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McGrory wins fifth straight women’s wheelchair title

A nice, relaxing weekend.

That’s what Amanda McGrory didn’t have.

She competed in a 5-kilometer race in Champaign, Ill., on Friday night and a half-marathon in the same city Saturday morning. She drove straight to the airport and flew to Spokane, arriving Saturday night. McGrory woke up Sunday and won her fifth straight women’s open Wheelchair Division title at the 12K Lilac Bloomsday.

“It was a little bit of a rough weekend for me, so I wasn’t quite as aggressive as I normally am,” the 24-year-old said. “I had a deal with a business in town, a sponsorship deal to run those races and I kind of set everything up not realizing how close it was all going to be and how hard it was going to be logistically.”

She looked refreshed after accepting another trophy at the awards ceremony.

“I have about four cups of coffee in me, so I’m doing OK,” she said, laughing. “I was sitting at breakfast this morning, kind of staring at my eggs.”

Her latest title was perhaps her most challenging. She finished in 35 minutes, 24 seconds, 11 seconds in front of second-place Shirley Reilly. Reilly, 25, of Tucson, Ariz., was 31 seconds behind McGrory last year.

“She’s been my biggest competition the past five years and it gets closer and closer every year,” McGrory said. “For me, as an elite athlete, you want to beat the best so you have to race against the best. If you’re winning by 2, 3, 4 minutes it’s maybe not as satisfying.”

McGrory caught Reilly on Doomsday Hill.

“We pushed together, but she coasts down the hills a bit faster and she got a little bit of a gap on me at the beginning and a little gap coming into Doomsday,” said McGrory, who lost to Reilly in Los Angeles in March. “But Doomsday is my favorite part. I caught back up pretty fast, kept climbing hard and I broke away at the top of the hill. I pushed the last 2½ miles on my own.”

McGrory is ready for a short break. Her next race is in Minnesota in June.

“We don’t get home until Monday night,” she said. “We have a little chance to relax in Spokane and take it easy.”

• Aaron Gordian, 46, of Mexico City, Mexico, returned to the top of the awards podium, taking the men’s open wheelchair title. He finished in 28:03, taking home the $2,000 winner’s prize. Countryman Saul Mendoza was second (29:07).

Gordian, who was second last year and won in 2008, had little difficulty in winning by more than a minute.

“This is a spectacular race,” Gordian said in broken English. “I love this town. It was an excellent day for everybody.”

Gordian finished in 26:35 when he won in 2008. He figured a little wind hindered wheelchair participants on the hills.

After taking Doomsday Hill, Gordian pushed the pace.

“I pushed, pushed, pushed because of the competitors behind me,” Gordian said.

Stepping down

Thirty years seemed just the right point for Tom Cameron to hang up his clipboard.

The wheelchair division coordinator announced his retirement earlier in the week. He’s handing off the baton to Jimmy Gleason.

“I’ll be around next year to help during the transition,” Cameron said, choking back tears. “It’s just time.”

Cameron has been a fixture at Bloomsday and the face of the wheelchair division. Nobody has championed that division more than Cameron.

Other top finishers

Josh Moen of Minneapolis, Minn., was the top finishing American, taking 10th (35:21). Amy Hastings, of Mammoth Lakes, Calif., was the top American female with a time of 40:54. She placed 10th overall.