2017 Bridge Run

First place finisher Shadrack Kipchirchir greets his wife Elvin Kibet who finished second in the women's division. David Quick/Staff

A Kenyan-born American citizen gave the Cooper River Bridge Run its first U.S. winner since 1991 on Saturday.

Shadrack Kipchirchir, 28, of Colorado Springs, Colo., ran a tactical race, tucking in behind an ever-thinning pack along the 10K route, before dropping the hammer in the final sprint to the finish in a time of 28 minutes, 12 seconds.

"I finish in second a lot and I'm sick of it, so my race plan today was to be patient and wait for my moment," said Kipchirchir, who is a graduate of Oklahoma State, runs for the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program, and represented the U.S. in the 10K race in last year's Olympics.

Kipchirchir seemed more proud of someone else's achievement than his own.

His wife, Elvin Kibet, took second place with a time of 32:45 in the women's division. Still a Kenyan citizen, Kibet is a University of Arizona graduate and won the Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon Championship last year.

Kipchirchir said that they don't typically run the same races, in part, because he is focused on track and cross country competitions.

Meanwhile, Monicah Ngige of Kenya defended her Bridge Run championship from last year by beating Kibet by five seconds. Ngige won 32:40.

The only other American citizen to finish in the top 10 overall for males was Jon Grey, 29, of Louisville, Colo., who hung with the lead pack until the 5K mark. Grey finished sixth with a time of 28:49.

Jen Rhines shines

Perhaps the most familiar elite runner in Saturday's field, three-time U.S. Olympian Jen Rhines, breezed to a female masters victory on Saturday.

The 42-year-old Syracuse, New York, native who runs for the Boston Athletic Association won with a time of 35:16. 

With more time to run races she never had a chance to do while competing in track, Rhines seized the opportunity to come to the Bridge Run and use her new approach to racing.

"I don't get as stressed about racing as I used to get. I just try to do the best I can do for that given day," said Rhines.

Rhines was joined at the Bridge Run by BAA teammate, Katie Matthews. The 26-year-old Brighton, Mass., runner finished eighth overall for females with a time of 34:05.

The top U.S. female was Kaitlin Goodman, 30, of Providence, RI, who finished sixth with a time of 33:52.

More local awardees

For the first time in 40 years, top local finishers enjoyed getting more recognition. The Bridge Run added second and third places to the Marcus Newberry Award.

Chris Bailey of Charleston and Shannon Miller of Moncks Corner took top Newberry honors with times of 33:05 and 38:56, respectively.

"This year I didn't care as much about my time as winning the award," said the 27-year-old Bailey. "I wanted to have my name on that list of people."

Miller, who is 32, wasn't sure she was going to run the Bridge Run a week ago. After winning the Shamrock Shuffle 10K on March 11 in Summerville, Miller injured her foot and ended up taking off 10 days.

"I debated about dropping out," said Miller.

After testing it on a few runs earlier this week, Miller decided to run and won her first Newberry award in her first Bridge Run.

The other two female Newberry winners both hail from Sullivan's Island, 34-year-old Blair Turnage finished in 40:30 and 26-year-old Grace Herlong came in at 40:31.

The other male winners were Mack Johnston, 23, of Charleston, and Karl Walsh, 41, of Mount Pleasant. Walsh also finished third in the masters division (age 40 and over) with a time of 34:08. 

Bridge Run bounce back

Cedric Jaggers, the author of "Charleston's Cooper River Bridge Run: A Complete History in Words and Photos," talks to dozens of runners after every Bridge Run for his "Tell Me About Your Bridge Run" feature in book updates.

A theme of those talks this year was the weather.

"The more casual runners said it was a perfect day. The more competitive ones said it was too warm," said Jaggers.

Regardless, it helped give the Bridge Run a much-needed boost in finisher numbers that have been lagging since 2012's record year of 36,756.

This year, preliminary numbers are that 32,541 of the 38,177 registrants crossed the finish line. That's up from 26,843 finishers last year.

Race Director Julian Smith had predicted that this year would feature a rebound, largely due to promotions related to the 40th Bridge Run.

Contact David Quick at 843-937-5516. Follow him on Twitter @DavidQuick.

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