By Barbara Huebner
Coming into the B.A.A. 5K, defending champion Buze Diriba had won seven U.S. road races – including last week’s Cherry Blossom 10-Mile – since she broke the tape on Charles Street last year. Suffice it to say, the 24-year-old Ethiopian toed the line as the favorite, and she lived up to the billing, outkicking countrywoman Fotyen Tesfay and Kenya’s Monicah Ngige under sunny skies to win in 15:22 and take home the $7,500 top prize.
Tesfay, just 20 years old, was second in 15:23 ($4,000), with Ngige third in 15:24 ($2,500). Finishing as first American was Molly Seidel, fifth in 15:33.
“Yes, I have a confidence,” said Diriba, through a translator, when asked if she thought coming down the homestretch that she would repeat her 2017 victory.
A huge pack went through the first mile in a brisk 4:52 before slowing a bit in the second mile. At the 2-mile mark, nearly a dozen women were still in the jostling lead group. Then the whittling began.
“With about three-quarters of a mile to go, the top four women made a big move and we couldn’t match it,” said Seidel, the 2015 NCAA Cross Country Champion for Notre Dame who now trains in Boston. “It was basically just hanging on until the finish. I was just trying to keep them in sight.”
“I have speed,” said Diriba, of her strategy the last kilometer. “I changed gears.”
Then, with about 400 meters remaining down Charles Street between Boston Common and the Public Garden, Diriba and what would become the rest of the podium launched their kicks. Tesfay said she thought right until the last moment that she could catch Diriba, but it was not to be.
Winning the masters division was 41-year-old Tara Wilson of West Islip, N.Y., while Vanessa Cris De Souza of Brazil won the wheelchair division in 12:32.
Among other notable women running the tenth-annual B.A.A. 5K were 1984 Olympic marathon gold medalist and two-time Boston Marathon winner Joan Samuelson (24:12); Kathrine Switzer, who in 1967 became the first woman to officially run the Boston Marathon (33:52); 2008 Olympic gold medalist gymnasts Shawn Johnson East (26:54) and Nastia Lukin (30:51); and 2013 Boston Marathon bombing survivors Adrianne Haslett (28:14) and Roseanne Sdoia (1:04:16).