World-class runner Ellie Kieffer keeps a low profile in Austin, but when she races, she wins.
Entering this year’s 3M Half Marathon at the last minute, Kieffer took advantage of perfect running conditions on Sunday morning – 40 and clean – to add another victory to her racing resume in Austin, while Joseph Grey, world mountain champion running, topped the list. male field.
Even though Kieffer has a great record in Austin, Sunday’s 3M win was something of a redemption for her. Competing in the highly competitive Barron Collier Companies Naples Half Marathon last week in Florida, she veered off course, losing her lead to fourth place.
“I took a wrong turn on Naples Half so I couldn’t cross the line first,” Kieffer said. “So today I thought, ‘I want to win.’ I felt pretty competitive.
“I wasn’t going to race today,” she added. “At first I was just going to go through it with a friend, but I couldn’t find it at the beginning.”
Kieffer started from the starting line at Stonelake Boulevard in North Austin at a fast pace of 5 minutes 52 seconds per mile, with Karen Bertasso-Hughes and Shannon Gaden trailing by about 50 yards. Kieffer completed the 5K in 18:14 with Bertasso-Hughes just nine seconds behind.
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The 3M race is known for its “downtown descent” course, and Kieffer worked every descent. By the 10K mark (36:31) on Great Northern Boulevard, she was 23 seconds ahead of Bertasso-Hughes.
“When I got about 3 miles ahead, I just didn’t look back,” Kieffer said.
She stepped on the gas after the 15 km (9.3 mi) mark on Shoal Creek Boulevard, slowing down to 5:50 per mile, more than a minute ahead of Bertasso-Hughes. Kieffer crossed the finish line at San Jacinto Boulevard in 1:16:24, leaving Bertasso-Hughes and Gaden to battle for second. Gadeen dominated from 1:17:00 to 1:17:49. Caroline Brooks finished fourth in 1:17:53 and Elizabeth Laceter rounded out the top five in 1:18:04.
“Ellie was so far ahead that we were just fighting for second,” said Gaden, an Austin rookie from Denver. “I was able to catch her (Bertasso-Hughes) about 10 miles away.”
“I’m really happy. … I felt surprisingly good. I needed to win this race,” said Kieffer, who plans to run the Ascension Seton Austin half marathon next month and hopes to run the Olympic marathon qualification next fall at the BMW Berlin Marathon.
The men’s race featured an exciting duel between Colorado Springs’ Gray and Austin’s Mitch Ammons, a 2024 Olympic marathon qualifier.
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Gray, Ammons and UT ace Kobe Yepez formed a leading group in the opening miles, breaking the 5k mark together in 15:17. But after that, it was a two-man race when Gray and Ammons pulled away. Ammons took a 10k lead, breaking the 30:33 mark, just six seconds ahead of Gray. But by 15K (45:52) they were step by step, with 2019 3M champion Michael Morris finishing third ahead of Yepes.
In the sprint to the finish line, Gray overtook Ammons in 1:04:23 to 1:04:27. Morris, head track and cross country coach at San Marcos High School, finished third in 1:06:07, Al Maeder was fourth in 1:06:31, and Yepez was fifth in 1:06:51. .
“It was my first race this year. This is actually my first race in a long time, so I wanted to be smart and run progressively,” said Gray, a dominant figure in Colorado mountain running. “Mitch is a strong runner and he really tried hard.”
Approximately 4,500 runners completed the race finishing fifth in the Austin Distance Challenge. The sixth and final event is the Austin Marathon on February 19th.
“I found out two minutes before the race that there was a mountain running champion running the half marathon in 1:03,” Ammons said. “We were jumping back and forth all the way. He led the climbs and I led the descents. It was very funny. My time was my personal best by over a minute and I wouldn’t have been running as fast if it wasn’t for Joe. He pushed me hard. I really, really tried to catch him on the last straight. I gave him everything I had.”