By Dan Guttenplan
---- — Three natives of Ethiopia crossed the finish line within a span of five seconds just around 7 p.m. last night in the Yankee Homecoming 10-Mile Road Race, supplying three of the top five times in the race’s last 10 years.
The 53rd running of the Provident Bank Yankee Homecoming 10-Mile Road Race will be remembered for being an Ethiopian sweep on both the men’s and women’s side, but it should also be remembered as being one of the fastest in race history.
Aschalew Mekete, Mengistu Nebsi and Tariku Bokan — all natives of Ethiopia now living in New York City — swept the top three spots in the men’s race. Aschalew Mekete won in 49:07, the fastest time since Alena Reta ran it in 48:46 in 2005. Nebsi and Bokan trailed Mekete by a few steps, and by the way the men gracefully jogged up the final homestretch without so much as a threat to overtake the top position, the men seemed destined to split the $950 in prize money for the top three places.
The African domination used to be an annual theme from 2005 to 2007, when Reta won three consecutive 10-mile title. Ethiopian and Kenyan professional runners who had migrated to New York City took the bus up to Newburyport on the day of the race in pursuit of the $4,300 in prize money the race offers.
Indian Orchard resident Amos Sang, a graduate of Anberlin Christian University in Texas, took fourth place last night in 50:13. He said the Ethiopians put the race away by the 5-mile mark.
“I went out too fast, and they wore me out at the end,” Sang said. “At mile 5 or 6, they picked it up a little. There was a pack, and they started separating. I got stuck by myself. I was the chase guy, and I kept chasing. But they were pretty good.”
Boston University doctorate student Brian Harvey started in the second lead pack and began picking off runners who fell off the pace around Mile 5. The former Carnegie Mellon runner eventually finished fifth in 50:17.
“I wasn’t with the lead pack, they were too fast for us,” Harvey said. “Our pack disbanded and slowly started picking off people from the lead pack one by one. It’s an encouraging and fun way to run. I’d say there were five people in the lead pack, all of them were foreign. I’m happy to have good competition drag me to a good time.
Three Ethiopian women — Meseret Kitata, Aimaz Fekade and Hirut Beyene — placed first, second and third, respectively, in the women’s race. Kitata won in 56:22. Fekade (56:29) and Beyene (57:47) finished within 85 seconds of the female winner.
Following the race, the three Ethiopian women joined the three Ethiopian men for a conversation in front of the Newburyport High football field. None of the six felt up to the task of being interviewed in English.
Heidi Westover, a Walpole, N.H. resident, placed fourth in the women’s race in 58:41. The former URI runner is training for the Hartford Marathon in the fall.
“(The top women) started off together for about 2 1/2 miles,” Westover said. “At Mile 3, they passed me. I was weaving in between the 5K people. It was great to see so many people running. It wasn’t as hot as previous years, but it’s still hot out there.”
Yankee Homecoming 10-Mile results
Place, name Hometown Time
1. Aschalew Mekete New York 49:07
2. Mengistu Nebsi New York 49:08
3. Tariku Bokan New York 49:12
4. Amos Sang Indian Orchard 50:13
5. Brian Harvey Boston 50:17
6. Matt Pelletier West Greenwich, R.I. 50:27
7. Tadesse Biratu Malden 50:48
8. Nick Karwoski Hollis, N.H. 50:51
9. Alex McGrath Marlborough, N.H. 50:54
10. Glarius Rop Springfield 52:01
1. Meseret Kitata New York 56:22
2. Aimaz Fekade New York 56:29
3. Hirut Beyene New York 57:47
4. Heidi Westover Walpole, N.H. 58:41
5. Meagan Nedlo Salem 1:01.34
6. Alyson Millett Charlestown 1:02.53
7. Regina Loiacano Gloucester 1:03.24
8. Melissa Henry Brookline 1:03.32
9. Jennifer Rapaport Melrose 1:06.24
10. Beth Dollas Amesbury 1:06.25