By DANIEL PETTY
Associated Press Writer
Editor’s Note: This story was published on AP’s national sports wire.
RICHMOND, Va. — Two-time Olympian Abdi Abdirahman successfully defended his 10-kilometer road racing national championship Saturday, defeating a field that included several top contenders for the U.S. Olympic long-distance squad this summer.
Abdirahman won the race in 28 minutes, 32 seconds, beating Dan Browne by 4 seconds. Fasil Bizuneh was third in 29:03. It was Abdirahman’s first race since dropping out of last November’s U.S. Olympic marathon trials in New York with a hip flexor injury.
“It was tough, I went out too slow,” Abdirahman said of Saturday’s race. “But for me, I’m happy for the win. That’s what I came here to do. I haven’t gotten into my heavy training yet.”
In the women’s race, which did not determine a national champion, Leah Kiprono won in 34:19. Cheryl Anderson was second in 34:22 and Maria Elena Calle placed third.
Abdirahman won last year’s championship in Atlanta at the Peachtree Road Race and captured first in the track 10K during last year’s U.S. outdoor track and field championships.
Browne has yet to secure the Olympic qualifying standard for the 10K, which must be run on a track, but said he plans to get it in the next two months. In 2004, he made the U.S. Olympic team in the marathon and 10K, and is considered a top contender in the 10K this year.
“I didn’t feel that great even from the start,” Browne said. “I was a little bit nervous. Warm, humid weather is not really my cup of tea. You just do what you can. The big deal is in three months.”
Many of the leaders were using the race to gauge their fitness levels leading up to the July 4 Olympic trials.
Alan Culpepper, winner of the 2004 U.S. Olympic marathon trials and among the pre-race favorites, stayed in contention for the first mile, but fell back considerably in the second mile and finished 10th in 29:44. Stomach cramps and the humidity factored into his poor performance, he said.
“This was not part of the plan, to feel this bad,” said Culpepper, who’s training for the Olympic trials 5K. “I couldn’t breath because I was so cramped up. I salvaged what I could.”