It was a big day for each of the top three finishers Saturday in the UAE Healthy Kidney 10K.
Daniele Meucci of Italy, the winner, took home $25,000, the world’s largest first-place prize for a 10K; Kenyan Leonard Korir finished a close second in his professional debut, just hours before his Iona College graduation; and Bobby Curtis fought off a leg cramp midway to post a strong third-place finish in a huge personal best.
The victor’s time of 28:28 was also a personal best, the third this spring for the 26-year-old Meucci, who will run the 10,000 meters for Italy at the 2012 Olympic Games. Korir was right behind in 28:30, with Curtis third in 28:37.
Meucci, the 2010 European Championships bronze medalist, said through a translator, describing his duel with Korir, “With a hundred meters to go, I wasn’t sure how I was going to do it. Where the street started to climb, I decided to push.”
The race began with Ethiopia’s Tesfaye Girma going out early, leading a seven-man chase pack by 11 seconds at 5K, which he went through in 14:07. Between miles 4 and 5 Girma began to slow, with Meucci pushing the pace to catch him. The Italian went ahead for good just after the 5-mile marker.
As for the 2012 U.S. Olympic Marathon team trio of Meb Keflezighi, Ryan Hall, and Abdi Abdirahman—all of whom are focused on training for the Olympic marathon exactly three months from today—it was Abdirahman who had the best day, finishing fifth in 28:56.
“We all have one goal,” he said. “We just want to be fit when August 12th comes.”
Keflezighi was seventh, in 29:08, with Hall finishing 15th in 30:15.
“Obviously it wasn’t a great race for me,” said Hall, “but it was fun to be out there with these guys and take in New York one last time before heading to the Games.” Hall has announced that he will also compete in the ING New York City Marathon on November 4.
Curtis, 27, of Ardmore, PA, appeared to be out of contention just before mile 5 when he suffered a leg cramp, but he managed to rally. He called the cramp “unfortunate, but not a disaster.
“Hopefully I’m just a step away from making the Olympic team.”
Korir, meanwhile, was just a step away from making his college graduation, set for noon at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center on West 34th Street, about two miles from the finish line. The 25-year-old Kenyan was set to receive his degree in political science, with a minor in international studies.
“I think I’m going to have a good day,” he said after the race.
For complete results, click here.