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General News Pittsburgh, USA

Top 3 finishers US marathon champs to go to Seville

The 1999 USA men’s marathon champion will be crowned at the UPMC Health System/City of Pittsburgh Marathon, May 2, as Pittsburgh hosts the national championship for the third year in a row.

Veteran marathoner Keith Brantly, who won the race last year in a U.S. course record 2:12:31, has decided to pass on the 1999 race.

He hopes to receive one of the two at-large bids to the World Marathon Championship in Seville, Spain, in August. The top three male finishers at Pittsburgh will receive automatic berths to the U.S. World Championship team, while the remaining two spots will be selected by USA Track and Field.

"(Race director) Larry Grollman and his staff have built Pittsburgh into a quality, championship race that rewards performance handsomely," said Brantly, who earned $100,000 for winning last year’s race. "If I were in better condition, you could bet that I’d be on the starting line. I hope to be ready for a fall marathon, specifically the World Championships, if I am selected."

Leading the list of contenders for the 1999 title is last year’s second-place finisher, 36-year-old Alfredo Vigueras of Woodland, Calif. Vigueras, who has a 2:13:26 marathon personal best, overcame stiffness in his right leg during last year’s race to finish in 2:14:52, earning $20,000. The soft-spoken Vigueras was a Mexican citizen until 1996. He may be best known for his second-place finish at the 1996 City of Los Angeles Marathon, where he lost a sprint duel with Jose Luis Molina of Costa Rica by one three seconds. He was the U.S. half-marathon champion that same year.

Former Villanova star Terrence Mahon will toe the line for the first time at Pittsburgh, attempting to complete his first marathon since the 1997 LaSalle Banks Chicago Marathon, where he set his personal best time of 2:13:03. Although Mahon is better known as a track runner (with a 28:31.1 10,000m personal best), he also has tasted success on the roads. He is the reigning U.S. 20K road champion, a title he earned in New Haven last September. He finished eleventh at the U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon in 1996. The 28-year-old Mahon recently married another former Villanova runner, Jen Rhines. They make their home in Haverford, Pa.

Dan Held of Waukesha, Wisc., returns to Pittsburgh after a one-year layoff from the national championship race. He was third in the 1997 race, earning a spot on the U.S. World Championship team that year. Held, who recently became a father for the second time, has a personal best time of 2:13:50 and is a veteran marathoner. His marathon credits include a third-place finish at the 1995 U.S. Marathon Championship and a thirteenth place at the 1992 Olympic Trials.

Also joining the fray will be Jeff Jacobs of Roscoe, Ill. Jacobs, 34, is a seasoned road racer with a marathon personal best time of 2:13:44. He twice finished in the top 10 at the LaSalle Banks Chicago Marathon and was ninth at the 1996 U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon. Jacobs is a three-time winner of the Park Forest 10-Mile, and a four-time winner of the Cow Harbor 10K. Married with three children, Jacobs holds down a full-time job as an aerospace engineer and also coaches basketball. He had planned to compete in Pittsburgh last year, but had to withdraw from the race due to a strained calf muscle.

The winner of the 1999 UPMC Health System/City of Pittsburgh Marathon is guaranteed $25,000, but could earn much more. The race, in conjunction with Mellon Bank, is offering an additional $25,000 bonus to the winner if he breaks Brantly’s U.S. course record (2:12:31) from 1998. Plus, there is an additional $50,000 bonus, also in conjunction with Mellon Bank, if the winner breaks the overall course record of 2:10:24, set by two-time New York City Marathon champion John Kagwe of Kenya in 1995. The total payday for the winner could be $100,000.

Here is the overall USA Men’s Marathon Championship prize structure: If the winner breaks Kagwe’s record, he will earn $100,000; second place, $25,000; third, $15,000; fourth, $10,000; fifth, $7,500; sixth, $5,000; seventh, $4,000; eighth, $3,000; ninth, $2,500; tenth, $2,000. Eleventh- to fifteenth-place finishers will get $500 each if they break 2:20:00 or $250 for each runner if they finish between 2:20:01 and 2:22:00.

If the winner breaks Brantly’s record only, he will earn $50,000 ($25,000 bonus plus the $25,000 first-place prize). The second-place prize would be $15,000; third-place, $10,000; fourth, $7,500; fifth, $5,000; sixth, $4,000; seventh, $3,000; eighth, $2,500; ninth, $2,000; tenth, $1,000. Eleventh- to fifteenth-place finishers will earn the same as if the winner would break Kagwe’s record.

Pittsburgh marathon promoters will announce the rest of the USA Men’s Championship field at a later date. The race begins at 8:30 a.m. with local live television coverage on WPXI-TV (NBC) and a worldwide webcast on the Internet at http://www.raceresultsweekly.com.

For more information on the 1999 UPMC Health System/City of Pittsburgh Marathon, runners can access http://www.upmc.edu/pghmarathon or call (412) 647-RUNN.

Pittsburgh will host the 2000 U.S. Olympic Trials for Men’s Marathon on Sunday, May 7, 2000.