BOSTON, MA - Despite a heavy rain falling consistently from start to finish, Kenyans Daniel Salel and Mary Wacera were able to persevere and prevail at the fifth annual B.A.A. 10K, claiming victories in 28:09 and 32:07, respectively. Salel made a decisive move in the final straightaway to pry victory from two-time defending champion Stephen Sambu, while Wacera overtook marathon ace Edna Kiplagat in the final mile to win by eight seconds. Temperatures were in the mid-60s Fahrenheit for the race with negligible wind.
THIRD TIME'S THE CHARM FOR DANIEL SALEL
In both 2013 and 2014, Kenya's Daniel Salel came to Boston with his eyes set on winning the B.A.A. 10K. Both times he'd finish third, with compatriot Stephen Sambu taking the top spot. This year, however, the 24-year-old from Eldoret wasn't going to be denied.
"It was tough because of the rain," said a smiling Salel moments after breaking the finish tape. "I was happy, and am so happy."
Through the early miles, Salel found himself among a large pack of contenders that included Sambu, 2011 Boston Marathon champion and two-time B.A.A. 10K winner Geoffrey Mutai, fellow Kenyans Leonard Korir and Philip Langat, as well as Germany's Arne Gabius and Eritrea's Yonas Mebrahtu. Together they'd reach the three mile mark and turn-around point at Boston University, no one wanting to separate quite yet.
With their feet sloshing occasionally through deep puddles on the roadway, the leaders reached four miles in 18:21 before Mebrahtu and Mutai began to fall off the pace. Mutai, the event record holder, was dressed in layers hoping to fend off the incessant rain, but couldn't maintain the tempo set by Sambu and Salel at the head of the pack.
Through Kenmore Square, Salel and Sambu asserted their dominance on the field, completing a 4:27 mile split that left Korir, Langat, and Gabius five steps or more behind. It would be a two-man duel down Commonwealth Avenue, around the Boston Public Garden and into the finishing straight adjacent to Boston Common.
Salel's strategy was to surge with a kilometer to go, then again as he turned onto Charles Street with less than 400 meters remaining. It worked perfectly, as his final push created a large gap back to Sambu.
Maintaining his sprint through the finish, Salel broke the tape first in 28:09, followed by Sambu in 28:21. Korir rounded out the top three in 28:26, with Langat fourth (28:27) and Gabius fifth in 28:36.
"I like it, it was good! I have been trying, this is the third time in Boston. I have been trying, trying, and fortunately today I won," said a triumphant Salel. "I am happy. I like Boston, I like the people of Boston, and I like running here."
With the win, Salel picked up a first place prize of $10,000. Racing through the streets of Boston in the rain was thrilling, he said, adding that he intends to return here for the B.A.A. Half Marathon, presented by Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the Jimmy Fund, on October 11.
"The conditions were tough because the rain and it was humid, but we try our best," he said. "I think if it was not raining, we would have run a better time like 27:30. But we tried. I was happy and am happy."
Sambu gave credit to Salel for finding another gear in the homestretch, one that the University of Arizona alum could not match.
"We ran together and then he just pulled away from me in the last turn. I was just so tired. I had to accept number two," said Sambu, 26, noting that the slippery, wet conditions made it hard to sprint.
Boston Marathon winner Mutai wound up seventh in 28:53, waving to his many fans as he crossed the finish.
The top American was former University of Oregon standout Parker Stinson, ninth in 29:24. Finishing first among masters athletes was 45-year-old Joseph Ekuom of Kingston, N.Y., in 35:41.
MARY WACERA CLAIMS COME FROM BEHIND WIN IN 32:07
Entering today's race, Mary Wacera knew she was in fast company, with 2011 Boston Marathon and B.A.A. 10K winner Caroline Kilel, as well as two-time IAAF World Championships Marathon gold medalist Edna Kiplagat joining her on the start line. Quickly, the trio went to the front of the field, joined by Burundi's Diane Nukuri.
Similar to the men's competition, the women's race would rapidly develop at the four mile mark, as Kiplagat injected a quick surge to break up the pack.
"Me and my companion Edna broke away about the fourth mile and in the fifth mile, from the [Massachusetts Avenue] bridge, Edna was dropping me," recalled Wacera.
While Kiplagat charged out front past iconic landmark Kenmore Square, Wacera stayed calm in her wake. Having broken from challengers Kilel and Nukuri, Wacera maintained her tempo before reeling in her friendly rival as they hit the fifth mile.
Wacera wasn't going to let up when she came even with Kiplagat, though. The 2014 IAAF World Half Marathon silver medalist kept her foot on the gas pedal, hitting the final turn out front.
"I caught up with her around the fifth mile and I tried to push," said Wacera. "With 400 meters to go I just pushed away and knew I was going to win."
Win she did, defeating Kiplagat by eight seconds. Crossing the line in 32:07, Wacera became the first Kenyan woman since Kilel in 2011 to claim the B.A.A. 10K crown.
"It is very special. Boston is a big city and known for races like the Marathon. To be here and win means a lot to me," said Wacera, wiping rain drops from her brow.
With her victory here, Wacera takes over the top spot on the B.A.A. Distance Medley leaderboard, which combines times from April's B.A.A. 5K, today's B.A.A. 10K, and October's B.A.A. Half Marathon. She'll return for the B.A.A. Half Marathon in less than four months time, hoping to claim victory once again.
Kiplagat was pleased with her second place showing, and said she gave everything she had to stay close to Wacera.
"It is a good showing because I haven't done a lot of training since London," she said, refering to her 11th place finish at the Virgin Money London Marathon in April. "I am happy because I am running good. Though it's not my best this year, I'm still happy I'm up there."
Finishing third was Nukuri in 32:23, followed across the line by Kilel in fourth (32:49) and Japan's Tomomi Tanaka (32:56). Recent University of Arizona graduate Elvin Kibet placed sixth in 33:38, as Kristen Zaitz of Broomfield, Colorado, was the top American in seventh place, 34:26 her time.
The B.A.A. placed two women in the top ten, as Heather Cappello and Jen Rhines finished eighth and ninth in 34:58 and 35:42, respectively. Rhines was the top masters finisher.
In the wheelchair division, Tony Nogueira and Cheri Blauwet were victorious with winning times of 24:57 and 36:16. Blauwet is a two-time winner of the Boston Marathon, having won the push rim wheelchair division in both 2004 and 2005.
Despite the pelting rain and less-than-ideal racing conditions, a total of 5,954 athletes finished the B.A.A. 10K.
The third and final race of the B.A.A. Distance Medley series will be the B.A.A. Half Marathon, presented by Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the Jimmy Fund, on October 11. Registration for the event opens on Wednesday, July 15, at 10:00 a.m. ET at www.baa.org.