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  Kipkemboi wins BAA half marathon

Kenyan shines on Emerald Necklace

By Barbara Huebner, Globe Correspondent, 10/13/2003

It was a familiar Boston sight: three world-class Kenyan runners breaking away from the pack. Is it spring already?

No, but the BAA Half Marathon may be on course to become a fall classic, making the Emerald Necklace race a scenic bookend to its historic Patriots Day event. For the first time in its three-year history, the event offered prize money, drawing a solid lineup of elite athletes as well as a large field of runners (3,125). Leading them all to the finish was Laban Kipkemboi, a 25-year-old Kenyan who won his second major 13.1-mile race in three weeks.

"From the start, I was feeling good," said Kipkemboi, who raised his right arm in triumph as he broke the tape at Roberto Clemente Field in the Back Bay Fens in 1 hour 3 minutes 4 seconds. The runner-up was countryman John Kagwe (1:03:15), with Timothy Cherigat (1:04:03) making it a 1-2-3 Kenyan sweep.

Seventh overall and the first finisher over 40 was Eddy Hellebuyck of Albuquerque. His time of 1:05:12 will be considered by some the new American masters record, although two performances on a downhill course and another that never has been ratified were faster. In any case, the 42-year-old Hellebuyck, who was the first American finisher at the Boston Marathon last April, has been on a record-setting rampage since turning 40. Just last weekend he demolished another US masters mark when he won the Twin Cities Marathon in 2:12:47.

"It's been a good month," said Hellebuyck with a smile.

Marie Davenport of Chester, Conn., won the women's race in 1:10:57. Russian Lioudmila Kortchaguina was second in 1:11:27, with South African Theresa Du Toit third in 1:14:34. It was Davenport's first attempt at the distance; she never had raced farther than 10K (6.2 miles) before yesterday.

"I was afraid the last couple of miles I might hit the wall," she said. "I was more scared coming in, and expected much worse."

Winners of the men's and women's races each took home $5,000 of the $25,000 purse.

In the men's race, a pack of seven runners had formed by the first mile, which the runners hit in 4:56. By the 2-mile mark, approaching Jamaica Pond, it already had dwindled to four: the eventual top three and Hellebuyck, who soon would be left behind. Cherigat, fourth at the 2003 Boston Marathon, was leading the trio coming out of the turnaround point at the Franklin Park Zoo. But coming off the Forest Hills overpass at Mile 8, he, too, was being dropped, thanks to a surging 4:28 mile.

For the next 2 1/2 miles, Kipkemboi and Kagwe ran virtually side by side until Kipkemboi, who also won the Philadelphia Distance Run Sept. 21, put the hammer down coming back onto the Riverway.

"I thought he might slow and [while I was thinking] he left me," said Kagwe, a two-time winner of the New York City Marathon.

All three Kenyans were using the race as a tuneup for this year's ING New York City Marathon, Nov. 2.

The women's race broke open earlier, with Davenport pulling away from Kortchaguina at the zoo turnaround. "I felt very strong in the uphills," said Davenport, who twice has competed in the World Cross-Country Championships. "Then I tried to use the downhills to my advantage. At the zoo it was like, `Oh, it's cross-country.' " Also to her advantage were the "first woman" cheers from the rest of the pack as they passed on the out-and-back portion of the course. "That probably helped," she said.

Although Kortchaguina fought her way back to within a few seconds with a couple of miles to go, Davenport put on a late surge and opened up a healthy gap near the end.

Still under the tutelage of Ray Treacy, her Providence College coach, the 1996 Olympian at 5,000 meters last month delivered a shocker with her victory over an international field at the CVS Downtown 5K in Providence, just a few weeks after missing the World Track & Field Championships when she fell ill. Last week, she did the Ro-Jack's 5-Mile Run in Attleboro 45 seconds faster than ever before, en route to finishing first. And now, yesterday's win.

"I didn't expect to have such a good fall," she said.

Winners in the wheelchair division were Tony Nogueira, 35, of Glen Ridge, N.J., and 19-year-old Laurie Stephens of Wenham.

Among the more than 400 runners raising funds for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute were Red Sox wives Dawn Timlin (1:50:55) and Kathryn Nixon (1:50:56).

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