By David Monti, @d9monti
(c) 2016 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved

(13-Jan) — The elite field for the 120th Boston Marathon, scheduled for Monday, April 18, boasts four former race champions and athletes representing 11 different nations, organizers announced today.  John Hancock Financial, which is in its 31st year as principal sponsor of America’s oldest marathon, said athletes in this year’s field had won 16 Abbott World Marathon Majors events, Olympic and IAAF World Championships medals, and 89 global marathons.

“We welcome back our past champions and an exceptional elite field from around the world for the 120th running of the Boston Marathon,” said Rob Friedman, Hancock’s head of sponsorship and event marketing through a statement. “During our sponsorship we have hosted more than 700 elite athletes from 46 countries, and each year these talented athletes run a strategic and exciting race for millions of fans around the globe. We wish this year’s team all the best in their final Boston Marathon preparations and look forward to cheering for them on Marathon Monday.”

Reigning Boston champions Lelisa Desisa of Ethiopia and Caroline Rotich of Kenya lead the field.  Desisa, who has a career best time of 2:04:45, also won the race in 2013 and was the third place finisher at last November’s TCS New York City Marathon.  Rotich, whose best time is 2:23:22, won Boston for the first time last year and hopes to bounce back from a disappointing 10th place finish in New York.

Two other athletes, Kenya’s Geoffrey Mutai and Wesley Korir, have also claimed victory in Boston.  Mutai ran the still-standing Boston course record of 2:03:02 (and personal best) in 2011 in a year where athletes enjoyed a strong tailwind from Hopkinton to Back Bay.  Korir prevailed in very hot conditions one year later, clocking 2:12:40, the slowest winning time in the last eight editions of the race.  His career best time is 2:06:13.

Other notable athletes on the men’s side include Kenya’s Sammy Kitwara (2:04:28 PB), the 2010 IAAF World Half-Marathon Championships silver medalist; Ethiopia’s Yemane Tsegay, the 2015 IAAF World Championships Marathon silver medalist (2:04:48); Kenya’s Wilson Chebet, the three-time Amsterdam Marathon winner and 2014 Boston Marathon runner-up; and American Ian Burrell, who is bypassing the USA Olympic Trials Marathon to run Boston, instead.

On the women’s side, 2012 Olympic Marathon champion, Tiki Gelana of Ethiopia (2:18:58 PB), is the fastest woman in the field and will be making her Boston Marathon debut.  Four other Ethiopian woman –Buzunesh Deba (2:19:59), Tirfi Tsegaye (2:20:18), Mamitu Daska (2:21:59), and Atsede Bayisa (2:22:03) are among the five-fastest women in the race.  Also competing are two-time TCS New York City Marathon winner Jelena Prokopcuka of Latvia (2:22:56 PB) and Americans Sarah Crouch (2:32:44) and Neely Spence Gracey (debut).  Crouch had to withdraw from the USA Olympic Marathon Trials, scheduled for February 13, because of an injury and has changed her focus to compete in Boston.

“I will state my goal loudly right now,” Crouch wrote on her blog earlier this week.  “I want to be the top American at Boston this year.”

Officials at the Boston Athletic Association (B.A.A.), the Boston-based not-for-profit race organizer which owns and manages the race, were pleased with the field.

“We already look forward to welcoming these top international marathoners to Boston in April,” said Tom Grilk, the organization’s executive director through a prepared statement.  “Our team works year-round to play host and set a stage worthy of the caliber of professional athletes that will run here along with the rest of the splendid athletes in our field. We wish the John Hancock Elite Athlete Team members good luck with their training with fewer than 100 days to go until our 120th race.”

The 2016 Boston Marathon kicks off the Abbott World Marathon Majors Series X, the richest and most prestigious series of marathons in the world.  Series X will also end at Boston in 2017.  The current series, Series IX, will conclude at the Tokyo Marathon on February 28.

Here are the complete elite fields for the 120th Boston Marathon, listed by career best times:

Geoffrey Mutai, Kenya, 2:03:02 (Boston, 2011)
Sammy Kitwara, Kenya, 2:04:28 (Chicago, 2014)
Tsegaye Mekonnen , Ethiopia, 2:04:32 (Dubai, 2014)
Lelisa  Desisa, Ethiopia, 2:04:45 (Dubai, 2013)
Yemane Adhane Tsegay, Ethiopia, 2:04:48 (Rotterdam, 2012)
Getu Feleke, Ethiopia, 2:04:50 (Rotterdam, 2012)
Wilson Chebet, Kenya, 2:05:27 (Rotterdam, 2011)
Hayle Lemi Berhanu, Ethiopia, 2:05:28 (Dubai, 2015)
Stephen Chebogut, Kenya, 2:05:52 (Eindhoven, 2015)
Deribe Robi , Ethiopia, 2:05:58 (Eindhoven, 2015)
Wesley Korir, Kenya, 2:06:13 (Chicago, 2012)
Michael Kipyego, Kenya, 2:06:48 (Eindhoven, 2011)
Paul Lonyangata, Kenya, 2:07:14 (Shanghai, 2015)
Jackson Kiprop, Uganda, 2:09:32 (Mumbai, 2013)
Cuthbert Nyasango, Zimbabwe, 2:09:52 (Prague, 2014)
Abdi Nageeye, Netherlands, 2:10:24 (Amsterdam, 2015)
Abdelmajid El Hissouf, Morocco, 2:10:35 (Seoul, 2015)
Solonei Da Silva, Brazil, 2:11:32 (Padova, 2011)
Jordan Chipangama, Zambia, 2:11:35 (Duluth, 2015)
Ian Burrell, USA, 2:13:26 (Houston, 2014)
Girma Mecheso, USA, Debut; HM 1:02:16 (Houston, 2015)

Tiki Gelana, Ethiopia, 2:18:58 (Rotterdam, 2012)
Buzunesh Deba, Ethiopia, 2:19:59 (Boston, 2014)
Tirfi Tsegaye, Ethiopia, 2:20:18 (Berlin, 2014)
Mamitu Daska, Ethiopia, 2:21:59 (Frankfurt, 2011)
Atsede Bayisa, Ethiopia, 2:22:03 (Chicago, 2012)
Flomena Cheyech Daniel, Kenya, 2:22:44 (Paris, 2014)
Tadelech Bekele, Ethiopia, 2:22:51 (Dubai, 2015)
Jelena Prokopcuka, Latvia, 2:22:56 (Osaka, 2005)
Valentine Kipketer, Kenya, 2:23:02 (Amsterdam, 2013)
Caroline Rotich, Kenya, 2:23:22 (Chicago, 2012)
Joyce Chepkirui, Kenya, 2:24:11 (Amsterdam, 2015)
Fatuma Sado, Ethiopia, 2:24:16 (Toronto, 2015)
Purity Cherotich Rionoripo, Kenya, 2:25:09 (Lisbon, 2015)
Fate Tola, Ethiopia/Germany, 2:25:14 (Berlin, 2012)
Lamei Sun, China, 2:27:55 (Beijing, 2012)
Sarah Crouch , USA, 2:32:44 (Chicago, 2014)
Neely Spence Gracey, USA, Debut; HM 69:59 (Philadelphia, 2015)

PHOTO: Two-time Boston Marathon winner Lelisa Desisa in advance of the 2015 edition of the race (photo by Jane Monti for Race Results Weekly)