Defending champion Emily Sisson claims 2nd River Run title, equalizer bonus

Nico Montanez wins men’s title for 1st Gate River Run championship

Defending champion Emily Sisson and first time champion Nico Montanez cross the finish line at the 2022 Gate River Run. (WJXT)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Women’s defending champion Emily Sisson dominated for the second year in a row to claim the 2022 Gate River Run women’s title and the equalizer bonus in a time of 47:28.

The elite women get a six-minute head start of the elite men, and Nico Montanez, who finished fourth last year, was the man with the best chance to chase her down coming down the Hart Bridge. But Sisson’s lead was too great, so the $5,000 bonus went to Sisson for the second straight year.

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With the top prize and the equalizer, Sisson earned $15,000 for the win.

“It was pretty humid here today but most of the elite field was coming from a dry climate, so we were all in the same boat. So, I did have to factor that into how I was feeling and how I ran,” Sisson said. “Great first race back since Tokyo so I’m really pleased with that.”

Sisson, who finished 10th in the 10,000 meters in Tokyo and hadn’t raced since, said she wasn’t sure how big her lead was on the bridge so she was pushing toward the end to make sure she could claim that bonus again.

Emily Sisson came in first for the women's elite category of the Gate River Run. Emily joins us to talk about the race and her training.

“I kept counting down until the top of the hill and then I kept telling myself it’s just all downhill from there, so once I crossed the top of the bridge, I just was like trying to go as fast as I could because I didn’t know how close the men and the women were,” Sisson said. “I’m hoping this is a good springboard for the rest of the year.”

Montanez, from Tucson, who qualified for the Olympic marathon in 2020, claimed the men’s title with a time of 43:09.

“I was hurting on Mile 5, I was hurting on Mile 3, I was hurting til I crossed that finish line. It’s just about hurt,” Montanez said. “(Six-time champion) Deena Kastor, the wife to my head coach, Andrew Kastor, said it’s supposed to hurt when you’re running a national championship.”

Although defending men’s elite champion Clayton Young was out of the River Run due to injury, the field was absolutely packed.

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Two-time men’s champion Leonard Korir finished second in 43:13.

Two-time Olympic steeplechaser Hillary Bor (43:14) finished third and one of the greatest American distance runners in history, Galen Rupp, finished seventh in 43:31, and 2012 Olympic 10K runner Diego Estrada was 17th in 45:08.

Rupp is a four-time Olympian who was running the event for the first time.

Nico Montanez is the 2022 Gate River Run Men's Champion. He joins us to discuss his strategy to winning the race.

The women’s field was packed, too.

Emily Durgin was one of two other Olympians in the women’s field. She finished second in the women’s race behind Sisson with a time of 49:17, and 2016 Olympian Emily Infield (49:46) finished third for the women.

The elite runners were competing for $49,000 in prize money at stake for the top 10 men and women finishers.

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After two years plagued by COVID-19 precautions, the iconic race actually felt like the event of old with more than 13,000 entrants for this year’s race flooding the streets of Downtown Jacksonville and twisting through the St. Nicholas and San Marco neighborhoods in an attempt to finish the 15K course.

Mayor Lenny Curry also ran Saturday, finishing in a time of 1:26:08. He said despite the high humidity it was a thrill to be out on the course with the community again.

“We had a full crowd here today. People were out having fun. I don’t run marathons, so this was a really long race for me. You know you’re alive when you do this, especially when you hit that bridge,” Curry said of tackling the Green Monster. “It’s just a reminder of how dark things were two years ago this time. It’s good to be back.”

Curry was among those who run the race for fun -- and pride. Some, like Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Capt. Eric Prosswimmer, also run for a cause. Prosswimmer said it was his 20th year running in firefighter gear in honor of those lost on 9/11.

“I love this city. I’ve served this city, raised my family in this city. This is a great event for this city,” Prosswimmer said.

JFRD Capt. Eric Prosswimmer shares about running the River Run in firefighter gear for 20 years in honor of those lost on 9/11.

For the elite runners, the most significant change to the course came at the finish.

As runners got to the final steps of the Green Monster, they came off the ramp of the bridge and down onto Bay Street. From there, they continued west before making a hard-right turn past Daily’s Place. The finish line was near Gate 1 of TIAA Bank Field.

There were also streakers in the field, 22 of them, who had run in all 44 previous River Runs, and were signed up for this one, too.

Marie and Ken Bendy have been volunteering with the River Run for 20 years.

About the Author:

Justin Barney joined News4Jax in February 2019, but he’s been covering sports on the First Coast for more than 20 years.