By John L. Pitts/NEMS Daily Journal
CORINTH – It was a warm morning for Saturday’s Corinth Coca-Cola Classic 10K, and winners Daniel Kirwa and Zamzam Sangau had different attitudes about that.
“It was pretty challenging,” said Kirwa, a former NCAA DIvision II champion from Harding University. “It was warmer than I’d expected and the course was a good test for how strong I am right now.”
Kirwa, 25, was strong enough to finish in 30:06, with former Ole Miss All-American Barnabas Kirui close behind in 30:24.
“I came here hoping to run a pace of below 4:58 a mile,” said Kirwa, who averaged a 4:52 pace. “I stayed positive while I was out there and it worked out well.”
Women’s winner Sangau, a former Middle Tennessee State middle-distance runner, was running at the 10k distance for the first time. She cruised home in 37:23, with former Mississippi State standout Tiffany (McWilliams) Dudley second in 37:39.
“I love to run when it’s hot,” said Sangau, 25. “This was a fun experience for me.”
Sangau said the Corinth race was recommended to her by a friend, Micah Tirop, the men’s runner-up a year ago. “He couldn’t be here today, so he told me to come and run instead,” she said.
The 31st running of the downtown 10k attracted a record field of 1,359, and all were warned before the 8:30 a.m. start to be cautious. The heat index climbed almost 12 degrees while most of the runners were on the course and the real temperature topped 80 by 10 a.m.
Kirwa, Kirui and many of the other top finishers quickly found shade when the race was done.
“The course is a little deceptive,” said Kirui, who was running the Corinth event for the first time. “You almost feel as if you’re running downhill the whole time.”
Kirui, 26, smoked the field at last weekend’s Double Decker Spring Run 10k in Oxford, running a 30:43.59 and winning by better than five minutes. “I didn’t have that guy running against me down there,” Kirui said, gesturing at Kirwa.
Last year’s Gum Tree 10k winner, Reuben Mwei of Kennesaw, Ga., was third in 31:37. Mwei will defend his title in Tupelo on Saturday and Kirwa said he planned to run there as well.
Kirui will pass up the Gum Tree because he has a big walk planned – down the aisle to receive his graduate degree in accounting at Ole Miss. “Big day,” he said.