FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
NEW SPONSOR, NEW COURSE, SAME COMPETITION AND SPIRIT AT
RITE AID MARATHON AND 10K
CLEVELAND, Ohio, April 27, 2003 –With ideal weather conditions and a highly
competitive field, the 26th Annual Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon and 10K
promised to be a great day for racing and the runners didn’t disappoint.
New champions were crowned in each race, as Richard Roberts (22) of
Mansfield, Ohio won his first Marathon title in 2:28:59; Lourdes Cruz (38)
of Puerto Rico won the Women’s title in 2:48:46; Kenyan, Gilbert Okari (24)
won the Men’s 10K in 28:18 and Russian, Lyudmila Biktasheva (28) won the
Women’s 10K in 33:01. More than 5,000 runners, walkers and wheelchair
competitors participated on a newly revised course with sunny skies and
temperatures in the low to mid 50’s.
In a new racing environment, with course changes and unknown competitors,
who better to win the race than student Richard Roberts, a Psychology major
at The Ohio State University Mansfield Branch, won his first Rite Aid
Cleveland Marathon title after not finishing the race in 2002 and following
up on a second place finish at a marathon in Tampa, Florida in January.
“I love the course here, and the people were really supportive. I knew I
had a chance coming in because there weren’t many ‘elite’ runners in the
race and the weather was beautiful. I ran a personal best today and I’m
excited about my time at this point in my career. I gave it the best that I
had and I got a great result,” he concluded.
Finishing in second place was Nathan Norris (27) of Westlake in 2:34:09 and
Stephen Lester (22) of Lakewood finished third in 2:36:27. The top three
runners were never together more than 30 seconds at any point in the race.
“Long distance runners have maybe two or three good, healthy races in a
year. I was fortunate that today was one of those days,” said Norris, who
fought through a knee problem at the midway point and surged in the final
four miles for his runner-up finish. I ran the best race I could today, and
I’m pleased with it.”
Lester, competing in his first marathon, was very happy with his finish as
well. “I was running fifth for most of the race and down the stretch, a
couple of the early leaders just ‘hit the wall’ and I was able to push
through to the end,” he explained.
In the Women’s race, Cruz, an elementary school dance instructor in Puerto
Rico, won her second marathon in three races at that distance. She also
posted a personal best in the process, winning in Cleveland for the first
time. “I felt strong today and I was very comfortable with the course, the
people were very encouraging. I’m preparing myself for the Pan-Am Games in
August and this was a wonderful experience,” she concluded. Local Ohio
favorite and consistent Cleveland top finisher, Debbi Kilpatrick (39) of
Berea finished second in 3:00:31 and Sheena Oyler (31), of Durango,
Colorado finished third.
“I felt tired early on and lost contact with the leader but the crowd
really urged me on and got me back in it,” said Kilpatrick who closed the
gap on Cruz by the 18th mile, but had little left for the finish.
“I ran a good race through the first half, but I’m still not quite where I
want to be at this distance,” said Oyler who also tired down the stretch.
“I wanted to compete in a Spring marathon, and this race has a great
reputation. I’m glad I chose Cleveland,” she concluded.
In the most thrilling race of the day, Okari out-kicked fellow Kenyan, Paul
Koech (33) down the final 200 meters of Euclid Avenue for his first Rite
Aid Cleveland 10K title in 28:18. Koech, who finished in 28:22, pushed the
pace throughout the race but could never break away from Okari. Reuben
Cheruiyot (29) also of Kenya finished third in 28:46. Cheruiyot, who fought
back troubles throughout the race, finished second in 2002 and won the
Cleveland race in 2000. The Kenyans continued their dominance of the 10K
race, taking the Men’s title for the 9th time in the last 10 years.
Koech, the leader throughout the race, was gracious in defeat at the end.
“Every man has his day and today was his day. I am not disappointed, it was
a great challenge and a great race,” he concluded. Jim Jurcevich (26) of
Columbus was the top Ohio finisher, placing 7th in 29:48.
In the Women’s 10K, Biktasheva ended the Kenyan string of five titles in a
row with her victory, holding off Anastasia Ndereba (28) of Kenya who
finished second in 33:25. Anastasia Zubova (33) of Russia finished third in
“I was well prepared and trained for this race. The conditions were great
for running, similar to our weather in Russia, and I knew the Kenyans would
be strong. I felt confident after the first two miles, and I believed I
could win at that point,” said Biktasheva.
For Ndereba, the younger sister of former world record holder and two-time
Boston Marathon Champion Catherine Ndereba, the second place finish was an
impressive first road race for her 2003 season. A former soccer player, she
now says, “running is my only sport now.” Lynn Milicevic (35) of Brunswick
was the top Ohio finisher, taking 6th place in 35:46.
“We’ve made some changes to this race this year, with the course (more of
the route ran along the lakefront) and the prize structure in the Marathon
(only top Ohioans were eligible for prize money), but the spirit of this
community and the competitiveness of the runners remains the same,” said
Jack Staph, president of the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon and 10K.
“Cleveland will continue to rock and run for years to come.
More than 5,000 Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon, Relay and 10K runners and
wakers and 500 volunteers participated in the 26th Anniversary race. The
2003 Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon and 10K sponsors are: Rite Aid, American
Greetings, Adelphia, The Cleveland Clinic Sports Health, Coca Cola,
COSH—Cleveland Orthopaedic & Spine Hospital at Lutheran, Harris Direct, The
Cleveland Plain Dealer, Playhouse Square Center and Q-104 Radio.
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