This year the AJC Peachtree Road Race was once again the US 10km Championships, guaranteeing a star studded American field on both the men’s and women’s side. ZAP Fitness-Reebok was well represented with 5 athletes competing, Joe Stilin, Andrew Colley, and Tyler Pennel on the men’s side and Joanna Thompson and Nicole DiMercurio on the women’s.
On a traditionally warm and muggy day in Atlanta on July 4th the men’s pack remained tightly bunched through the opening half of the race. Right at the 3 mile mark the field began the first serious climb of the day up cardiac hill. As the field climbed the lead group shrunk from 20 runners down to 10. Stilin took up a place in the front of the chase pack while Pennel and Colley remained in the lead pack of 10.
The lead group crested cardiac hill at 3.75 miles and a half mile later started the gradual uphill climb to the 5 mile marker. The pack whittled from 10 to 8 and then by the final mile was down to just 4 athletes including Pennel. Pennel was in familiar territory having twice been runner-up at Peachtree in both 2014 and 2015 where the race had come down to the long final homestretch on 10th Street. As the group entered the final kilometer of the race and turned onto 10th Pennel went to the front and began to string the lead pack out. However, the other 3 athletes, 5-time Olympian Bernard Lagat, freshly crowned US 10,000m champion on the track and 2-time Olympian Lopez Lomog, as well as 1:01:00half marathoner Haron Lagat, remained in contention. Lomong made a strong with just over 1/4 mile to go and the sprint to the finish was on. Despite a gap forming, Pennel continued to fight and was rewarded with a 3rd place finish as he passed a fading Lomong and nearly caught Haron Lagat at the line.
Pennel’s finishing time was 28:49, 4 seconds behind winner Bernard Lagat. Andrew Colley moved extremely well on the downhills over the 2nd half of the race to take 6th place in 29:01 and Joe Stilin finished 11th in 29:35. For Pennel it was his 3rd top 3 finish in as many tries and both Colley and Stilin came away with excellent Peachtree debuts. On the women’s side DiMercurio led the charge for the ZAP women in 17th place in a time of 34:56 just ahead of teammate Joanna Thompson in 20th in a time of 35:07.