WELCOME TO AMERICA

He has been in the United States for only three weeks, but Mohammed Abu-Rezeq is taking a liking to his new country.

Abu-Rezeq, who just moved to Cincinnati from England, has run in two half marathons since he’s been in the United States, and he’s won them both. The second came Saturday when he captured the Mill Race Marathon’s half-marathon event.

“I like the people,” Abu-Rezeq said. “I like racing here. I like everything here.”

Abu-Rezeq finished in 1 hour, 6 minutes, 51 seconds for 13.1 miles. Patrick Cheptoek of Murfreesboro, Tennessee — last year’s winner — took second in 1:07.24, and Tommy Kauffmann of Cincinnati was third in 1:08.17.

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Meanwhile, Cynthia Jerop couldn’t make it back to Columbus last year to defend her women’s half-marathon title. But the Kenyan native, who now lives in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, returned to the site of her 2013 victory and added another title.

This time, Jerop ran 1:17:30. She led from start to finish.

“I decided to come and defend my title because in 2014, I was in Kenya,” Jerop said. “It was tough because I was wanting to run maybe 1:11 or 1:12, but I’m glad I won.”

Jerop also won the Austin (Texas) Marathon in February, and a 10K in Minnesota this summer. She is planning to run the Twin Cities Marathon on Oct. 4.

Whitney Bevins Lazzara of Indianapolis finished second among women in 1:18:40.

“It was a little windier than I think we were expecting, but it’s a nice course with a lot of turns,” Bevins Lazzara said. “This is a good race, and we got lucky with the weather today.”

Bevins Lazzara, who led Westfield High School to the 1998 state cross-country title and ran at Indiana University, started doing longer distances three years ago and is getting ready for the Olympic Trials marathon in February in Los Angeles. Saturday’s race was her first since December because of a stress fracture.

“The goal is just getting more speed,” Bevins Lazzara said. “I want to do some more 10K and half (marathon) work before the fall.”

Marion Kandie of Bowling Green, Kentucky, was the third women’s finisher in 1:19:42.

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Ted Schultz is sports editor for The Republic. He can be reached at tschultz@therepublic.com or 812-379-5628.