Ondoro, Assefa claim Houston Marathon Titles
HOUSTON (AP) Kenya's Dominic Ondoro won his first Houston Marathon and seventh overall since 2013 on Sunday.
Ondoro was right with Ethiopia's Yitayal Atanfu, the 2016 runner-up in Houston, before pulling away winning with a time of 2:12:05. Ondoro is the first Kenyan runner to win the marathon since David Cheruiyot in 2008, snapping a streak of eight years where an Ethiopian runner won.
In his previous two outings at the Houston Marathon, Ondoro finished fourth in 2013 and fifth in 2014.
''The other years I did not know the course well.'' Ondoro said. ''I'm very happy.''
Ethiopia's Meskerem Assefa won her first ever marathon title, taking the women's title. Assefa defeated the 2016 defending champion Biruktayit Degefa with a time of 2:30:18.
This was Assefa's 11th marathon since making the jump up in distance in 2013. She previously finishing second at the 2015 Hong Kong Marathon, 2014 Houston Marathon and 2013 Vienna Marathon.
''I wanted win and I worked hard,'' Assefa said. ''Obviously I wasn't feeling well. I concentrated on running fast. Despite I was having difficulties I wasn't going to let anything to stop me from running. I finished second place before but I was determined to win first place this time.''
American Leonard Korir pushed past two-time Houston Men's Half Marathon champion Feyisa Lilesa of Ethiopia at the last second to win his second half marathon of his career. Korir is the 11th American to win the Houston Men's Half Marathon and registered the sixth-fastest time.
Korir officially crossed the finish line at 1:01:14, beating Lilesa, a silver medalist for Ethiopia in the 2016 Olympics in the men's marathon, by one second.
''Today the race it didn't go as planned, we expected fast times but with 200 to go battling for the win I told myself I have to win,'' Korir said. ''I ran as fast I as I could and hopefully I could take first.''
This marks the second time in the Houston Men's Half Marathon the race was decided by just one second. In 2004, Gilbert Koech beat Dan Browne by one second.
Korir is less than a week removed from winning the Greater Edinburgh Cross Country Race men's 8K race.
''I had a great race last week and I used that race as a motivation to go to the next race,'' Korir said.
Veronica Wanijru of Kenya won the Houston Women's Half Marathon with a personal best of 1:07:58, winning by nine seconds. Wanjiru is the second Kenyan native to win this event, joining 2016 champion Mary Wacera.
''I feel good because I won,'' Wanijru said. ''I was trying to run it in 66 (minutes) but I didn't make it because of the humidity.''
American Jordan Hasay with a time of 1:08:40 broke Shalane Flanagan's 2010 record of 1:09:41 for the best performance by an American. Hasay finished fourth in her half marathon debut.
''I was confident in my training but it was my first one,'' Hasay said. ''I wasn't really sure how it was going to go. We were hoping for somewhere in the 68 minute range.''