For the first time in three years the Bluegrass 10,000 men's division crown was placed on a new head as Julius Koskei blazed through the 6.2-mile race with a winning time of 30:11.
Koskei, who trains out of Hebron, finished 35 seconds ahead of second-place finisher Luis Orta. The two runners were glued to the hip for the first three miles, but Koskei pulled away and increased his lead throughout the final miles of the race.
"It feels good," Koskei said of the win. "Everybody was cheering. The last mile is good. It's a good course, the last mile is down (hill) and then a good stretch to the finish."
Under a hazy, overcast morning, a crowd of 3,087 lined up to compete in the annual race. Once the gun went off, it came down to just four runners in the men's division.
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Antonio Marchi, the defending two-time champion, set the pace with Koskei; Orta, a University of Kentucky graduate; and fourth-place finisher Luka Ndungu grouped together.
Four then became three after the third turn when Marchi fell behind. Ndungu also started to drop back after briefly pulling in front with Orta during the second mile.
Koskei had a brief taste of the lead as the race turned onto East Main Street, but Orta quickly evened it up.
"I see this guy is very strong," Koskei said of Orta. "I decided to hang around and I saw the third mile and I know now I must. It's almost halfway and I decided to get my body moving."
Koskei started to pull ahead after the two runners passed Desha Road. The lead stretched to 10 feet after Irvine Road and up to 20 feet after Sycamore Road.
"I was trying to go with him," Orta said. "But the pace was too fast. I wasn't feeling that good at mile three so I let him go and then after that it was really difficult going strong."
The lead ballooned up to a quarter mile after Koskei hit the turnaround point. As the Kenyan entered the home stretch after the fifth mile marker, he started to pass the other runners.
He entered the home stretch to a crescendo of cheers from spectators and well wishers who cheered him on with cowbells and signs.
"It feels good," Koskei said as he walked around the finish chute. "It feels good."
■ Greg Queen won his 11th consecutive title in the hand-cycle wheelchair division with a time of 19:08. He finished 12:26 faster than second-place finisher David Hartsek.