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Mo Trafeh, Jen Rhines Win US Half Marathon Titles

HOUSTON – In the first race of the 2011 USA Running Circuit (USARC), Mohamed Trafeh (Duarte, Calif.) and Jen Rhines
(Mammoth Lakes, Calif.) outran some of America’s top distance runners
to take the respective men’s and women’s titles Saturday at the USA
Half Marathon Championships, presented by Aramco Services Company.

Trafeh outran American Record holder Ryan Hall
(Big Bear Lake, Calif.) to win the second USA road title of his career
in 1:02:17. Rhines ran 1:11:14 to win her first road championship since
2005.

The championship was run on a
new course to give Trafeh, Rhines and their fellow competitors a
glimpse of the course make-up for when Houston plays host to the 2012
U.S. Olympic Team Trials – Marathon next January.

Shortly after the gun, Brent Vaughn
(Black Hawk, Colo.) jumped to the lead to get the men’s field moving.
After about a half mile a large pack formed around Vaughn that included
Trafeh, Hall, Patrick Smyth (Mammoth Lakes, Calif.), Jason Lehmkuhle (Minneapolis, Minn.), Fasil Bizuneh (Flagstaff, Ariz.) and Ryan Vail (Portland, Ore.).

After completing a short out and back section, as the race joined the
eight mile loop that will serve as the main portion of the Olympic
Trials course, the pack was down to five, with Vaughn beginning to fall
off the pace.

As the leaders passed a fluid station
turning on to Allen Parkway, Hall went for water and Smyth took the
opportunity to try to make a break, running the seventh mile in 4:39
but the move was quickly covered by Trafeh, Hall and Lehmkuhle as
Bizuneh began to fade.

By mile eight, Bizuneh fought
his way back to the pack and as the leaders approached the ten mile
mark on Memorial Drive, Smyth, Hall and Trafeh opened it up to pull
away from Lehmkuhle and Bizuneh.

Shortly after mile
11, Hall began to press the pace on a slight incline while Trafeh
stayed on his heels. Going over an overpass back into downtown, Hall
and Trafeh gapped Smyth. As the pair raced towards the finish, Hall
held a slight lead over Trafeh but just before making the final turn
Trafeh found one more gear, passing Hall to take the title by three
seconds.

Smyth held on for third in 1:02:32, while
Bizuneh rallied to take fourth in 1:02:47. Lehmkuhle rounded out the
top-five in 1:02:49.

In the women’s race, Rhines, a three-time Olympian, used a tactical approach as Lyndsey Scherf (San Francisco, Calif.) opened a big lead on the chase pack passing the first mile in 5:20. Rhines, Serena Burla (Ellisville, Mo.), Nan Kennard (Boulder, Colo.), Katie McGregor (Saint Louis Park, Minn.), and Tera Moody (Colorado Springs, Colo.).

The pack began to separate at eight miles with Rhines, Burla and
Kennard pulling ahead. The trio ran together for three miles with each
woman taking a turn the front; however, the others were never more than
a few steps behind.

“When I got to 7 [miles] I was
feeling good and I was pretty antsy to push it,” said Rhines. “But I
was patient through eleven [miles].”

Her patience
paid off as she separated herself from her competitors and continued to
extend her lead through the final miles of the course. Rhines bested
her 8-year-old personal record by 45 seconds, running 1:11:14 for a 24
second lead over Burla who clocked a time of 1:11:38 to repeat her
runner-up status in Houston.

Kennard ran strong to
finish third in 1:12:03 while McGregor and Moody ran 1:12:13 and
1:12:30 respectively to complete the top-five.

Video highlights

Video highlights of the USA Half Marathon Championships, presented by
Aramco Services Company are available on demand in cooperation with
RunnerSpace.com at www.USARunningCircuit.com.

About the USARC

The USA Half Marathon Championships were the first stop on the 2011 USA
Running Circuit (USARC), and featured a total championship prize purse
of $59,500 plus potential bonuses. Trafeh and Rhines each earned
$12,000 for their win.

The 2011 USARC is a USA Track
& Field road series, featuring USA long distance running
championships and for the first time will include the USA Cross Country
Championships. The USARC attracts the best U.S. distance runners,
including Olympians Deena Kastor, Ryan Hall, Shalane Flanagan and Meb
Keflezighi. The 2011 USARC has ten events for men and nine for women.

The 2011 USARC will feature more than $450,000 in circuit prize money
with U.S. athletes competing for the right to represent Team USA in
various international competitions.

The first ten
U.S. runners earn points at each USARC race (15 for first, 12 for
second, 10 for third, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2 and 1), with a final $12,500
grand prix purse ($6,000, $4,000, and $2,500) for the top three men and
women point scorers overall.

The mission of the USA
Running Circuit is to showcase, support, and promote U.S. runners.
Since its inception in 1995, the USARC and its races have provided over
$6 million dollars to U.S. distance runners.

For more information on the 2011 USA Half-Marathon Championships visit www.usatf.org.

About USA Track & Field

USA Track & Field (USATF) is the National Governing Body for
track & field, long-distance running and race walking in the United
States. USATF encompasses the world’s oldest organized sports, the
World’s #1 Track & Field Team, the most-watched events at the
Olympics, the #1 high school and
junior high school participatory sport, and more than 30 million adult
runners in the United States: www.usatf.org.

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