on.

The 29-year-old Moroccan was slapping hands with those gathered along the race route on the way to easily outdistancing runner-up, countryman Mouchine Outaleb. Morofit’s winning time of 35:28 was well off the course record set by Godfrey Kiprotich (33:21) in 1997. But Morofit obviously didn’t care.

“I love running in America because the fans here come out and support the athletes and it’s fun to interact with them,” said the winner of the 35th edition of the race via an interpreter. “I felt good the entire race and had a lot left at the end.”

Morofit, who won the Manchester Road Race, the Metro Men’s 10-K in Prague in the Czech Republic and the Philadelphia 8-K in 2010, and finished third at this year’s Marrakech International Marathon in his home country in a sterling time of 2:11.20, was running in a threesome with Outaleb and Bryan Morseman of Addison, N.Y. for much of the second half of the race.

Morofit made a move at about the five and a half mile mark and was 11 seconds ahead of his rivals as he crossed the six-mile mark as he headed up the dreaded Gallow’s Lane hill. He breezed up the hill, slapping hands along the way, and cruised down South Street and onto West Street toward the finish line as the crowd cheered its approval.

“I knew the course was hilly so I settled in for the first part of the race and tried to save something up for the end,” Morofit said. He’s used to running hills as his home of Khemisset is located in the mountains of Morocco.

Said third place finisher Morseman (35:50) , who has turned in some stellar times in the marathon this year, winning the Run for the Red Marathon in Pennsylvania in a course record, finishing third in the Virginia Shamrock Marathon, and third at the Mississippi Blues Marathon, “I thought around the five-mile mark that I had a chance to win but he moved out and I couldn’t go with him.”

Outaleb finished in a time of 35:49, just nipping Morseman at the line.

The winner is currently living and training in Pennsylvania as he begins to focus on the marathon. He plans to run the New York City Marathon in October and could be factor there if his training continues to produce such results as Sunday.

The women’s race was a much closer affair with Florida State University star by way of Kenya, Pasca Cheriuyot, beating Esther Erb of Blowing Rock, N.C. by 12 seconds.

“It was close but not really that close,” said a smiling Erb after the event. The Case Western Reserve University (Ohio) product has been specializing in the marathon of late. “We ran together for much of the race and then she pulled ahead of me and I couldn’t catch up with her.”

Said Cheriuyot, who won a 10-K in Tallahassee, Fl. this year after competing in the 5-K and 10-K in college, “I knew there was that big hill at the end, so I tried to slow down just a bit and leave enough to get up it.”

The race drew in excess of 1,300 runners on a cool, overcast day.

The top Litchfield County finisher was a local product, Colin Gannon of Litchfield, who finished a solid 12th in a time of 40:02. The top county female was Andrea Szarkowicz of Watertown, who placed 95th overall in a time of 46:56.

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