Kenya’s Kogo wins 5th straight Parkersburg Half title

PARKERSBURG – Simply put, it was another 13.1-mile race of domination at Saturday’s running of the 28th edition of the News and Sentinel Half Marathon, which perhaps should just change its name to the Julius Kogo Invitational.

For the fifth consecutive year, Kogo – a 29-year-old Kenyan – captured the top prize of $3,000 by finishing first in a time of 1 hour, 2 minutes and 25 seconds. Fellow countrymen Jacob Chemtai (1:04.07) and Betram Keter (1:04:17) battled closely for runner-up honors.

Chemtai managed to secure second and the $2,000 prize. Keter nabbed $1,500 and Patrick Cheptoek of Uganda finished in 1 hour, 4 minutes and 34 seconds to claim the $1,000 for fourth place.

“I just pushed, and you know, I had a decent time,” said Kogo, who established the course record of 1 hour, 1 minute and 47 seconds when he captured his second straight title back in 2011.

On what turned out to be a nearly perfect day for running, featuring a cool temperature of 52 degrees for the 8 a.m. start, Kogo definitely wasn’t pushed.

Following an opening mile of 4:45 and a 4:49 clocking for the second mile, it was just Kogo and a small pack of five other runners battling for the lead. Aside from Kogo, who will be going after a fifth straight Crim Festival of Races 10 Mile crown next Saturday in Flint, Mich., the pack consisted of Chemtai, Keter, Cheptoek, Kenyan Simon Chirchir and Tekeste Mekatibeb of Ethiopia.

“He loves the rolling hills, but I expected more challenge than this,” said Kogo’s agent, Ben Kurgat. “(Next weekend) he’s going to try and make it five in a row, double. He’s won all of them four years in a row, so it’s going to be historic.”

Chemtai, who is 27, said this was the first time he’s raced in Parkersburg.

“I felt good and the weather was good,” he said. “I like the course. It is not hard.”

Kogo, who arrived in the United States from his homeland on Wednesday and flew into North Carolina, last raced at the end of May in Portugal. Since then, he just trained at home and focused on winning another title in Parkersburg.

“I just trained because you know I’m going to tackle some hills and valleys here,” Kogo added. “Thank you for the people of here because when I’m running they have been cheering me and I did well.

“I’m feeling happy to win this five times. Thank you (the fans) and I thank God who gave me the strength. At seven or eight miles I was just running against my time.”