13 Pro Athlete Storylines to Follow at the 2018 United Airlines NYC Half

13 Pro Athlete Storylines to Follow at the 2018 United Airlines NYC Half

The professional athlete field for the 2018 United Airlines NYC Half will feature athletes from 15 different countries, including nine Olympians and 10 Paralympians.

Here’s a look at the top 13 storylines for the field:

1. Emily Sisson set an American debut record with her 1:08:21 runner-up performance at last year’s race, finishing only two seconds behind her training partner Molly Huddle. Racing as an NYRR Team for Kids Ambassador this year, the two-time NCAA champion and IAAF World Championship participant, is aiming to finish as the top American woman this time around.

 Emily Sisson racing at the front of the pack in Central Park at the 2017 United Airlines NYC Half.

Emily Sisson racing at the front of the pack in Central Park at the 2017 United Airlines NYC Half.

2. Betsy Saina, a 2016 Olympian from Kenya in the 10,000 meters, will make her United Airlines NYC Half debut after a 1:09:17 run in Marugame, Japan earlier this year. At the 2017 TCS New York City Marathon, she befriended fifth-place finisher and New York state native Allie Kieffer; soon after, Saina invited Kieffer to Kenya to train together. Saina trains under Patrick Sang, who also coaches 2017 TCS New York City Marathon champion Geoffrey Kamworor.

3. A blockbuster American men’s field will include four-time Olympian Abdi Abdirahman, two-time Olympian Dathan Ritzenhein, American 5K record-holder Ben True, and last year’s top American finisher in the race, Chris Derrick. Also including Shadrack Biwott, and Scott Fauble, it’s arguably one of the deepest representations the U.S. men have had in the history of the event.

4. Kenya’s Vivian Cheruiyot and Ethiopia’s Mamitu Daska could potentially be racing each other to the finish line, with both international runners coming in with an impressive list of credentials. Cheruiyot, an Olympic gold and silver medalist and four-time IAAF world champion, will be making her United Airlines NYC Half debut after running a personal-best half marathon of 1:07:44 last fall at the Great North Run. Daska, winner of the UAE Healthy Kidney 10K and third-place finisher at the TCS New York City Marathon last year, will be racing this event for the first time in nine years.

5. The women’s professional wheelchair field will be stacked in its fifth year, as defending champion Susannah Scaroni will look to defend her title against two of the sport’s all-time greats in Switzerland’s Manuela Schär and NYRR Team for Kids Ambassador Tatyana McFadden. Schär is on a tear as of late, having won five Abbott World Marathon Majors in the last 13 months, including the TCS New York City Marathon in November and Tokyo Marathon in February. All three have won this race previously.

 Manuela Schär of Switzerland leads the field at the 2017 TCS New York City Marathon.

Manuela Schär of Switzerland leads the field at the 2017 TCS New York City Marathon.

6. South Africa’s Ernst van Dyk will look to win his fourth consecutive event title—something no athlete has ever achieved in the history of the race, either in the open or wheelchair division. He lowered his own event record from 47:37 to 47:28 in last year’s race and is also a two-time New York City and 10-time Boston Marathon champion.

7. Josh George, the inaugural NYC Half wheelchair division champion in 2014, and Amanda McGrory, a two-time New York City Marathon winner, will have cameras affixed to their racing chairs as part of the TV broadcast. The two Americans are both strong contenders to finish in the top three, and even to be the first to cross the new course’s finish line.

8. After missing out on the podium last year, 2016 race champion Stephen Sambu of Kenya will aim to lead the international men’s contingent. He took third in 2015 and second in 2015.

He’ll be challenged on the race’s new course by Kenya’s Wilson Chebet, who finished as the runner-up behind Sambu two years ago, and Ethiopia’s Teshome Mekonen, who placed third in the race last year.

 Noah Droddy—long hair, sunglasses, moustache, and all—racing to a new personal best at the 2017 United Airlines NYC Half.

Noah Droddy—long hair, sunglasses, moustache, and all—racing to a new personal best at the 2017 United Airlines NYC Half.

9. Fan favorite Noah Droddy, known for his long locks, mustache and sunglasses, had a breakout moment at the United Airlines NYC Half last year; he finished in 1:01:48 for seventh place, lowering his personal best by one minute and 34 seconds. Droddy’s friendly personality will be showcased in the race-day TV broadcast, and you can read about how he spent a day in New York earlier this winter.

10. Roberta Groner, who resides in Randolph, New Jersey, had a major breakthrough at the 2017 U.S. Marathon Championships in December, finishing in second place. The mother of three children, who also works as a nurse, is turning 40 this year but is proving age is just a number. She’s lowered her full marathon time by 42 minutes since running her first 26.2-miler six years ago.

11. At the 2016 TCS New York City Marathon, American Matt Llano finished in 17th place in 2:20:15, but aggravated a previous injury that forced him to be wheeled through the airport when departing New York. After undergoing three surgeries in the last year and taking nine months off, this will be his first time back racing in New York since then.

 Serena Burla in her last run at the NYC Half, in 2013, when she placed 12th.

Serena Burla in her last run at the NYC Half, in 2013, when she placed 12th.

12. In 2011, Serena Burla made her 26.2-mile debut at the New York City Marathon, just 10 months after being diagnosed with a rare soft-tissue cancer in her leg called synovial sarcoma. A 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials qualifier, she is now on the mend heading into the United Airlines NYC Half after having a cancerous lump removed from her right leg at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York last summer. She placed 11th at the IAAF World Championships Marathon in August.

13. Since 2012, the top two Japanese collegiate finishers from the Ageo City Marathon’s half marathon are invited to run the United Airlines NYC Half the following spring. This year, Komazawa University’s Kei Katanishi, the gold medalist at the 2017 World University Games half-marathon, led his teammate Shogo Ise across the line to finish as the first two Japanese collegians in the race. They are the first teammates to qualify in the same year since Toyo University’s Yuta Shitara and Kento Otsu in 2012.


Catch these athletes during the live broadcast of the 2018 United Airlines NYC Half. Coverage starts at 7:00 a.m. ET on Sunday, March 18. 

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