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Sunday, December 4, 2011
Relay team bests White Rock winner

By Randy Jennings
ESPNDallas.com

DALLAS -- Beating the defending champion turned out to be no trouble for 2011 MetroPCS Dallas White Rock Marathon winner John Itati.

But holding off an elite high school relay team composed of 10 boys and six girls -- that was a different story.

Itati, a 37-year-old Kenyan, splashed his way to victory over the wet streets of Dallas on Sunday morning, winning the 42nd edition of the "Rock" with a time of 2 hours, 17 minutes and 21 seconds.

Content to stay off the lead for the first 20 miles, Itati put away countryman James Kirwa, the 2010 White Rock champion, with a pass at the 21-mile mark.

The $5,000 winner's check was assured for Itati as he neared Fair Park and the finish line, but there was also the matter of an extra $1,500 that would come his way if he could hold off the high school relay.

After briefly taking a lead near mile 16, the relay team had fallen out of sight of the leaders.

But unbeknownst to Itati, relay anchor Virgilio Martinez was eating up ground in the final two miles.

"I didn't see him until right before he ran by me," said Itati, who tried unsuccessfully to respond. "My legs were tired by then."

Martinez, a senior cross country star at Arlington High, said his stretch run was aided by the sight of Itati up ahead "getting bigger and bigger."

After Martinez passed Itati with about a mile to go, he kept looking back to make sure there wasn't a final move by the Kenyan.

Martinez called Itati and the Kenyans "role models for all of us."

Itati said he planned to celebrate his victory by spending time with his family.

Kirwa, the defending champion, held on to finish runner-up with a time of 2:18.41, one second off the time that he posted while winning the race in much better weather a year ago.

Tyler McCandless, a Penn State All-American in the 10,000 meters in 2010, was low American and third overall with a 2:24.28.

Waco's Jeff Sadler, 23, had the top finish by a Texan with a 2:29.14, fourth overall. Sadler won the half-marathon last year.

• The cold, damp weather didn't faze women's marathon champion Natalya Sergeyeva, who ran a career-best time of 2:35.18.

If anything, Sunday's conditions made the 27-year-old feel right at home. She has been training in her native Russia in similar weather to what she encountered in the streets of Dallas.

Sergeyeva had a five-minute cushion over second-place female contestant Hyvon Ngetich of Kenya. Ngetich, running a day before her 27th birthday, finished in 2:40.18, well shy of her personal-best 2:34.42 run in Chile earlier this year.

• Plano native Scott MacPherson, a former three-time All-American at the University of Arkansas, breezed to an easy victory in the men's half-marathon in 1:06.53.

"I was out there for fun," said MacPherson, a running star at Plano Senior High in the mid-2000s. "Traction was a little more difficult with the wet conditions."

MacPherson currently trains with Team Rogue in Austin with an eye toward his dream of running professionally and reaching the Olympics.

• Dallas' Sonya Correra, a 30-year-old personal trainer, won the women's half-marathon in 1:21.06. Correra is a 10-year runner but has been trying to stretch out for longer races in the last year. She was competing in a half-marathon for only the second time.

Notable

The event was a sellout with an announced 25,000 participants, an increase of 3,000 over last year. … The DWRM has pledged a $1 million donation thanks to this year's race to its charity of choice, Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children. … Record times of 2:12.04 (men) and 2:29.55 (women) set in 2006 were not threatened. … Changes implemented to speed up the start reduced the wait by 20 minutes for those at the back of the pack.

Randy Jennings covers running for ESPNDallas.com.