ATLANTA – July 4, 2015 – When Tyler Pennel, Christo Landry, and Bobby Curtis crossed the finish line 2-3-4 behind Daniel Salel, Team USA put itself in great position to win the inaugural Peachtree Cup competition at the 2015 AJC Peachtree Road Race.
When Team USA captain Shalane Flanagan came down the final hill as the first woman to finish, it looked as if Team USA had things sewn up.
But then came Buze Diriba and Caroline Kilel of Team Africa. And then Christelle Daunay and Elena Nagovitsyna of Team Europe. Would an American be next?
No. It was Team Africa’ s Valentine Kibet, the cousin of five-time AJC Peachtree Road Race winner and course record-holder Lornah Kiplagat, who showed more than a little of her cousin’s mettle as she guaranteed Team Africa’s victory, then veered to the sidelines and collapsed from the effort.
Team Africa triumphed in 3:06:29 to Team USA’s 3:07:35, with Team Europe third in 3:09:48 and the young Team Asia squad fourth in 3:15:58. Of the $81,000 prize purse, Team Africa’s first place finish earned them $42,000.
“I believe this is going to take off,” said Flanagan of the mixed-gender team competition. “This concept adds another layer of depth to this race that I think is going to catch on, not just in the U.S. but around the world.”
In the open division of the AJC Peachtree Road Race, Scott Overall, 32, of Great Britain edged out Ben Payne of the Pikes Peak Elite Track Club in a thrilling photo finish, the first in the 46-year history of the event. Overall, a 2012 Olympian in the marathon, came from behind in the final strides to nip Payne at the line by nine one-hundredths of a second, 29:30 to 29.31.
“It was pretty much as tight as it could be,” said Payne, 33, who hadn’t realized that Overall was closing on him. “He happened to have a just a little extra kick there at the end and out-leaned me, literally.
Winning the women’s race in the open division was Alexi Pappas, 25, of Eugene, OR, in 33:28.
On the masters side, 43-year-old Kevin Castille of Lafayette, LA, won for the third consecutive year, in 30:38, while Jen Rhines, 41, of Boston, MA, defended her title in 34:41.
But it was the four-team Peachtree Cup competition that highlighted the rainy morning. Team USA looked good from the start, with Curtis taking the lead early for the men and Flanagan for the women. Flanagan, 33, would tuck into the pack now and then until she found herself in the lead on Cardiac Hill “by accident” and remained there, finishing eight seconds ahead of Team Africa’s Buze Diriba, 21, of Ethiopia.
Meanwhile, the men on Team USA were in a close battle all the way. By the midpoint of the 10K, the lead pack included all three Americans plus Salel; Team Africa captain Gebre Gebremariam of Ethiopia, and Team Europe captain Daniele Meucci of Italy; in the homestretch after the only turn in the race, from iconic Peachtree Road into 10th Street and the finish, it was a duel between Salel and Pennel. In the end, the Kenyan—who two weeks ago won the B.A.A. 10K in even wetter conditions—surged with about 200 meters remaining to prevail by two seconds, 28:43 to 28:45.
“I thought maybe I could get him in a kick, but it just didn’t happen this year,” said Pennel, 27, who finished second here last year in the USA 10K Championships.
Gebremariam said that his Team Africa men were happy with their tactic of running conservatively for the first 5K but were nonetheless surprised by the strength of the Americans.
“They ran hard,” said Gebremariam.
“The teams were fun,” said Salel. “I like it. I like it.”