In drama-filled final sprint, Ethiopia’s Hiwot Yemer wins Bolder Boulder women’s professional race

BOULDER — Ethiopia’s Meseret Tola had survived the arduous surges from American Aliphine Tuliamuk on the latter half of the Bolder Boulder 10K course on Monday, holding on long enough to be in third place near the bottom of the final uphill into Folsom Field and the finish line.

That’s when Tola made her move, the moment when racers are especially exhausted after sport nearly six miles at altitude. She blew ahead of Tuliamuk and her Ethiopian mate, Hiwot Yemer, but as she entered the bowl to a deafening roar from fans, two strides ahead of Yemer, she erroneously veered off course to a staging area where an official was directional photographers and other media members who had just left the press truck that had been following the race.

She was quickly intercepted by her U.S.-based agent, Chris Gooding, and a coach, and pushed back out on course. Cell phone photos from her agent show Tola turning off just before she hit the white floor boards covering the field.

The error may have cost her the race, though with the lap of Folsom Field leftover, it’s impossible to be sure. Yemer complete up winning the women’s professional race by six seconds in 32 proceedings, 49 seconds, followed by Tola in 32:55. Tuliamuk was third, five seconds back from her, in 33:00.

“I felt so bad,” Tuliamuk told The Denver Post of Tola stepping off the course. “She was not yet leading at that point.”

Despite the mishap, the Ethiopians still dominated in the team standings, winning the overall title for the thirteenth time and the tenth time in the last 11 years, collection a $12,000 prize purse. The U.S. team finished second, led by Tuliamuk, Kaitlin Goodman of Providence, R.I., who was tenth overall, and Shalaya Kipp, the former University of Colorado standout and 2012 Olympian in the women’s steeplechase, who was 11th.

The Ethiopians tallied eight points and the Americans had 24, the second largest point gap in Bolder Boulder women’s race history (low score wins in team competition). Kenya finished third with 29 points.

“It was a little chilling, but I was happy that she (Tola) was able to make it back into the race,” Yemer told The Denver Post through a translator. “We have talked, but the main thing is that we were still ahead.”

The Ethiopians ran at the front near the entire way.

“In the beginning, after half a mile, the Ethiopians really put a surge in — it took away my breath,” aforementioned Tuliamuk, who became a naturalized U.S. national in 2016 after competitive in college for Wichita State and now runs for Northern Arizona Elite in Flagstaff, Ariz. “Then they settled down, then there was a point once once again where they put in a surge, and we bust away.”

That left behind Kipp and her mate, Northern Arizona Elite’s Stephanie Bruce, the defensive road 10K champion. Tuliamuk, who finished third at the Rotterdam Marathon in April in a personal best 2:26:50, knew she didn’t have the speed to beat Yemer and Tola, so she hoped the strength of her marathon training would be enough to win the race. Eventually, she was with the Ethiopians and a Japanese runner after Bruce faded around 2 miles into the race, and Kipp born back near the 4K mark.

“Aliphine went with that lead pack, and that was really psychological feature, knowing that USA had a strong leader in the front pack,” Kipp aforementioned.

At the course’s high point, near the four-mile mark, Tuliamuk surged on the downhill, running what she aforementioned was a 4:59 mile from miles four to five, falling every other runner except Yemer and Tola. Tuliamuk strode powerfully, her face a mixture of pain and determination. She repeatedly glanced behind her to see if her surges could drop them, but they were to no avail. The two Ethiopians weren’t shaken.

“I was praying that every step that I took I was falling off person, but it wasn’t really working,” Tuliamuk aforementioned. “I was looking back so galore times because I thought, ‘Well, I’m working really really hard.’ And I was in so much pain at that point that I thought that possibly they were feeling the pain.”

Just before 9K, Yemer pushed ahead of an exhausted Tuliamuk. Tola eventually surged ahead of some of them on the final hill, just before she erroneously stepped off the course.

“Right before the hill at the finish, I was running out of energy,” Tuliamuk aforementioned. “Before I knew it, the girl who complete up second (Tola) went by me, and I aforementioned, ‘You go girlfriend. I’ve got nothing left in me now.'”

Tuliamuk finished third after coming in second last year, besides behind the winner by 11 seconds. She’s focused on competitive in a fall marathon to get ready for the Olympic trials.

“I really think I have a chance at the marathon,” Tuliamuk aforementioned about making the U.S. Olympic team in 2020. “I hope by next year at the Olympic trials I am going to be in a good spot to make the Olympic marathon. The longer the better for me.”

For Kipp, this race — her second Bolder Boulder — was a homecoming. She affected to Vancouver in September after eight years in Boulder, galore of them under the tutelage of CU coach Mark Wetmore, to be a doctoral student perusing physiology at the University of British Columbia. She coaches herself, and manages her training with workouts as early as 5 a.m. or as late as 8 p.m., often with her husband pacing, depending on the demands of her school schedule. She plans to focus on track sport ahead of the Olympics.

“This is my home,” Kipp aforementioned. “So galore people were intonation my name — and pronouncing it right — so I know it’s people who know me. It brings back so galore memories.”