COEUR D’ALENE – Haley Cooper-Scott compressed months of training into an eight-week window, something she hadn’t done in her previous 16 Ironmans.
When the 37-year-old Spokane woman learned the event was leaving Coeur d’Alene back in June, she wanted to experience its final run, though it wasn’t initially in her plans.
“It’s really sad,” said Cooper-Scott, a physical therapist. “I planned to do it next year when I was in better shape.”
She was still the first woman to cross the finish line Sunday, the Lake City’s final full Ironman after a run dating back to 2003.
Cooper-Scott, one of over 1,000 triathletes in the event, gutted out a winning time of 10:19.06, a sizable gap between second-place Kayla Kobelin (10:48.38).
“I did it on very concentrated training,” said Cooper-Scott, who won her age group at Ironman Coeur d’Alene in 2007. “But it worked out. I am not as fast as I used to be, but it worked out.”
Mark Saroni made the most of his first Ironman, gliding through the grueling 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and 26.2-mile run in a time of 9:29:52 to win the overall men’s race.
Saroni, a 28-year-old San Antonio native, had a crowd of family and friends roaring as he darted down Sherman Avenue to cross the finish line
“I didn’t know what to expect,” Saroni said. I knew (winning) was a possibility, I knew anything could happen. I had it in the back of my mind all day. I just raced my race.”
Running down Sherman was pretty sweet.”
Athletes jumped into Lake Coeur d’Alene at 6:30 a.m. to start the race. Saroni crossed the finish line at 3:19 p.m.
The final race to qualify for the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii, in October, athletes like Brazil’s Jose Graca needed a good showing in Coeur d’Alene, which offers 40 qualifying spots.
Graca, 42, injured his knee in the spring before garnering a qualifying spot, but he got it on Sunday after finishing second (9:33.22) behind Saroni.
“Coeur d’Alene was my last chance,” Graca said after proudly waving his Brazilian flag. “I liked the swim. The water was very good.”
Competitors came from 44 states and 16 countries, 60 hailing from Spokane and 39 from the Coeur d’Alene area.
Roger Thompson, a teacher at Mead’s Brentwood Elementary, was the first local to cross the finish line and ninth overall.
Thompson’s 9:53.50 wasn’t the best of his six Ironmans, but the 45-year-old was happy with the result.
“This course is always a challenging course, which I love,” Thompson said. “You can’t beat Lake Coeur d’Alene. You can’t beat this venue.”
Thompson, who ran in the first Ironman Coeur d’Alene in 2003, hopes the full version comes back in the future.
“Coeur d’Alene and the support and volunteers here is truly unmatched,” he said.
Coeur d’Alene will still be host to Ironman 70.3 in June – a half-version of the grueling triathlon – for at least the next three years.
The Coeur d’Alene Chamber of Commerce announced in June that it wouldn’t renew its contract with the World Triathlon Corp for the full-length Ironman, which cost the chamber $50,000, according to records.