New citizen Yimer flags at finish

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.

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