Running: Can Ethiopians maintain their hold on Shelter Island 10K?

GARRET MEADE FILE PHOTO | Alena Reta of Ethiopia won the Shelter Island 10K Run for the second time in four years last year, clocking a record time of 28 minutes 40 seconds.

Will Ethiopian runners maintain their grip on the Shelter Island 10K Run?

That question will be answered Saturday when the race is run for the 32nd time.

Ethiopians featured prominently in last year’s event. Alena Reta of Ethiopia was the top male finisher for the second time in four years. Reta took one second off the course record he set in 2007 by clocking a winning time of 28 minutes 40 seconds over the 6.2-mile distance.

Reta was followed by fellow countrymen Kumsa Adunga (29:44), Ketema Nigusse (29:46) and Demesse Tefera (29:49). Yet another Ethiopian might have finished among them, but Dereji Tadesse dropped out of the race about midway through it with back pain.

Even so, Ethiopian runners dominated the top spots, taking the top six finishes.

Ehiopians grabbed two of the top three places in the women’s race. Emebet Bacha Lencho won in 34:26 and was ninth overall. Right behind her was Anzhelika Averoka of the Ukraine in 34:49 and Irene Limika of Ethiopia in 34:51.

Two former Olympic marathoners, Bill Rodgers and Joan Benoit Samuelson, will return to run on Shelter Island. Both are looking to avenge second-place finishes in their respective age divisions last year.

Rodgers, a living symbol of the 1970s running boom, won the Boston and New York City marathons four times each between 1975 and 1980, twice breaking the American record in Boston. He finished 40th in the 1976 Olympics in Montreal.

This will be Rodgers’ third appearance in the Shelter Island race.

“I love the whole feeling to this event,” Rodgers told The Shelter Island Reporter after running a time of 43:48 in last year’s race. “In a way, this is the best of road racing. The big races like the New York City Marathon are cool in a certain way. But this, here, is where people begin to explore the sport and really test themselves. … It’s where it all happens.”

Samuelson won gold in the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, the year the first women’s marathon was introduced. She holds the fastest times for an American woman in the Chicago and the Olympic marathons.

Last year Samuelson took part in the Golden Girls Gallop, a new prize competition for women 50 and older in the Shelter Island 10K Run. The first Golden Girls Gallop winner was Carmen Ayala-Troncoso of Austin, Texas, who posted a time of 37:38. She was followed by Samuelson in 37:44.

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