Abebe Yimer wasn’t able to repeat his marathon victory in Las Vegas.
Yet he was still floating on air after Sunday’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas Marathon, despite an eighth-place effort that was 11 minutes off his personal best.
For the first time, the 29-year-old native Ethiopian ran as an American citizen, after going through the official ceremony downtown Friday morning.
“That has been my dream from long before I came to this country,” said Yimer, who has lived in the United States for eight years and Las Vegas the past four years. “It’s a great country, and now I get to line up for the United States.”
Yimer was among the elite runners the entire race and until Mile 22 had a legitimate shot at finishing second. But the chilly morning — the temperature was 36 degrees at the start — ultimately took a toll.
“I was feeling really cold in my calves. I couldn’t move,” he said.
Yimer finished in 2 hours, 24 minutes, 50 seconds, and was the top Nevada finisher, earning him $1,000. His time was faster than his winning 2008 time of 2:27:27, but the field was better this year, the first under the Rock ‘n’ Roll banner.
Henderson’s Michael Foley (2:37:26) was the second Nevada male (17th overall) and made $500.
Las Vegan Melissa Roche was the top female finisher from Nevada, collecting $1,000 after clocking 3:13:55 to take 19th in the women’s field. Fellow Las Vegan Jessica Destito (3:16:15) made $500 as the second Nevada female.
• HALF-MARATHON — Ethiopia’s Bekana Daba, a speedy 21-year-old, captured the men’s half-marathon title in 1:01:40 to earn $3,000. It was the sixth-fastest time on U.S. soil this year, and the fastest half-marathon in Nevada history.
Kenya’s Stephen Muange was a distant second in 1:03:11, just ahead of Mexico’s Teodoro Vega (1:03:13).
Werknesh Kidane, another Ethiopian, won the women’s title and $3,000 with a time of 1:10:55, with Michigan’s Desi Davila second in 1:12:14.
Nicholas Pellegrino was the top local male finisher (1:10:48) and Angie Bestwick was the top local woman (1:22:22).
• WHEELCHAIRS — Chad Johnson of Indiana won the men’s marathon wheelchair title in 1 hour, 53 minutes, 13 seconds, the only time that beat the mandated 2:15:00 to earn prize money. Johnson won $1,000.
Henderson’s Jason Gradyan was second in 2:25:27.