All-Army team tops Brazilians in 30th Army Ten-Miler

All-Army runner Spc. Aron Rono of the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program (bib No. 9) leads a pack of runners back across the Potomac River on the 14th Street Bridge, during the eighth mile of the 2014 Army Ten-Miler on Oct. 12, 2014, in Washington, D.C. Rono finished fourth in the race and was the first U.S. Army finisher with a time of 48 minutes, 45 seconds. The Brazilian Army trio of Solonei Da Silva (No. 1 in 48:28), Paulo Roberto Paula (No. 21 in 48:29) and Franck Almeida (No. 18 in 48:32) swept the top three spots. Photo Credit: Tim Hipps, IMCOM Public Affairs

WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Oct. 12, 2014) — Brazilian Army runner Solonel Da Silva successfully defended his crown, Kerri Gallagher again led the women, and the U.S. Army won the international team title Sunday in the 30th anniversary running of the Army Ten-Miler.

In the most deeply contested battle for 10-mile military road-racing supremacy that started and ended at the Pentagon, 15 runners had a shot at victory with three miles remaining.

“This was the first time there’s ever been a pack of 10 at six or seven miles and you had no idea who was going to win,” said All-Army coach Lt. Col. Liam Collins, 43, of West Point, N.Y., who finished his 20th Army Ten-Miler in 87th place Sunday with a time of 55:45.

During the final two miles, four runners pulled away and took turns setting the pace, before Da Silva prevailed with a winning time of 48 minutes, 28 seconds.

“I managed throughout, but I knew the last two miles was the heart of the course,” Da Silva, 32, of Sao Paulo, Brazil, said through an interpreter. “I prepared myself to give all I had left to finish first. Toward the end, it gets a little bit easier, so I just gave it that last bit of gas I had left and it worked out. It just feels really good to have a good showing by the Brazilian Army to show the world what the Brazilian Army is capable of doing.”

Da Silva’s Brazilian Army teammates, Paulo Roberto Paula (48:29) and Franck Almeida (48.32), finished second and third respectively, followed by Spc. Aron Rono (48:45), a member of the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program stationed at Fort Carson, Colorado, and Nicholas Kipruto (48:50) of Copperas Cove, Texas.

“Our plan was to have the whole All-Army team in place until about eight miles before we started stringing it out,” said Rono, 32, a native of Kenya who trains in Portland, Oregon. “And it worked really well. Usually by halfway, you have two or three runners up front, but today we had a bunch of people up front toward the end. We stayed together until mile eight when I took the lead and started pushing really hard. The Brazilian team was strong, so three of them, they just sat on me for half a mile. By mile nine, we had a huge gap on the next group of the guys.

“We just kept switching the lead back and forth during that last mile, until the last 800, they just took off and I didn’t have anything left. It was a great race. They got me by like 20 seconds in the last half mile. I just did not have any kick left.”

Rono’s recent training has been aimed at making his marathon debut in New York in three weeks.

“The pace was just too hard for me from nine miles on,” said Rono, who ran track and cross country for Azusa Pacific University from 2006-09. “My goal is to make the Olympic team in the marathon and get to the 2015 World Championships in the 10,000 meters on the track. The New York Marathon is going to be my next big test.”

Gallagher, 25, of Arlington, Virginia, led the women for the third consecutive year with a time of 54:50, and was followed by All-Army runner Spc. Caroline Jepleting (56:34) of Landstuhl, Germany; Caitlin Bullock (57:17) of Durham, North Carolina; Mahlet Behailu (57:34) of Columbia, Maryland, and Perry Shoemaker (58:05) of Vienna, Virginia.

Jepleting, 28, a native of Kenya, was an eight-time NCAA champion at Texas Tech University and a 12-time National Junior College All-American at New Mexico Junior College as a miler, 800-meter and cross country runner. She trained only two months for the Army Ten-Miler distance. She said her next goal is to join WCAP.

“It means my dream come true,” Jepleting said of her Army Ten-Miler debut. “I would say I am proud of the Army and representing the Army in a big race like this, and more races to come, I am proud. That big motivation I get is just ‘Hooah!”

Sgt. Augustus Maiyo (48:50) of WCAP and Spc. Hillary Bor (48:51) of Fort Carson, Colorado, finished sixth and seventh for the All-Army team. Spc. Laban Sialo (48:57), running for the Fort Carson team but not in the All-Army lineup, was eighth in 48:57, followed by Ben Payne (48:58) of Fort Walton Beach, Florida. Spc. Samuel Kosgei (48:59) of Fort Riley, Kansas, completed the All-Army scoring with a 10th-place finish that provided the winning margin.

“We knew it would be a really tough race given that they basically had their Olympic team, with a guy who was seventh in London and two other guys who had finished top 10 in the World Championships,” said All-Army coach Lt. Col. Liam Collins of West Point, N.Y.

“We were really happy to beat them. Part of our race strategy was instead of having our top guy pulling out the pace, we kind of held back and that allowed the pace to hold back so that everybody was a thick pack at six or seven miles and [the Brazilians] didn’t run away with it,” Collins said. “We really knew it would come down to that fourth guy, if our fourth guy could beat theirs by enough, we could pull off the win.”

Collins believes his 15 sub-55-minute finishes rank No. 1 in the history of the event. He and Browne epitomize the “Soldier for Life” mantra.

“It’s just kind of a lifestyle that we have,” Collins said.

It took an extra hour for race officials to determine the international team winner because of a glitch in the automated timing system that failed to recognize one of the U.S. Army team finishers as he crossed the finish line. They reviewed videotape to determine where Kosgei actually finished because he originally did not appear on the unofficial results. WCAP coach Maj. Dan Browne, one of the most decorated distance runners in U.S. military history, quickly noticed the miscue and alerted Army Ten-Miler scorers. The awards ceremony was delayed for more than an hour to sort it out.

“To explain what happened, when Samuel came across the line — because I saw the video — when he came across, like most runners do: the first thing you do is you go to hit your watch,” said George Banker, Army Ten-Miler operations manager. “When he hit his watch, he brought his arm up, that blocked the timing device, which is in the bib. That’s why he didn’t show up. It didn’t read it. We didn’t know that until the video was pulled up, and it was very clear, you can see his arm up and blocking that timing device.

“So when he came across, his arm was across his chest and it didn’t read, and that’s why he wasn’t in [the unofficial results]. Never a dull moment at the Army Ten-Miler — you will get your money’s worth.”

Proceeds from the event, which this year featured 35,000 registered runners, benefit Army Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation programs.

Banker was all smiles after seeing the battle waged up front, a race like no other Army Ten-Miler in 30 years of the event.

“There used to be a lot of space,” Banker said. “Now, the only space is elbow to elbow. They came in to do one thing, and that was to win. Second place doesn’t count in their books. … They had the right kind of weather, and the right kind of talent was there, one pushing another.”

Banker, who has been associated with all 30 Army Ten-Milers, put the late-race drama into perspective.

“That’s when the action always comes in,” Banker said. “It’s always been from miles eight to 10, if something’s going to happen — except in 1998 when Chris Graff broke away at six. Everybody thought he was going to come back, but they didn’t see him waving to them. And they couldn’t get him. And by the time they got to eight, he was gone.”

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