By David Monti, @d9monti
(c) 2016 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved

BOSTON (16-Apr) — On a sunny but bracing Spring morning here, Dejen Gebremeskel of Ethiopia and Molly Huddle of Providence, R.I., ran to victory in the eighth edition of the B.A.A. 5-K in Back Bay, each collecting their third win in the event.  For Huddle, who also holds the women’s event record of 14:50, today’s victory was her third in a row; Gebremeskel also won in 2013 and 2014.

Hampered by a strong headwind in the final two kilometers, times were modest for this typically fast race: 13:39 for Gebremeskel and 15:14 for Huddle.

The men’s race settled down quickly after the start adjacent to the iron-gated Public Garden.  Kennedy Kithuka, the 2012 NCAA cross country champion for Texas Tech, was the early leader, and he was immediately joined by Gebremeskel, three-time winner Ben True, last year’s runner-up Stephen Sambu, last year’s fourth place finisher Philip Langat and three others.  The pack passed the mile mark on Commonwealth Avenue in 4:25, and Kithuka quickly dropped back and out of contention.

Sambu, who won last month’s NYC Half, moved to the front where he said he feels most comfortable.

“The second mile I went in front,” Sambu told reporters.  He continued: “I like running in the front.  When I’m in front I feel strong.  I feel like I’m in control of the pace.”

After the U-turn at Charlsegate West about 2.5 km into the race, the pack hit the two-mile mark (3.2 km) in 8:53 and Sambu, in his purple Nike singlet, took the full brunt of the still headwind.  True, a head taller than the Kenyan, tucked in behind him as did Gebremeskel; Langat was off to Sambu’s left side.  As these four came down Boylston Street and through the Boston Marathon finish line, Gebremeskel –who has 12:46 5000m speed– began to set himself up for the finish.  He knows the course well.

“I tried to push myself at one kilometer (to go), the 2012 Olympic 5000m silver medalist told Race Results Weekly.  “I felt strong.  I tried to push.”

Gebremeskel took the lead before the final left turn on to Charles Street, and was in command of the race at least 200 meters from the finish.  Right behind him, True was able to stay close and finish second in 13:41, an excellent result for the former Dartmouth College star who had missed last month’s NYC Half with a nagging hip injury.

“It was good,” True told Race Results Weekly.  “It was my first race in seven and a half months.  The first 4-K felt great, but when Dejen made his move I didn’t have it.”

Sambu ended up a close third (13:44) followed by Americans Diego Estrada (13:54) and Joe Stilin (14:02).

Huddle had an easier time than Gebremeskel.  The 31 year-old, who has won 21 national titles, used the men running near her to shield her tiny frame from the wind. She was never seriously challenged by second place Buze Diriba of Ethiopia (15:28) and third place Caroline Chepkoech of Kenya (15:35).

“It was definitely a little breezy and chilly this year,” Huddle told the assembled media after donning a warm jacket.  “So, I was kind of trying to get behind some of the men if I could.”

Huddle said that unlike last year, her first kilometers were slower when Ethiopia’s Sentayehu Ejigu, Mamitu Daska and Gelete Burka pushed the pace, setting Huddle up for a course and American record time.

“I just wasn’t dragged as quickly out the first mile and a half,” said Huddle.  “Maybe that was the difference.  I don’t feel too bad now; similar to last year.”

With her victory here, Huddle duplicated the start of last year’s outdoor season when she won the NYC Half in March, then the B.A.A. 5-K in April.  She’ll move to the track next, and will run the 5000m at the Prefontaine Classic on May 28th.  At the USA Olympic Trials in July, she’ll defend her national title at 10,000m, and may also run the 5000m.

“I’m just getting into track shape and doing a little bit of faster stuff now,” Huddle said.  “I’ll go up to altitude (in Flagstaff, Ariz.) in May and do a month of really hard work before Prefontaine.”

Behind the top-3, Diane Nukuri of Burundi (15:43) and Emily Sisson –one of Huddle’s training partners in Providence under coach Ray Treacy– finished fifth (15:45).

For their victories here today, both Gebremeskel and Huddle earned $7500 in prize money out of a $39,000 purse.  About 10,000 runners registered for the race.

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