Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Elite Field Announced for Boston Marathon

In its 22nd year as principal sponsor of the Boston Marathon, John Hancock announced its elite team of 25 marathon runners from eight countries today, including American Olympic bronze medalist Deena Kastor, defending champions Rita Jeptoo and Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot of Kenya and past champion Hailu Negussie of Ethiopia.

Defending champion Cheruiyot broke the course record last year and is ready for a rematch with 2006 runner-up Benjamin Maiyo and 2005 champion Negussie. Cheruiyot is also the points leader in the World Marathon Majors Series and won the Chicago Marathon this past fall, earning the distinction as the only man to have ever won both marathons in the same year. Negussie returns as only the second Ethiopian man to win in Boston, and he is highly motivated to gain back the title.

Maiyo has finished runner-up in three big races: Boston, Chicago and Los Angeles, and is ready to stand atop the podium.Chasing the trio is a talented pack led by 2:06 marathoner Robert Cheboror, the 2004 Boston runner-up; Philip Manyim, the 2005 Berlin Marathon champion and Stephen Kiogora, the 2006 New York City runner-up.

Also challenging for the title are four men with key marathon wins in 2006: James Kwambai, the Beijing and Brescia champion; Ruggero Pertile, the Padova winner; Teferi Wodajo, the Cologne champion and Hosea Rotich, the Nairobi winner and course record holder. Added to the mix are 2005 Zurich winner Stanley Leleito, the 2005 Marathon of Italy champion Stephen Biwott, Moroccan stand-out Mohammed El Hattab, and rising talent Tekeste Kebede of Ethiopia. Making his debut is Samuel Ndereba, the 2006 BAA Boston Half Marathon champion and brother of four-time women’s winner Catherine Ndereba.

On the women’s side, the top three ranked women in the world are part of the John Hancock Elite Team and will compete for the win. Olympian and American Record Holder Deena Kastor will face defending champion Rita Jeptoo and last year’s runner-up Jelena Prokopcuka. The talent of the women’s field is undisputed as seven of the top ten women set their personal best times in 2006 and are in peak form.

Kastor leads the charge and comes into the race having run the fastest marathon in the world last year. She earned the #1 ranking by Track & Field News for her unstoppable 2:19:36 win in London, where she also improved her existing American record. Best known for her inspirational bronze medal performance in the 2004 Athens Olympic Marathon, Kastor is also a multiple American record holder on the roads and track. With roots in the Boston area, Kastor should prove to be a crowd favorite.

The #2 ranked woman in the world, Olympian Jelena Prokopcuka of Latvia, brings strong credentials as the points leader in the World Marathon Majors Series and as the winner of the New York City Marathon the past two years.

Rita Jeptoo, ranked #3, is the defending Boston Marathon champion and will not give up her title easily. After her win last year, Jeptoo ran the fourth fastest 20K of all time and then went on to finish a strong fourth in New York City.