Three-peat rules the day. Ngetich and Erb take LHRR for third consecutive time. Story by John Torsiello.
By, JOHN TORSIELLO
LITCHFIELD-A three-peat in any sport is rare, but a double three-peat? Well that is something special indeed.
Kenyan Eliud “Heidy” Ngetich and New Jersey resident soon-to-be North Carolina resident following her marriage, Esther Erb, both won their third straight Litchfield Hills Road Race titles on a warm and slightly humid Sunday afternoon.
There were about eight male runners leading the field after a very fast first mile of 4:24. The 21-year-old Ngetich broke away from that pack slightly past the two mile mark, was with fellow Kenyan Moses Kiphosgei and Ayele Megersa of Ethiopia at about the three-mile mark, and then slowly but surely built a sizeable lead on Kiphosgei. Ngetich won in a time of 33:49, the seventh fastest in the 39 years of the race that draws almost 1,500 runners and thousands of spectators who line the 7.1-mile route.
Erb, 29, who won the 2014 U.S Women’s Marathon Championship to qualify for the World Championships in Beijing, China, had a little bit of a tougher time of it, but ran a solid 39:35 (eighth fastest all-time for the women) and beat runner-up Elhnesh Melaku, a native of Ethiopia who now lives in New York city, by 49 seconds.
The fastest women’s time is owned by Patti Catalano, who ran a 38:27 way back in 1981.
It was the first time in the storied history of the race that there were three-peat winners in both the men’s and women’s divisions. The champions picked $1,000 for their efforts.
“I wanted to see how I felt today before I made any moves,” said Ngetich, whose ultimate goal is to represent his country at the Olympics in the marathon. “Moses is a strong runner and I felt I needed to make a move to get in front before the hill (Gallows Lane hill at the six-mile mark) so I could run it alone. I thought a little about breaking the record (33:21 set by Godfrey Kiprotich in 1997) but winning was more important.”
Ngetich came into Litchfield enjoying a banner year. He had won three races prior, the Shamrock 5K and Anthem Half-Marathon, both in Virginia, and the Red Hook 5K, and posted a second at the Middletown Orange Classic 10K. Interestingly, Ngetich finished second in Middletown after having to take a taxi from New York City and just making it to the starting line before the race began.
As to why he has had such success at the Litchfield Hills Road Race, he said, “I like the route and the hill challenges me at the end. The people make me feel welcome and that is why I keep coming back. If everything works right with my schedule and training I will back next year to defend again.”
Erb, who is moving to Blowing Rock N.C. after she marries in September, says she didn’t exactly feel her best at the start of the race.
“I actually felt kind of terrible around the one-mile mark after a fast start. I may have overdone it yesterday. I was fourth at the mile, but I moved into second by the school (Litchfield Middle School) and then took the lead when we went into the wooded part of the race (Whites Woods). But it was hard the entire race.”
Erb says she considers the Litchfield Hills Road Race a bit of good fortune for her running career.
“The first time I won it kicked off the best year I have ever had. Maybe it was coincidence and maybe it wasn’t. I’m hoping that this win will do the same for me this year. I’ve got the World Championships and Olympic Trials (marathons) coming up and winning here might set me up to do well in both.”
Erb was an All-America while at Case Western University and was the Division III champion at the 10K distance in 2008. She set a personal best at last year’s Boston Marathon, finishing in 20th place in a time of 2:33.15.
Watertown resident and member of the Brandeis University cross-country team, Quinton Hoey, had a nice finish, placing in the top 20 in the men’s division, as the 19-year-old posted a very respectable time of 39:35.
In the youth 2.3-mile race, Litchfield’s Charlie Shanks, a 13-year-old, won in a time of 13:48. Anna Ryan of Avon won the girls 2.3-mile event in a time of 18:12.