Story by Barbara Huebner
The BAA 5K and Invitational Mile began just two years ago, but some of the top female athletes in the country – and world – have obviously embraced the new tradition. The top road racer in the world is favored in this year’s 5K, which for the first time will offer a prize-money purse totaling $30,000 for the top finishers.
Lineth Chepkurui, the 23-year-old Kenyan road sensation, arrives here as the favorite after dominating the U.S. road-racing circuit last summer, with seven victories in nine races. And they weren’t merely wins, either: her triumphs included two 12K world bests and a time of 30:45 in the Crescent City Classic that held up as the fastest 10K in the world last year.
Coming off an eighth-place finish at the World Cross Country Championships last month, Chepkurui will likely see some familiar faces in Boston on race weekend: it’s a homecoming of sorts for her, after winning the 2010 TD Bank Beach to Beacon 10K in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, and the inaugural Run Gloucester! 7-Mile Road Race on Cape Ann, just north of Boston. Reportedly slowed by a head cold, she finished a close second in the 7-mile Falmouth Road Race to round out her tour of New England.
Challenging her will be late entry Amy Hastings. A 10-time All-American while competing for Arizona State, the 27-year-old made her marathon debut a successful one last month when she finished second in the Honda LA Marathon in 2:27:03. The 2005 NCAA indoor 5000-meter champion, she brings a 5K personal best of 16:11.
The field will also feature several other intriguing Americans.
• Stephanie Pezzullo, 28, was a member of the 2006 U.S. Chiba Ekiden squad, and ran a 5K personal best of 16:11 in finishing sixth in the highly competitive Carlsbad 5000 on April 3. She is a former soccer star, both during high school in Rhode Island and for Penn State University.
• Teresa McWalters, 26, finished as high as fourth at 5000 meters in the NCAA championships, in 2008, and helped lead Stanford University to several national cross country titles as a six-time All-American. She is now a student in the Graduate School of Design at Harvard University. Her personal best for 5K is 16:12.
• Toni Salucci, 25, ran a personal best 15:45.65 to finish second at 5000 meters in the 2010 Penn Relays Olympic Development race. While competing for the University of Michigan as a graduate student, she won the 4x1500-meter relay title at the same meet, in 2008. As an undergraduate, she ran for Cornell University.