E.A. Sports Today

Finding it

Winners Kirwa, Neigel both find what they’re looking for in Saturday’s 5K

Barnabas Kirwa was the first across the line in Saturday’s Woodstock 5K, only his second race since coming to the United States from Kenya a couple weeks ago. (Photo by B.J. Franklin)

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

Both winners in the 39th Woodstock 5K were looking for something when they stepped to the starting line Saturday morning.

Emma Neigel was looking for redemption. Barnabas Kirwa was looking to find his way in a new land.

Neigel simply wanted to run a better race than she did a year ago when she raced recovering from a foot injury. The 25-year-old Canadian native now living in Gainesville, Ga., won the women’s race in 17:49.

Kirwa, a native of Kenya’s Rift Valley, has been in the United States only a couple weeks and was running only his second race in the country. The 27-year-old came out of a tight pack to win the men’s race in 15:10.

Kirwa came to the U.S. looking for more challenges and better times. In his only other start here he ran at 24:38 in the July night-time Crazy 8s 8K in Kingsport, Tenn., and was 13th.
“I usually run in the morning, I never trained in the evening hour,” he said. “This race I really enjoyed it. The pace was a bit lower so we kept on accelerating. I picked up around eight minutes and I felt like my body was moving fast.”
He took lead about 10 minutes in, held it and beat Leonard Kipyengo (15:19) and Richard Kimani (15:30) to the wire. The top six runners in the men’s race all crossed the line in under 16 minutes.
Neigel ran the Woodstock last year in her first race back from a foot injury she sustained on a trail run. She ran it just under 20, well below her form as a steeplechase record-holder at Mississippi State, and was determined to make up for it this time.
“I ran very slow, so this year I came to get redemption,” she said. “Even if I didn’t run what I wanted to today I would still run better than I did last year. Never give up.”
On this day she went really hard to establish the pace, but doesn’t regret it because it gave her a big enough cushion to hold off any late challenges. Esther Kipserem of Huntsville was second at 18:04 and the next closest runner was Jennifer Dunn of Birmingham (19:09).
What’s redemption feel like?
“It feels good,” she said. “Just being healthy and knowing you’re in good shape is just really uplifting versus when you’re injured and you feel like a 5K is like a half-marathon.”

NOTES: Cameron Rogers of Anniston won the Kidstock Mile (5:38). Aveiona Parmer of Oxford was the girls Kidstock winner (6:21). … Cahaba Distance had five of the top 15 finishers, led by race runnerup Leonard Kipyego, and won the men’s team prize (1:22.13). Resolute Running, led by the third-place men’s (Richard Kimani) and women’s (Jennifer Dunn) finishers won the co-ed team prize (1:28.47). The Sole Sisters won the women’s team prize (2:10.35). … Neigel, a plant conservationist with the Atlanta Botanical Gardens, won the Rainsville Freedom Run 5K (17:10) in June. … To see a gallery of photos from the race visit www.bjfranklin.smugmug.com

Former Mississippi State runner Emma Neigel came in from Georgia to win the Woodstock women’s race, her second victory this summer. (Photo by B.J. Franklin)

Men’s Top 25

Barnabas Kirwa, Huntsville 15:10
Leonard Kipyego, Homewood 15:19
Richard Kimani, Birmingham 15:30
Ethan Strand, Vestavia Hills 15:40
Jace Jones, Montevallo 15:44
Josh Whitehead, Madison 15:48
Daniel Plunkett, Jacksonville 16:13
Martin Wennblom, Anniston 16:17
Nelson Oyugi, Huntsville 16:35
Geoffrey Tum, Birmingham 16:37
Jordan Poche, Montevallo 16:38
Austin Farmer, Hoover 16:41
Alex Hubartt, Birmingham 16:42
Ethan Mines, Panama City, Fla. 16:45
Fred Kosgei, Birmingham 16:57
Brett Bonikowski, Montgomery 17:00
Joshua Beam, Carrollton, Ga. 17:01
Jack Lowe, Pell City 17:01
Jonah Morris, Rainbow City 17:03
Joshua Evans, Chelsea 17:04
Luis Rodriguez, Anniston 17:04
Chris Mahaffey, Odenville 17:13
Jake Moore, Anniston 17:19
Luis Garcia, Rincon, Ga. 17:27
Seba Bakoyema, Montgomery 17:27
Jonathan Jenkins, Opelika 17:27

Race winner Barnabas Kirwa (971) finds some space between Luis Rodriguez (424) and Nolan Oyugi (970) to get to the front at the start of Saturday’s race. (Photo by B.J. Franklin)

Women’s Top 25

Emma Neigel, Gainesville, Ga. 17:49
Esther Kisperem, Huntsville 18:04
Jennifer Dunn, Birmingham 19:09
Samantha Rogers, Auburn 19:14
Ashley Walker, Alexander City 19:49
Harper McGowan, Auburn 20:08
A. Burkes, Phenix City 20:26
Breckin Gould, Opelika20:50
Gracie Booher, Auburn 20:55
Kelly McNair, Birmingham 21:10
Abbie Brown, Auburn 21:25   
Brandi Nichols, Gadsden 22:05
Taylor Knight, Gallant 22:24
Zoie Menk, Rainbow City 22:52
Meghan Ralph, Birmingham 23:03
Kristi Yates, Anniston 23:12
Meghan McCarthy, Rainbow City 23:17
Hayley Long, Anniston 23:48
Vickie Varnes, Pell City 24:01
Brett Mathews, Atlanta 24:04
Trinity Roberts, Jacksonville 24:13
Nicole Dieckow, Anniston 24:13
Hannah Salame, Anniston 24:16
Railie Smith, Wedowee 24:17
Eva Bryant, Jacksonville 24:18

Hoover’s Austin Farmer (789) beats Alex Hurbartt of Birmingham across the line.
Luis Garcia of Rincon, Ga., (68) and Jonathan Jenkins of Opelika go stride-for-stride to the finish.
John Shafer of Brentwood, Tenn., is proud of completing the Woodstock 5K.
Kristi Daniel of Anniston (870) celebrates crossing the finish line. (All photos by B.J. Franklin)

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