CLARKSBURG -- For James Koskei, last weekend's second-place finish at the Bix 7 in Iowa was as close to a slump as he would get. The world's No. 1 ranked road racer bounced back with his eighth victory since April, winning the fifth annual Greater Clarksburg 10K.
The 33-year-old Kenyan won with a time of 28:30, breaking the former course record of 28:32 set by Khalid Khannouchi in the inaugural year for the race. Koskei held off fellow countrymen Evans Rutto (28:31) and Gilbert Koech (28:31) for one of the closest finishes in the race's history.
Rutto, 23, is regarded as one of the sports' top up-and-comers. He has two victories this season and was fifth in the world cross-country championship in 1999.
Catherine Ndereba of Kenya won her second Greater Clarksburg 10K women's title. Ndereba, who also won in 1999, took first with a time of 33:15.
"Actually, I expected a tight race," Koskei said. "That last stretch went very fast. I had to push a bit."
Koskei will run next week in the Beach to Beacon in Boston. By winning the overall men's competition and breaking the course record, Koskei took home $4,000.
The hills, which often lead to the demise of many other runners, actually played a key part in Koskei's victory.
"(The hills) are good for me," he said. "That's what I like."
Koskei was part of a four-man group which pulled away from the pack with 800 meters remaining. Koskei, who took his first lead at the one-mile mark, assumed first for good in the final 600-meter stretch on Main Street.
Ndereba finished just in front of Gladys Asiba (33:17) and Eyerusalem Kuma (33:18). The title could've been the third for Ndereba. She appeared to have won in 1998, but was disqualified when she was late for the start of the race.
"I was very happy to come back and run this 10K," Ndereba said. "It has a very good layout and has very good competitors.
"I wanted to stay with the rest of (the women's field) for a while. It makes for an easier race for everyone. I wasn't worried, though."
Ndereba actually fell behind Asiba in the final stretch, but said she felt she was in position to win. So far, she has yet to be defeated this year. The No. 1 ranked women's road racer in 1999 and 2000 now has victories in the Clarksburg 10K and last weekend's Bix race. Next week, she will join the field in the Beach to Beacon.
In the master's division (40-and-over), Russia's Andrey Kuznetson, 42, was first in the men's division (30:45) and 20th overall, while Nancy Tinari, 42, was the women's master's champ and 47th overall (35:11).
Sports writer Mike Nutter can be reached at 626-1444 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org