Brogan Austin wins Health Solutions 8K

Madison, Wis.-based runner is first American-born winner since 1997

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CEDAR RAPIDS — The Health Solutions 8K pack was still bunched as it disappeared over the rise on Third Avenue.

By the time the 8K leaders came back down Third Avenue 20 minutes later, the crowd had thinned as the Fifth Season 5K had started, and the breakaway of leaders in the longer distance was on.

Three men pushed for the lead, but Brogan Austin, 24, of Madison, Wis., crossed the line first, winning the 31st annual race in 23:57, 11 seconds ahead of Nick Holmes, 25, who took second in 24:08, and 21 ahead of Kevin Lewis, 22, who took third in 24:18.

Edward Tabut and Abraham Chelanga finished fourth and fifth, respectively.

Austin, a Boone, Iowa, native, is the first American-born and first Iowan to win the race since 1997. He competed for Drake in college, and Lewis and Holmes competed at the University of Iowa.

The Kenyans in the field opened the race with a quick pace, taking Holmes with them. Holmes led to the turnaround.

“I took the lead around the turnaround point, about halfway, maybe a little bit after that,” Austin said. “I just kept pushing the pace, pushing the pace, and got down to 4:30 miles for the last two miles.”

With a blistering pace from the get-go, Holmes, who competed in the marathon at the Olympic trials in February and won the Dam to Dam Half Marathon in Des Moines in June, was unable to keep the lead.

His mark of 24:08 was just 13 seconds ahead of his 24:21 5-mile split from the half marathon.

“It sucked,” Holmes said. “It’s a fun race; it’s a good time with people, but I expected a little better than that.

“A couple of the elite guys, the Kenyan guys, made a couple of weird surges the first couple of miles, and I should have sat back. I had to do most of the leading.”

Holmes said the race felt awkward. He said he’s in a weird place with training and the race came harder to him than it should have.

An American runner winning the race is rare, but for the top three finishers to be American athletes is rarer still.

Race director Colin Flynn said he could not remember a comparable American finish.

“I knew that Nick [Holmes] and Brogan [Austin] were going to run really well,” Flynn said. “I heard through the grapevine that they were both running really well and that they were going to challenge each other.”

Austin also competed at the marathon Olympic trials in February. To many of the elite runners, going from 26.2 miles to just less than five, Monday’s race might as well have been a dash around a track.

From the gun start to crossing the line, the field was out and back quickly, although well off the event record of 22:38 — which still is held by Keith Brantly from 1988.

“I haven’t done a race like that in over a year now. I did a few half marathons and then I did the Olympic Trial marathon. To go down to the 8K makes it feel like a sprint,” Austin said. “I like going fast. It’s nice to know you only have to hurt for 25 minutes, instead of a couple of hours.”

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