St. George Marathon: Wheelchair champ ready to shed light on course

By Janet Rae Brooks
The Salt Lake Tribune

Things got a little hairy for Chris Waddell at last year's St. George Marathon, so this year's he's packing a head lamp.
The Paralympic star reached speeds of 48 mph on downhill sections shortly after the pre-dawn start, then went on to set a wheelchair record of 1 hour, 22 minutes and 26 seconds, eclipsing the previous mark by almost a minute.
On Saturday, he's hoping to go even faster, armed with a head lamp to ensure he stays on the road in the dark.
"It'd be fun to break the record again," said Waddell, of Park City. "But so much depends on the conditions."
About 4,500 runners from 48 states and nine nations are expected to compete in the 27th annual edition of the St. George event, the nation's 15th-largest marathon. With many elite runners aiming to qualify for next year's U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials, fast times are expected.
Kelly Mortenson of Minneapolis, who won the St. George race in 1998, Ernesto Caballero of Dallas and Simon Gutierrez of Alamosa, Colo., are among the 14 runners shooting for the men's "A" qualifying standard of 2:20.
Neither defending champion Filomeno Apodaca of Las Cruces, N.M., nor last year's runner-up, Curtis Moore of Riverton, will compete Saturday. Both set qualifying marks at last year's race, and are concentrating on training for the February Trials marathon in Birmingham, Ala.
Three women -- Katie Blackett of Boulder, Colo., Leanne Whitesides of Grand Junction, Colo., and Sharon Stubler of Minnetonka, Minn. -- will be aiming to post sub-2:40 times, the women's "A" standard. The women's Trials race will be held in St. Louis in April.
Also returning is two-time women's winner Cheryl Harper of Orem, and last year's top masters runner, Jerry Henley of Alpine, who placed sixth overall.
Utah Rep. Chad Bennion, R-Murray, who hasn't run the St. George race since he won it 20 years ago, was hoping to qualify for the Trials, but had to pull out this week after suffering a leg injury. Bennion, a former elite runner, had been training for the St. George race for the past 1 1/2 years but has been unable to run for the past two weeks.
Temperatures, which have soared to the high 90s in the past week, are expected to moderate by Saturday.
Runners will be shuttled by bus to Pine Valley for the 6:45 a.m. start, with the sun rising as the field makes its way to St. George.

© Copyright 2003, The Salt Lake Tribune.