(04-Jul) -- Proving that experience counts, veterans Stephanie Bruce and Bernard Lagat executed tactically brilliant races at today's AJC Peachtree Road Race in Atlanta, each taking home their first USA 10-kilometer road running titles. For Bruce, 34, of Flagstaff, Ariz., today's win in a personal best 32:21 represented her first-ever national title, while Lagat of Tucson, Ariz., won his 15th overall national title --but his first on the roads-- in 28:42. At 43 years-old, Lagat became the oldest-ever USA 10-K champion. Both athletes won $10,000 in prize money.
PHOTO: Stephanie Bruce in disbelief after wining her first USA 10-K road running title at the 2018 AJC Peachtree Road Race (photo by Warren Travers; used with permission)
Both Bruce and Lagat used patience to their advantage today. In the women's contest, Bruce hung back with chasers Sara Hall, Allie Kieffer, and Gwen Jorgensen after her Hoka One One Northern Arizona Elite teammate Aliphine Tuliamuk, the defending champion, took off past halfway and built up a sizable lead. Bruce worked first with Hall to catch Tuliamuk, then dropped the reigning USA marathon champion to reel in her teammate. She drew even with her with about 400 meters to go, then powered away for the win. Tuliamuk got second in 32:29, Hall third in 32:41, and Kieffer fourth in 32:52.
"It was a long time coming," Bruce told race organizers, the Atlanta Track Club. "I knew how strong [Aliphine] was, but this was just years of accumulated work and believing in myself. This may be the highlight of my career this far, and it's exciting to do it in Atlanta."
Lagat ignored the early breakaway attempt of Augustus Maiyo of the U.S. Army team, stayed tucked in the pack after Maiyo was caught just past the 5-kilometer mark, then sat at the back of a five-man group of Haron Lagat (no relation), Lopez Lomong (the recently-crowned national 10,000m champion), Tyler Pennel, and Sam Chelanga in the final stages of the race. Lagat knew what was coming next.
PHOTO: Bernard Lagat displays the U.S. flag after winning his first USA 10-K road running title at the 2018 AJC Peachtree Road Race (Photo by USATF; used with permission)
"I hung in as much as I could and waited patiently until the last minute," Lagat said in a text message to Race Results Weekly.
Chelanga was the first to crack in the final kilometer, then Pennel, then Lomong. The taller Haron Lagat tried mightily to hang on his namesake, but the five-time Olympian's sizzling drive to the finish left his rivals gasping behind him in Atlanta's warm and sticky air.
"I was fifth last year and I wasn't satisfied," Lagat told race organizers. "So I told Atlanta Track Club that I was going to come back and I was going to win. I trained so hard, but it was worth the sacrifice and it means so much to win because it's on July Fourth."
Haron Lagat got second in 28:48, followed by Pennel in 28:49, the Chelanga in 28:56 and Lomong in 28:57.
The AJC Peachtree Road Race is part of the USATF Running Circuit.