Nell Rojas Outkicks Jenny Simpson at 2021 Credit Union Cherry Blossom Ten Mile
On a warm and crystal clear late summer morning in our Nation’s Capital, American Nell Rojas won a thrilling race among the top women runners at this year’s Credit Union Cherry Blossom Ten Mile (CUCB), while Kenyan Edwin Kimutai left the rest of the men’s field in his footsteps 25 minutes into the race to handily win the men’s race.
With his 33-second victory, Kimutai honored the recent passing of his wife, while Rojas surprised all the pundits when she sprinted away from Jenny Simpson with less than one half mile left in the race to win the 2021 USATF Women’s 10 Mile Championship Presented by Toyota.
“I had zero expectations on place or time,” said Rojas in a post-race interview. “At seven or eight miles, I could tell Jenny and the others were working hard, and I was like ‘I’m not working hard.’ At that point I was OK letting myself believe I could win.”
Rojas added: “With 800 to go, I knew Jenny was right there, I was really scared. I kicked around 600, and made that decision because I couldn’t let Jenny have the last 50-meter sprint. At that point, I was like ‘I’m fine with second, but just let me do this.’”
While she may have been a novice on the roads at anything longer than one mile, Simpson displayed confidence and savvy from the start. In fact, USATF.tv webcast commentator Carrie Tollefson remarked that Jenny cut the tightest tangent in the women’s lead pack of 14, going into a roundabout on the Virginia end of Memorial Bridge at a little more than 1 ½ miles into the race. Throughout the race, Simpson could be seen moving around the dwindling lead pack — side to side, forward and back — while eventual third place American Annie Frisbie oftentimes found herself in the lead, pushing the pace, or sharing pacesetting duties with Rojas and overall third place finisher Antonina Kwambai.
“When Nell pushed it up the last hill, once she got separation, I just couldn’t respond,” said Simpson. “She was really strong.”
Simpson added: “Sometimes the best thing that can happen with a new experience is to get second. I’m finishing hungry. Overall, the entire experience was 10 times better than I expected.”
In the men’s race, American Frank Lara —who would eventually finish fifth overall as fourth American — charged out hard from the start, and the men’s field quickly strung out. By 5K four men had broken away: Kimutai, Lara, and his fellow Americans Abbabiya Simbassa and Augustus Maiyo. By 10K, Kimutai had established a 17-second lead over the Maiyo and Simbassa, with Lara a few seconds adrift of his compatriots. As Kimutai’s lead grew, Maiyo and Simbassa continued to run side-by-side through 15K. Two minutes later, the 28 year-old Simbassa began to pull away from 38-year-old Maiyo, building himself a five second margin by the finish.
When asked if he felt guilty taking the 2021 USATF Men’s 10 Mile Championships title from the 38-year-old Maiyo, Simbassa replied: “I respect those guys, they know more than I do. I’m just out to do my best.”
Well, today, Simbassa’s best earned him the title of America’s best after so many recent second-place finishes in USATF Championship races, and elicited this comment: “It feels good. I’ve been hunting for a long time, and it finally happened today.”
Here’s a compilation of place, times and money earned by the top-10 American women and men as well as open prize money winners, and RRCA Roads Scholar-RunPro Development Award winners.
posted Monday September 13th
by Running USA