May 5, 2014 in Sports

University of Illinois athletes win wheelchair races

Thomas Clouse And Chris Derrick Staff Writers
Kathy Plonka photoBuy this photo

Wheelchair racers make their way down Riverside during Bloomsday in Spokane on Sunday.
(Full-size photo)(All photos)

Josh George finished second in a half marathon on Saturday in Indianapolis. He jumped on a plane Saturday night, flew to Spokane and won the men’s wheelchair race at Bloomsday on Sunday morning.

“Yesterday, we had really good conditions” in Indianapolis, George said. “We went really hard and almost got the course record. I definitely felt it today.”

George, 30, finished the windy Bloomsday course in 27 minutes, 30 seconds to outpace University of Illinois teammate Aaron Pike, 28, who finished second with a time of 29:12.

“I am exhausted right now,” said George, who earlier won at the Los Angeles Marathon. “The wind made it a little tough, but it was nice at the beginning.”

George said he started out in a tight pack and worked his way into fourth place on the decent down to People’s Park.

“I closed and went to the front at the top of the hill and all the way to Doomsday Hill. I think Aaron pushed alone in second with a few people chasing behind him,” he said.

George said he hopes to return again to the race, which he’s run “five or six times.”

“It’s a great course and the support from the town is incredible,” he said. “I had forgotten how good it was. It’s always fun to come here and race.”

Scaroni repeats

Susannah Scaroni of Tekoa, Washington, repeated as women’s wheelchair champion, continuing a strong spring for the 22-year-old who is set to graduate from Illinois in two weeks.

“I’m happy because I broke my time from last year,” said Scaroni, who battled the wind to finish in 31:38. “That’s a big goal of mine always, and so it was a good day.”

This spring, Scaroni won at the Los Angeles Marathon, placed fourth in the London Marathon and timed a personal-best 1:38.33 in taking third place at the Boston Marathon.

Amanda McGrory, Bloomsday champion from 2007-12, placed second.

Scaroni and McGrory were part of a 12-person contingent from Illinois, including top two men’s finishers George and Pike.

“We have a phenomenal coach who has built up a super elite program,” Scaroni said. … “We peak when he prepares us to peak.

“Every practice is almost a race for all of us.”

Scaroni returns to Champaign today, preparing for this week’s finals, an upcoming internship, and graduate school with the goal of being a sports dietician.

Strong words

Bloomsday race director Don Kardong, also the president of the Professional Road Running Association, issued a statement last Wednesday after the Russian Athletics Federation banned three-time Chicago Marathon champion Liliya Shobukhova for doping.

“Most world-class competitive runners run clean and welcome drug testing knowing they’re competing on a level playing field,” the statement read. “Testing is essential to the integrity of the sport because doping skews results and is unfair to all the runners who train so hard and count on honest results for their efforts.

“We owe to the athletes to provide a clean environment where their training and personal effort will be the only measures of success. Cheating is not acceptable.”

Tops in the state

Joseph Gray of Lakewood and Sara Slattery of Spokane had the best finishes for runners from Washington.

Gray had the 14th overall best time in 35:59.

Slattery (42:25) had the 16th best time.

David Hickerson (38:37) had the best time for Spokane males.

1Allan KipronoKenya34:11
2Kevin KocheiKenya34:40
3Cleophas NgetichKenya34:42
4Aaron BraunCalifornia35:11
5Stephen MuangeKenya35:13
6Simon NdiranguKenya35:19
7Shadrack BiwottCalifornia35:19
8M. OndaraKenya35:33
9Aschalew MeketaEthiopia35:35
10Dominic OndoroKenya35:41
1Mary WaceraKenya39:36
2Lineth ChepkuruiKenya39:38
3Risper GesabwaKenya39:53
4Agnes CheserekKenya40:22
5Rkia El MoukimMorocco40:41
6Almaz NegedeEthiopia40:43
7E. HabtewoldEthiopia40:43
8Mattie SuverColorado40:59
9Alice KamunyaKenya41:06
10Susan JerotichKenya41:18
1Susannah ScaroniTekoa31:38
1Josh GeorgeIllinois27:30

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