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International runners have banner day

June 05, 2006|by ANDREW MASON

SHARPSBURG - The "Star-Spangled Banner" was sung before the start of the 27th annual Run Through History 10K at Antietam National Battlefield on Sunday morning.

The national anthems of Russia and Ethiopia would have been appropriate for the post-race award ceremony as runners from those countries dominated on the hilly 6.2-mile course.

Garmessa Kumessa, a 27-year-old Ethiopian living in Oxon Hill, Md., won the men's race in 30 minutes, 20.0 seconds. Elena Orlova, a 36-year-old Russian living in Gaithersburg, Md., won the women's race in a course-record 34:41.2, breaking Kristy Johnston's 1998 mark of 35:17.1.

Kumessa and Orlova both led from start to finish, each winning by more than 2 minutes. Both needed interpreters to be interviewed after the race, which gave out $1,700 in total prize money.

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"It was hard, up and down, so I couldn't get my record," said Kumessa, whose personal record for a 10K road race is 28:13. "But I'm happy."

Kumessa averaged 4:53 per mile, turning in the second-fastest winning time in race history. Lazarus Nyakeraka's 29:40.7 from 1994 is the course record.

"I went through the first mile in 5:12 and I couldn't even see (Kumessa). It was crazy," said Dan Helfrick, 22, who finished second in 32:24.2.

Helfrick - the former James Buchanan High School star who recently finished a standout collegiate career at Shippensburg University - was in fifth place at the halfway point, with two of Kumessa's fellow countrymen and Mike Hatch of Philadelphia within striking distance.

"Right after the turnaround, I made a surge on the hill and caught Hatch," Helfrick said. "Then we worked together to catch the Ethiopians."

Haile Gelalcha, 20, finished third in 32:29.4, edging Hatch, 23, for the final cash prize by a second.

Orlova was the top cash winner, taking home $300 for the victory and another $200 for the course record.

"I really wanted to beat the record," she said. "I felt good, but it was hard because of the hills. I didn't know how hard it was going to be."

Susan Graham-Gray, 38, of Greencastle, Pa., who was the three-time defending champ, finished second in 37:18.5 - faster than any of her winning times. Jill Krebs, 25, of New Windsor, Md., took third in 37:38.3.

The Masters (40-and-over) titles were won by Dennis Mickey, 41, of Ridgely, W.Va., in 36:46.6 and Laura Nelson, 40, of Woodstock, Va., in 41:05.8. Mickey was the overall men's champ in 2001. Nelson, a South Hagerstown graduate, won the race five times, most recently in 2001.

There were 220 official finishers.

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