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Kenya's Rono returning to defend title in Minnesota Mile

Aron Rono's chances of running in the 2012 Summer Olympics are slim, and considering he'll be among the 10,000-meter track candidates for Kenya's team, the chances are more remote.

Aron Rono's chances of running in the 2012 Summer Olympics are slim, and considering he'll be among the 10,000-meter track candidates for Kenya's team, the chances are more remote.

Rono, 28, however, did set a personal best at the distance this year -- 27 minutes, 31.15 seconds -- and expects to be part of Kenya's Olympic Trials next May. The Summer Games begin July 27, 2012 ,in London.

His speed will be on display in Sunday's fifth Grandma's Minnesota Mile along Superior Street. The nine-race event, for runners of all abilities, begins at

8:50 a.m. The elite women start at 10:20 a.m. and the elite men at 10:30 a.m., starting near Fitger's Inn and finishing near the Holiday Center.

Rono, who lives in Albuquerque, N.M., is the course record holder, winning last year in 3:58.18.

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"I know that making Kenya's Olympic team will be hard. Right now, I'm probably in the top 15 in the country at 10,000 meters, but not all of those guys will run that distance," Rono said this week. "I could be seeded as high as No. 10 and only three make the team. I just want to be in the best shape I can and run the best I can."

He will wear No. 1 Sunday in a field of 32 with John Jefferson, 28, of Springfield, Ore., wearing No. 2 with a best of 3:56.86. Former champion Christian Hesch, 32, of Hollywood, Calif., has No. 5.

Rono set a 5,000-meter personal best on the track on April 15, placing sixth in the Mount Sac Relays in Walnut, Calif., in 13:30.58, and was 11th at 10,000 meters on May 1 at Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif. He then developed a hip injury and was sidelined for a month, and has been back training for seven weeks. He hasn't raced a mile since last year in Duluth.

"I don't think I'm ready for a longer-distance race, but I feel good about racing a mile," said Rono, a seven-time NAIA All-American in track and cross country at Azusa Pacific University in Azusa, Calif., through 2009.

In 2011 world rankings, nine of the top 15 times at 10,000 meters have been run by Kenyans. Rono is 37th overall.

American Amy Mortimer, 30 of Manhattan, Kan., is top seeded in the women's elite field of 20. She was runner-up last year in 4:36.00 and has a best of 4:32.90. Northland runners entered include Jennifer Houck, Serena Sullivan, Ariel Heitzman and Katie Koski, and Jeremy Polson, Curtis Wheeler, John Heitzman and Paul Kimpling.

Registration at $25 is available through race day at the Fitger's Inn main lobby -- noon to 6 p.m. today and 7-8:30 a.m. Sunday. Through Friday there were 463 entries. Last year's total was 532.

The elite races offer a prize money purse of $15,000 with $2,250 to the winning man and woman, an increase of $250 from 2010.

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