Genna Tufa runs without a sponsor, without corporate money funding his athletic excellence and without the promise of a payday at the end of a hard day's work.
Saturday's win at the Salt Lake Marathon, he hopes, might change that.
"Maybe, yes," Tufa said when asked if he hopes his victory will attract the attention of a sponsor that may help fund his pursuit of elite marathon competition. "I hope so."
Tufa, a 23-year-old Ethiopian living and training in New York City, outraced Richard Kemeli over the last mile for a seven-second victory. His time of 2:23:11 wasn't quite as fast as that of last year's winner, Nelson Lebo, but it was plenty quick to claim the $5,000 victor's share of the prize purse.
After hanging out behind the main pack of athletes for several miles, Tufa picked his way through the field and made his move with about six or seven miles left. That strategy, he said, was designed to draft off a few competitors because of a light but still significant over-26-mph breeze. He slipped between a pair of competitors and made his winning move, with Kemeli contesting the finish until the final 150 yards or so when it became clear Tufa would win.
"We tried to go together," Tufa said. "We pushed hard ... I tried to go a comfortable pace."
Crossing the line in third was Joseph Mutinda at 2:23:33.
Orem's Shin Nozuki was the top local finisher, placing fifth at 2:27:12 to earn a $500 payday. Provo's Alexander Pachev placed sixth at 2:34:07.
Maria Portilla, from Peru but training in Albuquerque, N.M., repeated as winner of the women's race, crossing the line at 2:40:24 good enough for ninth overall and $5,000.
Atelech Asfaw placed second at 2:42:14, and Alena Vinitskaya was third at 2:44:28.
"I'm happy because I was training very hard," Portilla said. "There were three, four of us. We run 14, 16 miles together. Then we go downhill, and she (fourth-place finisher Eunice Orwaru) slow down and we make our move."
Taylorsville's Teren Jameson, the winner of the 5K a year ago, cruised to another local victory this time in the half marathon.
His wife, Emily, gave birth a little more than a year ago but still won the 5K with a time of 17:10 2:25 faster than second-place Nicole Prause.
"I really haven't been training too hard," Teren Jameson said. "I did the Olympic trials in the marathon a little while ago and haven't been able to train much since then. So this was a good race for me.
"Felt good to get out there."
Jameson's half marathon time of 1:06:46 was more than four minutes faster than his top competitor, South Dakota's Matt Dewald at 1:11:20. North Salt Lake's BJ Christenson placed third at 1:12:28.
Salt Lake's Zuzana Tomas sailed to a comfortable win in the women's half marathon, finishing at 1:22:12. Christinas Gingras was second at 1:23:34, and Colorado's Jennifer Valentine completed the podium at 1:24:41.Draper's Brian Summers won the men's 5K, finishing four seconds ahead of North Salt Lake's Ed Christensen at 16:31. Salt Lake's Nate Lloyd was third, finishing with a 16:44 time.
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