By Chris Lotsbom
(2-Apr) -- Organizers of the Carlsbad 5000 announced Monday that Olympic silver medalist Dejen Gebremeskel seeks to win his third straight title at the "World's Fastest 5-K" on Sunday, April 7. Joining Gebremeskel in the stellar field are Olympic 10,000m bronze medalist Tariku Bekele and IAAF World Junior Cross Country champion Hagos Gebrehiwet, both of Ethiopia, as well as American Leo Manzano, the Olympic 1500m silver medalist. Australia's Collis Birmingham, who earned a top-ten finish at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships, will also be competing.
Gebremeskel, 23, is a veteran of the 5-kilometer, multi-loop certified course, having won twice and finishing second in 2010. Only American Steve Scott, Kenyan Sammy Kipketer, and late Ethiopian Dejene Berhanu have ever captured three titles at the race, now in its 28th year.
In both 2011 and 2012, Gebremeskel timed 13:11 for the win. This race will be only his second of 2013 and first since February 2, when he finished third at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix 3000m. Winning that race was the 18-year-old Gebrehiwet.
Out of the entire field, Gebremeskel has the fastest 5000m personal best on the track, timing 12:46.81 last year. He will likely need that kind of track speed if he wants to claim the $5,000 first-place prize.
Yenew Alamirew, an Olympian who has a 12:48.77 personal best, and Ibrahim Jeilan, the 2011 world 10,000m champion, will join Gebremeskel, Bekele, and Gebrehiwet on the starting line making for a very strong Ethiopian squad.
"Yenew is more than Haile and Kenenisa [Bekele] as a runner of the 1,500 and 3,000 meters," said manager Jos Hermens in a statement from organizers. "With his speed and running style, he looks a lot like Daniel Komen. We think he can become a really good athlete. His preparation is huge, and all the things he does look really impressive."
For American Manzano, the race will be his debut at 5 km on the roads.
"I'm really excited to debut in the Carlsbad 5-K, my first road race 5-K ever, and the first time to race this year," Manzano said. "It's a great opportunity for me to run on home soil after last year's success. The distance is a bit longer than I'm used to, but I'm excited for a new challenge and to run against the world's best."
In 2012, the top American was Minnesota's Andrew Carlson in 15h, timing 14:13.
The Carlsbad 5000 offers a world record bonus of $10,000 on both the men's and women's sides. For men, the world record of 13:00 (12:59.5) was set there in 2000 by Kipketer.
The women's course record mark is 14:46, set by Ethiopia's Meseret Defar in 2006.
More than 10,000 people have competed in the Carlsbad 5000 over the past two years, with 5607 finishing the 2012 edition (not including the Junior Carlsbad the day before and the 5-K walk).
Races are broken down into nine sections run over a six hour period. They include Elite Invitational, Masters, 30-39, 29 and Under, and People's 5K Walk, as well as a Wheelchair Invitational division.