A day after being awarded second place in the 2016 race, it was determined that Isaac Mwambi had crossed the finish line just prior to Mekonen.
All three were back for another run on the candlelit streets of Kingsport on Saturday night, but this time it was Mekonen running alone to the finish inside J. Fred Johnson Stadium.
The Ethiopian finished in 22:41, five seconds ahead of Kenyans Wilson Kibogo and Simion Chirchir in second and third, both of whom were credited with a time of 22:46. Nicholas Kirui, another Kenyan, was fourth at 22:53, followed by Matt McClintock, from Blowing Rock, North Carolina, fifth at 22:55.
With the fastest and deepest field in years, 20 runners formed the lead pack in the first half of the race, with the official lead changing hands many times over.
The brutal, long uphill stretch on Fort Henry Drive in the fourth mile of the race trimmed the lead pack in half, and when the leaders reached the end of Warpath Drive, Mekonen made his move with a very aggressive attack of a left-hand turn back onto Memorial Boulevard.
“It was great competition,” said Mekonen, who finished second at last weekend’s Boilermaker 15k in Utica, New York. “A lot of great runners. The weather was great. I felt it was time.”
None of the elite pack was able to match burst by Mekonen, who wanted to make sure a repeat of Mwambi’s late surge was not repeated.
“Yes, I looked back a few times,” added Mekonen. “Wanted to finish strong. I remember last year.”
Mekonen’s time was well off the race record (22:02) set by Peter Githuka in 1996 and the not-yet-certified 2014 world record (22:01) but that mattered little to the winner.
“I’m very happy to win here,” continued Mekonen. “Great crowd and a very nice night.”
McClintock, a former runner at Purdue University, is believed to be the first American to finish in the top 10 since Kevin Odiorne in 1993.
Kenyans Evans Kurui (22:55) was sixth, Amon Terer (23:02) seventh and Geoffrey Nigetich (23:03) was eighth. Defending champion Yitayal Atanfu (23:03) from Ethiopia was ninth and Kenyan Panuel Mkungo (23:10) 10th.
Silas Kipruto (23:12), one of the pre-race favorites and winner of last week’s Boilermaker, was 11th, while Mwangi (23:23) placed 13th.
For the second straight year, a local runner prevailed on the women’s side as Bristol, Virginia’s, Stephanie Place crossed first in 28:20.
Winning many times on the local circuit this year, winning the Crazy 8’s was a thrill for Place.
“It’s the biggest race around here, and it’s the most fun race around here and I love running it,” said Place. “So winning it was pretty special.”
Place hadn’t been able to participate in the race for several years, so she really didn’t come to this year’s race with much strategy.
“It’s easy to go out fast in this race, and it’s also hard not to go out too fast in this atmosphere,” Place explained. “I think I went out pretty even and just tried to run my race. Running somebody else’s race usually gets you in trouble.”
North Carolina’s Nicole Dimercurlo was second at 28:38, followed by Jessica Reeves (29:17) of Owensboro, Kentucky, in third. Jenna Hutchins (30:54) was fourth with former Tennessee High runner and current ETSU Buc Macy Carrier (32:08) fifth.
Harper Russell (33:48), a runner at Cherokee High School, placed ninth.