By Andrew Matheson, Santa Cruz Sentinel
Capitola >> Simon Ndirangu had never competed in the annual Wharf to Wharf Race prior to Sunday’s 42nd edition, but he likely fooled just about everyone in the field and everyone watching along East Cliff Drive. The 28-year-old Kenyan, who nearly led the six-mile footrace from wire-to-wire, knew when to make his move and pull away from the lead pack, and when to sprint toward the finish line in Capitola Village.
A fellow countryman provided him some helpful, pre-race pointers.
“My teammate, Shadrack (Kosgei), he is a three-time winner here,” Ndirangu said of his training partner Kosgei, a fan favorite who won the Wharf to Wharf in 2004, ’10 and ’12, and finished runner-up a year ago.
“He told me the course is challenging,” Ndirangu added. “He told me to try and make a move at this point.
“What he always does, I did today, so I was happy about that.”
For as dominant as Kosgei has been in past races, never had he won a Wharf to Wharf as comfortably as Ndirangu did on Sunday. Recording an unofficial winning time of 27 minutes, 33.30 seconds, Ndirangu pulled away from the competition near Corcoran Lagoon and defeated his nearest opponent, Scott Bauhs (27:59), by more than 25 seconds.
For as tight as the first three miles were — even the first four miles — Ndirangu made sure the final result wasn’t even close.
“Simon was gone,” said Bauhs, of San Luis Obispo, who was awarded $1,000 for finishing as the top American and an additional $3,000 for placing runner-up. “He was just the fittest of anybody, so he won.”
Ndirangu earned $4,000 for his top-spot finish.
Ben Bruce, of Flagstaff, Ariz., placed third in 28:08 and earned $2,000, while defending Wharf to Wharf champion Nelson Oyugi earned $1,000 for finishing fourth in 28:23.
“I ran about as fast as I could have today,” Bauhs added. “I had a great race today. I couldn’t have asked for anything more.”