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Local Sports

October 7, 2013

Ethiopians dominate Pit Run

ONEONTA — It seemed everywhere you turned Sunday at Neahwa Park, the conversation centered on the government shutdown.

Well, not really.

But the partisan bickering in Washington did have a profound impact on the 20th edition of the Pit Run.

Neither the winner nor the runner-up in the featured 10-kilometer race was supposed to be zipping through the streets of Oneonta on Sunday. Had they been elsewhere, Paul Mwangi’s course record would still be intact and third-place finisher Girma Gebre would have celebrated a victory.

Gridlock wouldn’t allow it.

Winner Haile Mengasha and runner-up Ayele Feisha were scheduled to run the Woodrow Wilson Bridge Half Marathon on Sunday in Maryland. That’s also where women’s champion Meseret Basa was supposed to be. That race was postponed because of the shutdown and rescheduled for Nov. 10.

So the likes of Speaker of the House John Boehner, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid and President Barack Obama —names that have surfaced often since the shutdown started Tuesday — helped to shape the 2013 Pit Run.

Instead of one Ethiopian-born standout in Oneonta, there were four.

And they were a lot better than everyone else.

The quartet, which is represented by Alem International Management and trains in New York City, combined to win $2,000.

Mengasha, 27, earned $500 for the victory, $100 bonuses for leading after the first, third and fifth miles, and another $100 for setting a course record. He crossed in 29 minutes, 53 seconds — 20 seconds faster than the previous record set by Mwangi in 2003.

Basa, 25, won for the first time in the United States. Running her first competitive 10K, she crossed in 36:36, well ahead of women’s runner-up Rebecca Metzler of Hamilton, who finished in 40:09.

“I’m very happy,” said Basa, who earned $800 — $500 for the win and $100 bonuses for leading after miles 2, 4 and 6.

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