Mendoza wins men's wheelchair race; Callahan takes women's titleWinning the Grandma’s Marathon men’s wheelchair race wasn’t the first priority for Saul Mendoza and Rafael Jiminez. Both were more interested in their times. Both needed to break 90 minutes in order to qualify for the World Championships in New Zealand, but a stiff headwind for most of today’s race prevented them from reaching that goal.
By: By Rick Weegman, Duluth News Tribune , Superior Telegram
Winning the Grandma’s Marathon men’s wheelchair race wasn’t the first priority for Saul Mendoza and Rafael Jiminez. Both were more interested in their times.
Both needed to break 90 minutes in order to qualify for the World Championships in New Zealand, but a stiff headwind for most of today’s race prevented them from reaching that goal. Instead, Mendoza had to settle for winning his sixth Grandma’s Marathon in his first time back in the Twin Ports since 2003.
The 43-year-old’s winning time of 1:36:55 was 32 seconds ahead of Jiminez.
“We were working together to get that time. At about halfway in the race we were (within the qualifying time), then the headwind just killed us,” said Mendoza, a Mexico City native who lives in Wimberley, Texas. “By the second part (of the race) we realized we weren’t going to make the time, so I found an opportunity to make a difference and take first place.”
Mendoza took the lead around Lemon Drop Hill just past the 22-mile mark.
“I’m happy to win, just a little disappointed I didn’t make the time,” Mendoza said. “But it’s always nice to finish in first place.”
Mendoza said he and Jiminez have one more chance at breaking the 1:30 mark at a race in Germany in September.
Jiminez of Spain finished 11th at the 2008 Paralympic Games in Beijing, 18 places ahead of Mendoza, but couldn’t stay up with him today.
“What mattered to us wasn’t the win but the time we needed,” he said through an interpreter. “The wind was really strong in our face the whole time.”
Mendoza said scheduling conflicts prevented him from coming back to Duluth since he won five straight races between 1999-2003. He doesn’t plan to wait as long to return.
“I love the course; most of the time it’s pretty fast and fun, and people come out and support you,” he said. “I’m happy today to be back again. See you next year.”
COURSE TAKES TOLL ON CALLAHAN
Dawna Callahan took the bus tour of the course Friday so she knew she wouldn’t be racing on an entirely flat course. Still, it was tougher than she expected en route to winning the women’s wheelchair division.
“It was hard and exhausting — and there were a lot more hills than I anticipated,” she said after crossing the line in 2:30:12. “But everyone else gets good times here so I thought somewhere I’d get a break. But no breaks.”
The wind and hills kept her time below her personal record of 2:23.36 in placing fifth at this year’s Boston Marathon. She also won the 2009 Twin Cities Marathon.
Callahan, 41, of Parker, Colo., was entered for the first time in last year’s Grandma’s Marathon but became ill and couldn’t compete. She’s unsure if she’ll be back next year.
“I’ll have to think about it,” she said with a laugh. “Don’t ask right after the race.”