Green Expects Large, Talented Field

By RICK THORP

WHEELING — Another crop of elite talent is in line to grace the streets of downtown Wheeling on Saturday evening when the Debbie Green Memorial 5K Run/Walk for Leukemia steps off for the 20th time.

Race Director Ron Green said Friday a steady stream of entrants continue to register daily for the summer road racing staple, which has turned into a two-day event in recent years.

”Numbers are up from last year,” Green said. ”That’s a good thing. We’ll continue to have a steady flow of entrants up until race day.”

Action begins Friday evening at Heritage Port with the Green Mile Run Walk. That steps off at 7 p.m. Saturday, the Debbie’s Dash kid’s race starts at 5 p.m., followed by the main event at 7 p.m. In addition to racing, a health and fitness expo will take place inside WesBanco Arena on Friday and Saturday, featuring a plethora of vendors.

While locals make up most of the participants, Green is delighted with the handful of ”elite” runners that are coming on.

Topping the list is the defending champ on the men’s side — Simion Chirchir.

The Kenyan’s home base is Chapel Hill, N.C. Joining him will be the 2015 champion, and 2016 runner-up, John Wanjucki, who competes out of Grand Prairie, Texas.

Another Kenyan who hails from the Lone Star State to keep an eye on, according to Green, is Isaac Mwangi. Green said he PRed at the World Best 10 K in San Juan, Puerto Rico and was first at the Bay to Breakers 12K in San Francisco at the Bolder Boulder 10K, both in 2016.

A newcomer Green is excited about is James Kibbet. Kibbet was third at this spring’s Boston Athletic Association 5K, which takes place during Boston Marathon weekend.

”We have four guys that can break 14 (minutes) in the 5K,” Green said.

Pittsburgh’s Juri Sileniks returns to the Green course, along with Bobby Peavy, who competed collegiately at Georgetown.

Americans’ back in the fold on the female side include Jessica Ordorcic. The Clevelander placed 58th in the United States Olympic Trails in Los Angeles. She was the first American finisher in the 2013 Green race.

A new face this year is Nicole Aish, from Colorado. She is a past national champion and a former NIKE ambassador. Kelsey McAlpine, a former Kent State runner, and Jessica Reeves, a former NCAA Division 2 cross-country all-American, will also be part of the field.

Kenyans hoping to grab the top prize include Susan Jerotich and Margaret Maina.

”I think this is the strongest field we’ve had in about 10 years,” Green said. ”I’ve heard several local high school and junior high cross country teams and their coaches have taken the initiative to do the race. It only benefits young athletes to run against some of the best runners in the world.”

Online registration is closed, although folks can still register via mail or during race weekend.

”We’re not turning anyone away,” Green said.

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