Defending Champion Mamitu Daska Prevails at 34th Freihofer’s Run for Women in Albany, NY

Mamitu Daska Finish

Photo by: Steve Jacobs

ALBANY, NY (June 2, 2012) — A wet and overcast morning did nothing to dampen the intensity of competition in the 34th annual Freihofer’s Run for Women, held this morning on the streets of Albany. Close to 5000 women lined up on Madison Avenue, adjacent to the Empire State Plaza, in the heart of the New York state capital. Among them were some of the world’s finest middle and long distance runners, including defending champion, Mamitu Daska from Ethiopia, three-time champion, Benita Willis (Australia) and a host of others, all with their eyes on the first place prize of $10,000.

Despite the intentions of anybody else in the elite field, however, once the gun sounded, this race was all about the defending champion. Twelve months previously, she had been aggressive from the opening strides; this time around, she was even more so. As the field charged through the opening uphill 600m, Daska was immediately at the forefront, joined only by her compatriots Alemitu Abera and Ashu Kasim, plus Kenya’s Genoveva Kigen, Jellilah Tinega and Gesabwa Risper. Nearing the one kilometer mark in Washington Park, that group was down to just Daska, Kigen and Abera; and, by one mile (5:00) the leader was in unquestioned control.

So early in the race, nothing could be set in stone; but, as the defending champ forged onward, the only indication that there might be some question in her mind came from the occasional backward glance over her shoulder.

2012 Start

Photo by: Steve Jacobs

Leaving the rolling pathways of the Park and turning onto Lake Avenue, Daska was in total control. Behind her, Kigen and Abera were forced to deal with the challenges of Kasim and Risper, not to mention an emergent phalanx of Americans, fronted by Michelle Frey, Laura Thweatt, Rebecca Donaghue and Lindsey Scherf. Willis was also in the mix; though, for once, she was not the sole Australian, being joined by her compatriot, Lara Tamsett.

That battle was for the minor placings, however. At the forefront, Daska was all alone and unchallenged. As she passed two miles (10.01 – a second mile of 5:01), the question began to emerge: could she challenge the blazing fast course record of 15:12, set by Emily Chebet in 2010? On that occasion, Chebet had closed with a lightning fast final kilometer: 2:41. Chebet had also had late race company. Daska was flying solo.

Even so, with 1K remaining, the record was within her grasp. It’s a long way home, however; and, with no one to challenge her, even a runner as dominant as Daska sometimes has to concede. Although she blasted the long downhill stretch to the finish line, her finishing time of 15:20, missed the course all time best by eight seconds. That was hardly cause for disappointment; the re-crowned champion still held a massive 17 second margin over second placed Ashu Kasim (15:37), who prevailed in the battle for the minor placings over Alemitu Abera (15:41).

“Even under these weather conditions, I enjoyed the race and I feel good about it,” commented Daska. “I’m very happy to have won for the second year. I did feel confident, but the fans along the course made me even more confident, and that helped me to win. I was most fearful of the other two Ethiopians.”

Kasim, who experienced some back pain immediately before the start, had hoped for a different result. “I thought I would catch her,” she stated, “but I was a little tired.” Among the American hopefuls, Michelle Frey fronted one of the finest domestic Freihofer’s performances in some years. Her sixth place finish (16:03), led four Americans into the top 11. Last year there were three in 10.

The masters’ race among competitors aged 40 and above was a true nail biter. Sheri Piers, coached by Benita Willis and the first placed American overall at this year’s Boston Marathon, held a marginal lead for much of the race, though she was shadowed all the way by new 40-year old Dorota Gruca from Poland, a 2008 Olympic marathoner. In the latter stages, however, Gruca’s strength told the tale and she crossed the line 10 seconds up, 16:50 to 17:00. Third place went to last year’s winner, Lisa Harvey from Canada (17:22).

“I’m happy I could win,” exulted Gruca. “My training has been going very well. I ran a smart race and I was a little careful in the first mile. I’m used to this humidity; I’m training in New Mexico. The girl I ran with (Piers) did a great job.”

Prior to the women’s 5K, the national championship 10K race walk was held in the spectacular surroundings of the Empire State Plaza. As with Mamitu Daska, the damp conditions did nothing to inhibit some dominant performances. Among the men, Dan Serianni from Rochester, NY, prevailed by well over a minute, taking the US title in a time of 44:25 from Miami’s Michael Mannozzi (45:40). Third place went to New Jersey’s Richard Luettchau in a time of 45:46.

The ever-green Teresa Vaill, 49 years old from Gainesville, FL, claimed the women’s title in even more dominating style. Her time of 47:41 earned her the US crown by well over two minutes from Owego, NY’s Erin Taylor-Talcott (50:00). Susan Randall from Miami placed third in 50:38.

“Every year at this race, I feel that I’ve witnessed something special in our city,” enthused Race Director George Regan. “All these events have become so dear to the people of Albany, that it’s now a part of our culture. Our elite athletes are welcomed so warmly, and they come back again and again. Our race field gets bigger every year and we do all that we came to make everybody know how special they are. And the competition simply gets better and better. This year, the rain made no difference at all. We had a fantastic race, and a fantastic day. It was a great day for Albany.”

Top 10 Open

1 15:19.1 Mamitu Daska Ethiopia $10,000
2 15:36.7 Ashu Kasim Ethiopia $5,000
3 15:40.2 Alemitu Abera Ethiopia $3,000
4 15:46.1 Gesabwa Risper Kenya $2,000
5 15:52.4 Genoveva Kigen Kenya $1,000
6 16:02.2 Michelle Frey USA $750
7 16:06.6 Jelliah Tinega Kenya $500
8 16:13.8 Lara Tamsett Australia $300
9 16:14.2 Laura Thweatt USA $250
10 16:16.7 Rebecca Donaghue USA $200

Top 7 Masters (Over 40)

1 14 16:49.6 Dorota Gruca Poland
2 15 17:00.0 Sheri Piers USA
3 18 17:21.8 Lisa Harvey Canada
4 19 17:29.3 Kara Haas USA
5 28 18:17.1 Lori Kingsley USA
6 30 18:22.7 Joan Benoit Samuelson USA
7 31 18:24.4 Emily Bryans USA

USA 10 km Race Walk Championships Results

MENS RESULTS

1. Dan Serianni (21), World Class Team, Rochester NY………… 44:25
2. Michael Mannozzi (26), Miami Valley TC, Miami FL………...45:40
3. Richard Luettchau (27), Shore AC, Somerset NJ………………45:46
4. Ben Shorey (29), Shore AC, Kenosha WI………………………47:15
5. Dave Talcott (52), Shore AC, Owego NY………………………48:31
6. Kyle Hively (24), Shore AC, Gallipoles OH……………………50:22
7. Dan O’Brien (47), Pegasus AC, Port Huron, MI………………..53:09
8. Mark Green (56), Pegasus AC, MI………………………………53:28
9. Andrew Smith (62), Pegasus AC, ……………………………….55:07
10. Bill Vayo (47), Walk USA, NY……………………………..….57:29
11. Robert Keating (65), New England Walkers, CT………………58:33
12. Bruce Logan (47), Park RW, New York City, NY……………..1:00:50
13. Tom Quattrocchi (61), Shore AC, NJ………………………..…1:10:58
14. Omar Nash(38), Miami Valley TC, Miami, FL…………………DNF

WOMENS RESULTS

1. Teresa Vaill (49), Pegasus AC, Gainesville, FL……………….…..47:41
2. Erin Taylor-Talcott (34), Shore AC, Owego, NY………..…….…..50:00
3. Susan Randall (38), Miami Valley TC, Dayton, OH……………... 50:38
4. Rachael Tylock (19), Mansfield Univ., Mansfield, PA………….…51:54
5. Maite Moscoso (34), Florida AC, Longwood, FL…………….. .…..52:53
6. Katie Smith (24), Pegasus TC, Grand Rapids, MI………………….1:00:17
7. Debbie Topham (58), Pegasus AC, Mayville, MI…………………..1:01:02
8. Cheryl Armstrong (under 40), Raleigh Walkers, NC……………….1:03:53
9. Sandra Denoon (57), Florida AC, FL………………………………..1:07:58
10. Panseluta Geer (65), Shore AC, NJ………………………………….1:08:14
11. Maria Paul (47), Shore AC, NJ………………………………………1:13:00

Event sponsors include the Charles Freihofer Baking Company, Price Chopper Supermarkets, CSC, The City of Albany, FOX23, the Times Union, and 99.5 The River.

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Freihofer's, a leading baker of wholesome products, is committed to fostering the growth and recognition of women in sports and inspiring all generations of women to experience the benefits of exercise and good nutrition. Freihofer's continues to set the pace by sponsoring the annual Freihofer's Run for Women 5K. Now in its 34th year, the event, which is home to the Master's World & U.S. All-Comers record, features thousands of women of all ages and abilities from Olympians to recreational joggers, who challenge themselves on the picturesque 3.1-mile course. For more information, visit http://www.freihofers.com/

Mamitu Daska Finish         Mamitu Daska Finish         2012 Start

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