Natosha Rogers is somewhat of an anomaly on the local distance running circuit.
Rogers has spent the bulk of her life in Colorado. And yet until Monday she had never participated in the state's annual gem of a road race, the Bolder Boulder.
Rogers made the most of her first appearance in the women's professional race at the 39th edition of the annual Memorial Day distance-running festival, finishing third overall and very nearly pushing one of the United States teams to a rare victory in the international team challenge.
The women's pro race otherwise boasted a familiar look, with Ethiopia returning to the top of the team standings behind the historic fifth individual victory by Mamita Daska.
"Lots of people in my family have run it, and a lot of my family grew up around Boulder, but I had not even watched the race before. And I'm not proud of it," Rogers said. "Neely (Gracey) talked me into doing this race this year, and it hit me that this is an amazing opportunity.
"I actually was so nervous for this race. More nervous than for any race I've done this year. I definitely exceeded expectations. I thought I could get top 10 but I never thought I'd get third."
Rogers and the rest of the pack quickly were left behind by Daska, fellow Ethiopian Ruti Aga, and Kenya's Gladys Kipsoi. However, as the two Ethiopians continued to increase their lead, Kipsoi eventually fell back toward the back. When that occurred, and with the top two spots clearly of reach, Rogers took advantage of an opening.
"Two miles in I said, 'I better be competitive, otherwise I'm going to regret it,'" Rogers said. "All I was saying in my head was third place, third place, third place. That made me go after her. We battled in the middle, but I was able to drop her around mile four or five. This was one of my favorite races I've ever done."
Daska made race history by becoming just the second female professional to win five titles at the Bolder Boulder. Daska previously earned wins in 2014, 2012, 2009, and 2010. Daska's victory gave Ethiopia six consecutive individual wins in Bolder Boulder's international team challenge, and Daska's win returned her country to the top of the team standings after a run of seven consecutive wins by Ethiopia was snapped last year by Kenya.
Daska finished in 32 minutes, 44.84 seconds to outpace her teammate Aga by 56.85 seconds. Rogers finished third with a time of 34:00.83.
Ethiopia finished with 13 team points to edge the USA Red team by one point. Kenya (24 points), Mexico (36) and USA White (36) rounded out the top five.
While the near-miss by the USA Red team was paced by Rogers, she had plenty of help with a fifth-place finish from Gracey and a sixth-place finish from Lindsey Scherf. American Stephanie Bruce, who ran for USA White, placed eighth. It was the second runner-up finish in three years for a USA team, with both of those squads featuring top-10 runs from Gracey.
"I ran this race two years ago and we finished second as a team that year as well, and that was definitely our goal," Gracey said. "We were talking about that before the start. We knew Ethiopia was going to be really competitive, so for us to come away finishing only one point out of that victory...in some ways it's so frustrating because it shows that every point does count. You start to question if there was a point in the race where we could've worked just a little bit harder to make that happen. But I think we all ran the very best we could today."
Women's International Team Challenge
1. Mamitu Daska, Ethiopia, 32:44.84
2. Ruti Aga, Ethiopia, 32:45.64
3. Natosha Rogers, USA Red, 33:41.69
4. Gladys Kipsoi, Kenya, 34:00.83
5. Neely Gracey, USA Red, 34:07.35
6. Lindsay Scherf, USA Red, 34:27.70
7. Elvin Kibet, Kenya, 34:31.91
8. Stephanie Bruce, USA White, 34:35.35
9. Margarita Hernández Flores, Mexico, 34:36.00
10. Buzenesh Deba, Ethiopia, 35:23.41
11. Mara Olsen, USA White, 35:38.86
12. Esmeralda Rebollo Salgado, Mexico, 35:52.45
13. Grace Kahura, Kenya, 35:59.14
14. Valdilene Dos Santos Silva, Brazil, 36:02.00
15. Kathya Mirell García Barrios, Mexico, 36:12.12
16. Dailin Belmonte, Cuba, 36:19.84
17. Emma Kertesz, USA White, 36:33.10
18. Andreia Hessel, Brazil, 36:40.50
19. Maggie Callahan, USA Blue, 36:41.24
20. Milena Perez Garcia, Cuba, 37:45.60
21. Lingling Jin, China, 37:46.36
22. Adriana Da Silva, Brazil, 38:02.25
23. Yudileyus Castillo Tumbarell, Cuba, 38:18.52
24. Molly Callahan, USA Blue, 38:36.97
25. Becky Wade, USA Blue, 38:56.15
26. Ziyang Liu, China, 39:53.13
27. Liming Zhuang, China, 48:52.80
(With finishes and points
1. Ethiopia, 1-2-10, 13
2. USA Red, 3-5-6, 14
3. Kenya, 4-7-13, 24
4. Mexico, 9-12-15, 36
5. USA White, 8-11-17, 36
6. Brazil, 14-18-22, 54
7. Cuba 16-20-23, 59
8. USA Blue 19-24-25, 68
9. CHINA 21-26-27, 74
Pat Rooney: email@example.com or twitter.com/prooney07
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