Rodriguez holds on to win BAA Half-Marathon
BOSTON -- Cele Rodriguez was sworn in as a U.S. citizen less than two weeks ago, and on Sunday he showed why he already is considered one of this country's most promising young distance runners.
Rodriguez shrugged off a rain-soaked course and a late surge by Kenya's Samuel Ndereba to win the fifth Boston Athletic Association Half-Marathon with a personal-best time of 1 hour, 4 minutes, 8 seconds.
Rodriguez, a native of Mexico City, took the lead in the first mile and held on to win his first race as a professional.
"I wasn't hurting, and I've been taught if you're hurting, you're most likely to be looking back," Rodriguez said. "I didn't even want to give them the idea that I was hurting. I just didn't want to give them any confidence."
Rodriguez was leading by 30 seconds after 11 miles before Ndereba, whose sister Catherine is a four-time Boston Marathon champion, made his move. Ndereba gained 10 seconds on Rodriguez in the 11th mile and pulled within 10 seconds in the final 2.1 miles, but he couldn't catch him.
Ndereba finished with a time of 1:04:20. Abderrahim Haji of Morocco finished third with a time of 1:04:25.
"We were thinking when he went fast in the first mile that he'd die," Ndereba said. "But this guy never died. When we were running toward the finish line, he looked stronger. He was not weak, he was not dying."
Rodriguez, a 14-time Division II All-American, is a student at Adams State College in Alamosa, Colo., but he exhausted his athletic eligibility there last spring. He said training in Colorado's altitude and cold weather helped him endure Sunday morning's rainy, chilly weather.
Nataliya Berkut of Ukraine won the women's race with a time of 1:12:20, defeating American Jen Rhines by 35 seconds. Firaya Sultanova-Zhdanova of Russia finished third at 1:15:18.
Berkut and Rhines ran side-by-side for much of the race before Berkut pulled away in the final few miles.
"She put in another surge at about 10½ miles and I couldn't match," Rhines said. "I didn't have the turnover in my legs today."
Rodriguez and Berkut each collected $5,000 for winning their respective races.
"I'm a pretty broke college student, so it's good for me," Rodriguez said. "I needed to fix my car."
Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press
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