Women finish 1, 2 in Jacksonville's 35th River Run

National 15K championship is Jacksonville's largest participation sporting event

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Two women finished ahead of the two-time men's 15K champion in the 35th annual Gate River Run -- the largest participation sporting event in Jacksonville.

While the vast majority of the 16,350 runners who finished the 15K in Jacksonville's largest participation sporting event are recreational runners, the Rier Run is also the largest 15K race in the United States and has been the national 15K championship race for 19 years.

The elite women were given a 7-minute "equalizer" head start this year -- an advantage that Janet Cherobon, used to finish first and win a $5,000 bonus.

"I just wanted to go out quite a bit faster to know that we're ahead of the guys,"  said Cherbon, 33, from Kenya, who became a U.S. citizen last year.  "I think it worked out well."

Cherbon finished with a time of 49:41 -- 16 seconds ahead of Molly Huddle, who holds the American 5,000-meter record.  This was the 27-year-old from Rhode Island's first River Run outing.

Mo Trafeh, 26, of Duarte, Calif., was next to cross the finish line -- the fastest man in the 15K for the third time.  He finished at 43:23 -- more than a minute ahead of the next fastest man in the race.

"I gave my best and came up short catching Janet," Trafeh said. "The last 5K was really tough. The last hill -- it was really windy -- it was really hard to make up that time."

This year's elite field was strong, with three Olympians, six runners who between them have won 18 national championships, and four former River Run champions.

A total of $33,000 in prize money was awarded Saturday, with the winner earning $12,000.

HOW THEY FINISHED:  Complete Gate River Run results

One factor Saturday was the brisk winds, which Channel 4 meteorologist Rebecca Barry said was gusting in excess of 15 mph.  That was and additional challenge as the runners cross the Hart Bridge -- the Green Monster -- as they near the finish line.

"This wind is an equalizer for everybody," five-time River Run winner Todd Williams said, saying even the elite runners will have to change their strategy to compete in these conditions.

"I thought I was going to blow over the bridge," Cherbon said. "It was really tough."

In addition to the 15K, about 5,000 others ran or walked in the 5K, the one-mile fun run or the diaper dash.

The top Jacksonville and top Florida 15K finishers were Matt Hensley, 24, of Jacksonville, who finished in 48:23, and Shannon Miller, 27, with a time of 54:41.

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