In capturing the last 10 titles in the open men’s wheelchair division of the Lilac Bloomsday Run, Saul Mendoza proved himself to be a gracious and popular champion.
But on Sunday, during the 32nd annual Bloomsday 12-kilometer road race, Mendoza showed he could handle losing with an equal amount of class after having his remarkable run of Bloomsday titles snapped by Aaron Gordian.
Gordian, a 44-year-old veteran racer from Mexico City, wheeled his way around the hilly Bloomsday course in 26 minutes, 35 seconds, to outdistance Mendoza, the runner up, by a minute and nine seconds.
“I’m glad to see Aaron win, because he’s been trying for so long,” said Mendoza, 41, who still owns the Bloomsday course record of 25:24 set in 2002 – along with more than 200 road race titles. “And I think this is his first important victory.”
Mendoza added that his own performance, while not one of his best, was still satisfying.
“I kept him in my view, and I was trying to catch him,” he said of Gordian, who posted a third-place finish in last year’s Bloomsday. “My training has been going really well, but it was just one of those days where I woke up with heavy arms and I was just too tired.
“That happens, racing is like that. You have good days and bad days, and today just happened to be a bad day for my arms.”
Joshua George, from Champaign, Ill., finished third.
McGrory flies the coup
Amanda McGrory, from the University of Illinois, sped through the Bloomsday route in 32 minutes, 28 seconds, earning first place in the open women’s wheelchair division.
“The first-place woman that won it, she was pretty quick,” said second-place finisher Shirley Reilly. “She just went out pretty hard and set her own pace. I just went my own pace.”
Reilly pulled closer to McGrory on a few occasions – climbing the first hill, and coasting down some of the others, Reilly said. But McGrory pulled away for the definitive win, 3:32 ahead of Reilly.
Then McGrory quickly hopped onto an airplane to head back to Champaign, Ill.
The third-place finisher in the open division was Anjali Forber-Pratt, but she took home the money given to a fourth-place finisher. That’s because Chelsea McClammer, in the junior division, beat her time.
McClammer, 14, finished in 39:13 and took home the third-place prize money. Coming from Benton City, she had to work extra hard to train for the hills of Spokane.
“We have to, like, find someplace in our city that we can practice hills and then do a lot of endurance training, because it’s a long race,” McClammer said.
“I try not to be so scared during the race, because there’s downhills. And last year I was really scared of them and didn’t do too well, but this year I hit 30 [mph].”
Going uphill is tougher in a wheelchair, but McClammer said she likes the Bloomsday race because of the hills.
Angola’s Joao Ntyamba and Canada’s Marilyn Arsenault captured the men’s and women’s titles in the Masters divisions of Sunday’s Bloomsday.
Ntyamba finished in 36 minutes 59 seconds to easily outdistance Kenya’s Gideon Mutisya, who ran 38:39. Damian Baldovino, from Lakeview, Ore., finished third.
Arsenault’s margin of victory was even greater as she posted a time of 43:59 to beat runner up Laurie Porter, from Brush Prarie by almost 31/2 minutes.
Mary Thane finished third.