Vandenberg leads area runners at annual Duluth race

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 22, 2002

Nine Austin natives were listed in the final results from the 26th Annual Grandma's Marathon run Saturday morning in Duluth.

Eric Vandenberg, 42, of Austin, finished with the top showing for Austin-area runners. Vandenberg came across 493rd overall, placing in the top 38 percent of the total 6,838 runners. He was the 409th male runner to break the tape, and his time of 3 hours, 13 minutes, 4 seconds was 76th best out of his age division.

Twenty-six year old Jenny Sucha of Austin was the top female finisher from the area, ranking 2,589th overall. She was in the top 25 percent of all women runners Saturday morning.

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Sammi Jones, a Lyle/Pacelli student, was the youngest (17) of the nine Austin-area runners to participate in the heralded annual event. Jones and L/P assistant cross country coach Carla Boisjolie placed within seven spots of one another.

Joseph Welke, 54, was the eldest statesman representing Austin, finishing 3,909th overall.

Kenyan man wins Grandma’s Marathon

By The Associated Press

DULUTH, Minn. -- If a good marathon runner learns from past mistakes, Kenyan Elly Rono earned the rank of professor on Saturday.

In April's Boston Marathon, Rono led the race for 17 miles before faltering and finishing 16th. During Saturday's 26th running of Grandma's Marathon, he was content to follow for more than 17 miles, then took the lead and didn't give it up.

Rono, 32, won the race in a personal record time of 2:10:57.

In the women's race, Zinaida Semenova, of Russia, held off a challenge from Anna Pichrtova, of the Czech Republic, to win in 2:32:21. The win continued a string of impressive showings in Minnesota for the 39-year-old Muscovite. Semenova was second at Grandma's last year and won the Twin Cities Marathon in 2001.

The start was delayed 20 minutes due to hard rain and lightning. The rain then held off throughout the race, which was run under cloudy and cool conditions and a strong tailwind off the lake which aided the runners.

Pavel Andreev of Russia and Andrey Gordeev of Belarus set a fast pace at the start and opened up a 45-second lead at the 10-mile mark.

"The two Russian guys were leading and I wanted to run with them, but the pace was too hard at the start," said Rono. "They were running 4:40 to 4:50 miles right away and I didn't want to fade."

Instead, it was Gordeev who began to cramp at the 16-mile mark, and Rono kept chipping away at the lead. By the 20-mile point he had overtaken the Europeans and would cruise to beat Andreev by 23 seconds.

"When the Kenyan passed me, I just couldn't hold on," said Andreev, through an interpreter. "The task after that was just to hold on and keep up with him. For Andrey and I it became a battle for second place."

The women's race saw Semenova and Pichrtova break away from the pack early on and battle for the lead for much of the first half. It was just the third marathon for Pichrtova, the top female marathoner in the Czech Republic. As the runners came through downtown Duluth in the final two miles, Semenova had clearly taken over and won by 18 seconds.

"I really wanted to break the course record (of 2:29:12) but in the final few miles, my legs really started to hurt," said Semenova. "The delay at the start might have played a role in that. I got cold during the delay and started at a faster pace to try to get warm. It affected everybody."

It was a different story in the men's race, where no weather-related complaints were heard among the top finishers. Rono said that during the storm he crawled inside an official race vehicle and used the extra 20 minutes to take a nap.

"This is the best weather I've ever run a marathon in," Rono said, adding that a complete change in his training regimen over the past two months made the difference between his disappointment in Boston and his win on Saturday.

"It was obvious that there was something missing with what happened in Boston," he said. "I totally reformed the way I train and my coach had me doing a lot of speed work. You could see the result today."

Mexican Saul Mendoza captured his third consecutive title in the wheelchair division, winning in a time of 1:34:36. It was the fourth time he has won Grandma's.

For the third consecutive year, the men's half marathon was won by Ryan Meissen of Hudson, Wis., who eclipsed his own course record with a 1:04.19 mark. Debra Gormley of St. Paul won the women's half marathon in 1:20.18. She also won the 1996 race.

The marathon started just outside Two Harbors, which is north of Duluth on Lake Superior. A total of 9,432 runners started the race. The field included athletes from all 50 states and 36 foreign countries.