[caption id="attachment_1370" align="aligncenter" width="290"] Bruce Wodder, Photo Run[/caption]
By Barbara Huebner
Just a week ago, 19-year-old Gabriel Geay made his U.S. road-racing debut, finishing 10th in the B.A.A. 10K. Among the rivals in front of him were Daniel Salel, Philip Langat, and Abdi Abdirahman.
Those three ran well at the AJC Peachtree Road Race on Monday, too, finishing 2-3-4. But Geay, in the biggest race of his young life, recorded his biggest career victory by breaking away from Salel and Langat in the race’s final moments to win in 28:49.
Salel, a late entrant into the race, was given the same time in second, while Langat finished third in 28:52. Four-time Olympian Abdi Abdirahman was a surprise fourth in 29:24 to finish as top American. Winning the master’s division for the fourth-consecutive year was Kevin Castille, in 31:19.
“I’m very happy to win this race,” said Geay, the first winner from Tanzania since Filbert Bayi in 1984. “I hope I’m going to win other races. I pray for that.”
It’s likely that his prayers will be answered: His winning time at Peachtree bettered his week-old personal best—set on a flat course in ideal conditions—by more than 30 seconds. The temperature at the time the men finished on Monday was 78 degrees, with 82 percent humidity.
A pack of nine men went through 5K in 14:14, Geay tucked in among them with Langat, winner of the 2016 Lilac Bloomsday 12K, in the lead. A little after five miles, Geay—who won at 10,000 meters (28:04.98) at the Portland Track Festival in early June—took over.
“The guy tried to move and I chased him” said Salel, who was the first athlete across the line here last year in leading Team Africa to a Peachtree Cup victory.
A three-way battle to the finish would see Geay prevail over Salel by 15/100ths of a second.
“Those two Kenyans are very strong,” said Geay, confident of his speed but nonetheless unsure that it would be enough. “They push, and then we are finished.”
Geay and the women’s open winner, Edna Kiplagat, each took home $7,500, and were awarded the Peachtree Cup for their victories.
Finishing fourth and fifth, respectively, were Abdirahman and Jared Ward (29:29), on the 25th anniversary of the 1991 victory here of his coach, Ed Eyestone. On Team USA as a member of the Olympic marathon team for Rio, Ward called the race “hot, but fun. Hot, but fun. I feel good about how things went. I ran hard, I finished strong, I got a little bit of that heat simulator, and I got some practice taking water in the heat at that pace. So it was all good things building up to Rio next month.”
About Atlanta Track Club
Atlanta Track Club is a nonprofit committed to creating an active and healthy Atlanta. Through running and walking, Atlanta Track Club motivates, inspires and engages the community to enjoy a healthier lifestyle. With more than 24,000 members, Atlanta Track Club is the second largest running organization in the United States. In addition to the AJC Peachtree Road Race (peachtreeroadrace.org) – the largest 10K running event in the world, the Publix Georgia Marathon, Atlanta 10 Miler and Thanksgiving Day Half Marathon, Atlanta Track Club directs more than 30 events per year. Through the support of its members and volunteers, Atlanta Track Club also maintains a number of community initiatives including organizing and promoting the Kilometer Kids youth running program to metro Atlanta youth, honoring high school cross country and track and field athletes through Atlanta Track Club’s All-Metro Banquets and supporting the Grady Bicycle EMT program. For more information on Atlanta Track Club, visit atlantatrackclub.org.
About the AJC Peachtree Road Race
The AJC Peachtree Road Race is a 10K event that takes place every Fourth of July in Atlanta, Georgia. The first Peachtree was held in 1970 and featured 110 finishers. The AJC Peachtree Road Race is now the largest 10K running event in the world with 60,000 participants. The AJC Peachtree Road Race is perhaps most famous for the coveted AJC Peachtree Road Race T-shirt, which is handed out to all the event finishers. For more information on the AJC Peachtree Road Race visit peachtreeroadrace.org or AJC.com/peachtree.
About The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is the leading source – both in print and online – of news, information and advertising for metropolitan Atlanta, reaching a total print and online audience of 1.7 million people each week. Every month, nearly 6.4 million unique visitors access the newspaper's websites, including AJC.com, myAJC.com and accessAtlanta.com. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is part of Cox Media Group, a publishing, digital media and broadcasting subsidiary of Atlanta-based Cox Enterprises.