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Degefa overall women’s winner

August 19, 2017
By Josh Adams ( , News and Sentinel Half Marathon

PARKERSBURG - Ethiopa's Biruktayit Degefa paced herself carefully before breaking away from the pack Saturday at the The News and Sentinel Half Marathon.

After a long haul against a varying group of elite runners from Kenya and Ethiopia, Degefa claimed the top women's spot with a time of 1:13:45.

The first few miles of the race featured Degefa running in a group against Sophy Jepchirchir, Susan Jerotich and defending champion Joan Aiyabei. It seems Ayaibei could not push ahead of the racers such as Jerotich and Jepchirchir, who actually paced minutes behind the Kenyan champ in last year's bout. Ayabei quickly fell behind the small group of aforementioned elites toward the Martown exit ramp.

Article Photos

Photo by Jeff Baughan
Biruktayit Degefa was the first woman to finish the 13.1-mile course of The News and Sentinel Half Marathon with a time of 1:13.45.

From that point onward, Degefa, Jepchirchir and Jerotich stayed in close contention for the lead. The runners were almost parallel as they passed some of the track's wider turns and water stops, but Degefa always pushed a few steps ahead when the competition got too close.

The trio of runners were in a tight group as they trekked the ups and downs of Gihon Rd. There was no apparent leader in that span of the race until Jepchirchir fell behind Degefa and Jerotich.

The two elites battled for the lead across Old Camden back to Fifth Street as the clock pushed 44 minutes.

As they approached the Fifth Street bridge, Degefa took the opportunity to steam ahead of Jerotich, who fell yards behind by the time the leader hit Avery St.

That's when Degefa kicked it into high gear.

Cruising down Avery, Degefa lost Jerotich in the background and even surpassed male runner Harrison Kirigwi. Pacing just a few minutes behind the leading male runners, Degefa eventually found herself in a gap on both sides. The Ethopian runner glanced over her shoulder during the final stretch down Market Street to see nothing but pavement in her wake.

Degefa crossed the finish line a little after 9 a.m. to a roar of applause from the crowd gathered on Market. She snagged the $3,000 grand prize for top overall female. Jerotich trailed in behind about two minutes later to claim second place for the $2,000 prize.

Though Degefa spoke some English, she had fellow Ethopian runner Gegrekidan Abadi translate her thoughts on the race to surrounding interviewers.

"The course was a little bit challenging and the weather was a little bit humid today," Degefa said. She said she wasn't expecting it to be so muggy, but in the long run it didn't deter her pace.

Degefa noted that she wasn't shocked by the close competition early in the race, but strategically paced herself against the other elite runners.

"The close competition at the beginning) wasn't much of a surprise. I kept a slower pace so the ending wasn't as a much of a challenge," Degefa said.

"I might come back next year, maybe. We'll see."



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