PARKERSBURG-There was no doubt in Malika Mejdoub's mind that she would be the first female to cross the finish line at the 25th News and Sentinel Half Marathon.
"I came here to win," explained the 29-year old from Morocco. "I have run against many of them (the other) women before and they have not beat me."
Mejdoub waited until the final two miles of the 13.1-mile race to make her move and break away from Ethiopian Yihunlish Delelecha, using the incline on 13th Street hill to pull away from her closest competitor.
Morocco's Malika Mejdoub waited until the final two miles of the 13.1-mile race to make her move and break away from Ethiopian Yihunlish Delelecha, using the incline on 13th Street hill to pull away from her closest competitor.
"I like hills," continued the winner. "I am strong on hills. I just waited until I had the right opportunity and then made my move."
The move worked as Mejdoub, who was running the race for the first time, covered the distance in 1 hour, 14 minutes and 45 seconds.
"Actually, I saw the course yesterday (Friday)," said Mejdoub. "My coach and I talked about where to make our move and we decided it would be best to stay with the other runners until we got to the last hill."
A strategy that played itself out over the first seven miles of the race.
In fact, as many as 11 women made up the lead pack as the racers passed the one-mile mark with Delelecha setting the pace. Others in the group included Kenyans Lillian Mariita, Gesabwa Risper, Pasca Cheruiyot, Maria Buseinei and Hellen Jemutai, Ethiopians Tezeta Dengersa, Tiringo Getachew and Alemtsehay Misganaw and American Sami Harris.
By the time the pack reached mile two, however, Harris, Buseinei and Jemutai had slipped back. Two miles later, Cheruiyot, a three-time NCAA All-American, melted under the pace, leaving a group of seven as the race reached the rolling hills of Gihon Road.
Nearly 30 minutes into the race, as the pack ran past South Hills Golf Course, Dengersa began to struggle and had to leave the lead group and by the time the racers reached the intersection between Gihon Road and Rayon Drive the pack of seven had dwindled to two-Delelecha and Mejdoub.
"I have raced her many times, but she (Delelecha) never beat me," said Mejdoub. "That's my tactic. I never take the lead. I always relax in the back until I make my move."
And, that would not happen for another four miles as the twosome ran side-by-side until the 5th Street Bridge where Delelecha made a surge to the front. A short lead, however, as the duo was again racing side-by-side as they entered the final three miles of the race.
Finishing third overall was the 24-year old Mariita with a time of 1 hour, 16 minutes and 10 seconds with the 31-year old Misganaw crossing the Market Street finish line in fourth in 1:17:11.
Winning the title for the first American to finish the race was Charleston Catholic's Harris, who will be a junior this year. The Class AA-A state runner-up in cross country in 2010 covered the 13.1-mile distance in 1 hour, 23 minutes and 2 seconds.
"I am very happy with my finish," said Harris. "This is my second year running the race and I really enjoy it. To be the first American to finish is just unbelievable."
Vienna's Brittany Schob was the second American finisher as the 23-year old former-Ohio Valley University cross country runner crossed the finish line in 1:26:07.