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Newcomers Keith Pierce, Shawneen Garrahan win Run for the Water 10-miler

Brom Hoban

The field of more than 1,000 who turned out Sunday for the Run for the Water 10-miler Sunday was unusually deep with talent.

Among the elite runners and pre-race favorites were Darren Brown, who won the Statesman Capitol 10,000 earlier this year; four-time Cap 10 women's champ Cassandra Henkiel; and two-time Cap 10 winner Carmen Ayala Troncoso. But it was a couple of newcomers who took control of this third race in the Austin Distance Challenge.

On a cool, misty morning, the lead pack turned west off of the First Street bridge and was just easing into a race pace when Keith Pierce began opening a gap over Darren Brown, Derek Yorek, Adam Perkins and Kyle Miller.

Pierce, a recent transplant from Fort Worth, finished the first mile along Cesar Chavez in a modest 5:20, but that was all it took. Perhaps unaware that Pierce has won the last three Cowtown Marathons, the chasers made no attempt to catch him as he continued to pick up the pace.

Heading into the toughest part of the course along Scenic Drive, Pierce passed through the halfway mark in 26:15 and none of the chasers were in sight.

"We gave him way to much merchandise — too much room to move," laughed Brown, who worked hard to catch up in the second half.

Just beyond the steep climb on Scenic, Pierce dropped the pace to a 4:58 split between miles six and seven. He was concerned about at least some of the chasers.

"I knew Darren was running easy the first half and racing the second half," said Pierce. "I kept expecting him to catch up. Right about the five-mile mark, I knew if I was going to stay in the lead, I'd have to hammer it a couple of miles."

He was right. Brown was accelerating and closed the gap. In the end, he ran out of real estate. Pierce finished in 51:33, a 5:09 per-mile pace for the hilly course. Brown was second in 52:16, followed by Miller at 53:02, and Yorek, who won the race in 2007, at 53:11.

Jeff Shelton took the top master's spot, placing seventh overall in 56:58.

Pierce moved to Cedar Park last June to take the track and cross country coaching position at the new Vandegrift High School in Leander.

"I'm really excited about being part of the Austin running community," he said, adding, "I'm planning on running the Dallas White Rock Marathon in December, and hope to run the Austin Marathon in February."

Like Pierce, women's winner Shawneen Garrahan recently moved to Austin. A recent graduate of Amherst College in Massachusetts, she's attending law school at the University of Texas. A star steeplechaser at Amherst, Garrahan went out at just about a 6:10 pace, with Ayala-Troncoso and Henkiel close by.

As Garrahan passed through the three-mile mark in 18:40, she was pulling ahead. At the halfway mark she had about 12 seconds on Ayala-Troncoso and a minute on Henkiel.

Despite stopping to tie her shoe at mile seven, Garrahan continued to gain ground on Ayala-Troncoso, hitting the tape in 1:01:02. Ayala-Troncoso, 50, took the top master's spot and second place overall in 1:02:08.

Henkiel finished at 1:02:51, Laura Mayo was fourth in 1:05:39, and Catherine Barrera rounded out the top five in 1:06:21.

Runners said the hills were fairly tough, but that should serve as good training for the Decker Challenge Half-Marathon (Dec. 6).

Upcoming races

FRIDAY

Run With The Toros 5K, 5:30 p.m., at RunTex on Riverside. See www.runtex.com for more information.

SATURDAY

Hokahey 5K Run, 7:30 a.m., Oak Hill. www.hokahey5k.com/.

Wing Ding 5K, 8 a.m., Southwest Williamson County Regional Park, Leander. See www.wingding5k.com.

Taylor Turkey Trot 5K, 9 a.m., Murphy Park, Taylor. Call (512) 365-9622.

Shake a Leg at the Lake 5K and 10K, 9 a.m., Lakeway. See www.runtex.com.

SUNDAY

Vibha Dream Mile 5K, 8 a.m., East Mall, University of Texas. See www.dreammile.org/austin.