Rodriguez defends men’s title in Pittsburgh Half Marathon
Antonio Cardona Rodriguez left with the Pittsburgh Half Marathon championship last year.
He competed and trained over the past 12 months with the opportunity to return and defend his title in the back of his mind.
On Sunday morning, the 22-year-old from Coamo, Puerto Rico, again found himself on the top rung of the ladder.
Rodriguez won with a time of 1 hour, 5 minutes and 8 seconds, and it is a personal best for any race at any location.
He sliced more than three minutes from last year’s winning time of 1:08:42.
“This year, it was the same. I love coming here,” said Rodriguez, who next will compete in a full marathon Sept. 29 in Berlin, with an extended eye on the U.S. Olympic Trials in February in Atlanta.
“The crowd on the route was amazing,” he said. “Pittsburgh is one of the biggest races in my career.”
Rodriguez said the weather — in the mid 50s with periods of light rain — was good for all the runners.
Luis Rivera Rodriguez, also of Puerto Rico, placed second in 1:05:28.
More than 11,700 participated in the men’s and women’s half marathons.
Stephanie Bonk, a 2008 Montour graduate who lives in Houston, captured the women’s half marathon with a time of 1:22:02. It was Bonk’s first half marathon in Pittsburgh, but she had run the relay a couple of times.
“The weather was perfect, and you don’t have to work as hard to keep your body cool, which is good,” Bonk said. “I’m not used to running hills anymore in Houston, so getting over the Birmingham Bridge was a little tough. But I got through it. I got a downhill finish, which was great.”
Bonk cherished the response from the crowd as she came down the final stretch.
“I knew my parents were out there somewhere, and I know they were pretty proud,” said Bonk, who ran track and cross country at Purdue.
USA Track and Field staged its national half marathon championships in Pittsburgh for the second year in a row, and Leonard Korir brought home the men’s title with a Pittsburgh half-marathon course record of 1:01:53.
Korir, the 2017 USATF half marathon national champion, placed fifth in Pittsburgh last year (1:03:24).
“This was very good because last year was disappointing for me. I was so angry,” said Korir, who surpassed the previous course record of 1:02:32 established in 2013. “I was well-prepared and so motivated to win this year.
“When I had the finish tape in sight, I knew I just had to keep pressing and give everything I had left. It was a good feeling when I knew I was going to win.”
The victory wasn’t a runaway for Korir, however, as he held off the challenge of fellow Colorado Springs resident Stanley Kebeni.
Kebeni, a former cross country runner at Arkansas, finished four seconds behind Korir at 1:01:57.
N.C. State graduate Andrew Colley placed third (1:03:11) for the second year in a row.
Flagstaff, Ariz., resident Stephanie Bruce, competing in her first race in Pittsburgh, captured the women’s title in 1:10:44.
Her time was a personal best by nine seconds.
Bruce also won the 2018 USATF 10K and finished second at the 2018 USATF marathon championships.
“My husband, Ben, has run the 10-miler and the half here,” Bruce said. “I talked to Patrice, the race director, and she said, ‘We’re expecting big things from you.’ It’s really cool that a race like this brings in elite athletes. With the Olympic Trials about a year out from now, this a good starting point for me.”
Sara Hall finished second (1:11.04) for the second year in a row.
Korir and Bruce received winnings of $15,000, with $1,000 additional for meeting a pre-set time bonus incentive.
Any American who ran Sunday and finished with a marathon or half-marathon time that met a qualifying standard (2:19/1:04 for men, 2:45/1:13 for women) is eligible to compete at the Olympic Trials.
Michael Love is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Michael at 412-856-7400 x8632, [email protected] or via Twitter .