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Ngetich, Erb Win Menís and Womenís Races Respectively at Litchfield Hills...By John Torsiello
By, JOHN TORSIELLO
Eliud Ngetich had a goal in mind before the start of the 37thAnnual Litchfield Hills Road Race Sunday, not only to win but to set a new course record in the process.
And the 19-year-old Kenyan, who is now living in New York City, had a shot at doing the latter until the lack of any other runners to push him, and perhaps a little of his own fatigue late in the race, had him missing the 16-year old mark set by Godfrey Kiprotich when he blazed to a 33:21 clocking in 1908. But Ngetich’s showing was nonetheless impressive, as he blitzed the field, winning in his first appearance at Litchfield in a time of 33:53, unofficially tired for 9thfastest time for the 7.2-mile run with Douglas Wakihuri, who ran a similar time in 1998.
“I was definitely thinking about setting a new course record before the race and I tried,” said the well-spoken young man, who moved to the United States just three years ago and has dreams of competing in the Olympics for his native country. “But it is tough when someone isn’t there to push you to go faster.”
Of course, the fact that there was a nary a soul around, at least running toward him from behind, to make Ngetich kick harder was his own fault, as he went out extremely fast, clocking a 4:49 first mile, and separated from his closest competitor, Kenyan Eric Chirchir, near the two-mile mark. By the time the two men hit the gravel road at the Plumb Hill Field complex, Ngetich had stretched his lead out to 50 yards and waved goodbye. His stride was steady and true the rest of the way and he literally left everyone else in the dust. Chirchir wound up finishing second in 35:14 but this was a one-man show almost from start to finish.
Ngetich’s win was yet another sterling result for him since arriving in the U.S. He won the Green Bay (Wisconsin) Marathon in a time of 2:18.26, won the Ridgewood 5-K in New Jersey, and was second two weeks ago in the Classic 10K in Middleton, N.Y.
“I really like the course,” said the winner of the Litchfield route. “It has that one tough hill (Gallows Lane at the six-mile mark) but I had such a lead by that time I could cruise. I was feeling in good shape today and the weather wasn’t too bad, a little humid, but it was not a problem for me.”
The women’s race was somewhat of a rarity as an American won for the first time in a number of years. North Carolina’s Esther Erb finished first in a time of 40:28. It was a sweet day for Erb as she finished second at Litchfield two years ago. Her time was well off the women’s course record of 38:27 set by Patti Catalano in 1981. Erb was an All-America while at Case Western University and was the Division III NCAA champ in the 10K in 2008. She finished 27th at the 2012 Olympic Marathon Trials.
Erb’s win was a little more difficult to come by. She battled Hirut Beyene of Ethiopia (second place at Litchfield in 2012) and another Ethiopian, Atlaelech Asfaw, who was making her debut at the race. Erb passed Beyene about midway through the race and then finally tracked down Atalelech around the six-mile mark and held on for the victory. Beyene finished second (40:56) and Asfaw (41:54) third.
“That hill is a game-changer so I held back a bit so I could make it up in good shape,” said Erb, who trains on hilly courses in North Carolina. “This feels great because I was out with foot and groin injuries since February and I had finished second here two years ago.”
Erb plans on running in the U.S. Half-Marathon ChampionshipJune 22 in Duluth, Mn. “I really like this race and I think more elite runners should come here. The town is so supportive and it’s a fun event to be a part of.”
Both Ngetich and Erb won $1,000 for finishing first in their respective divisions.
Prior to the main race, 53 youngsters took part in the 20thAnnual 2.3-mile Children’s Run, which was won by Litchfield’s Matteo Tiul in a time of 14:34. Also before the main race, the several thousand fans and runners in attendance sang “God Bless America” and paused for a moment of silence for those killed and injured in this year’s bombings at the Boston Marathon.