12-Year-Old Cops 3rd In Rock 'N' Roll Marathon

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A pair of Payson runners represented opposites ends of the age spectrum among those entered in the P.F. Chang's Rock 'n' Roll Arizona Marathon and 1/2 Marathon.

At 12 years old, Ashton Wolfe was among the youngest competitors and 74-year-old Tom Cooka represented the senior set. Both won third place in their age groups of the 1/2 marathon. The second annual run was Jan. 9 in Phoenix, Tempe and Scottsdale.

Competing in the 12-14-years division, Wolfe took the bronze by touring the 13.1-mile Valley course in 1:46.54. In the 70-74-years division, Cooka was timed at 2:05.55.

For Cooka, a Senior Olympics and Lori Piestewa Games long-distance running champion, the opportunity to participate was too inviting to pass up.

"I didn't train for it but I had my base (training) in, so I decided to go ahead and enter," he said. "But the last four miles I really struggled."

Although Cooka was happy with his showing, he was certain he could have won his age group had he trained harder and longer.

"If I do it again, I'll train more for a win and not to just finish," he said.

For Wolfe, a sixth-grader at Rim Country Middle School, the 1/2 marathon success was yet another accomplishment in her young running career.

Last fall, she was a standout member of the RCMS cross country team and at the Arizona State Junior High/Middle School Championship, she finished 35th among more than 300 competitors.

Also in the 1/2 marathon, Julia Randall Elementary School principal Peggy Miles finished in 2:02.30 and was 100th in the 45-49 years age group.

Former Payson Roundup reporter Beth Beck capped her rigorous training with a time of 2:05. Beck competed in the 35- to 39-years division.

At her desk at Town Hall Monday morning, Beck was celebrating her accomplishment of posting a better time than Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder Luis Gonzalez. Gonzo finished in 2:16.19.

Teacher misses Boston berth

In the 26.2-mile full marathon, Payson Center for Success teacher Linda Gibson was 50th in the 30-34-years division in 3:46.13 and Ross Hage in the 20 to 24-year division completed his first full marathon in 4:29.

Hage says the entire experience was unbelievable, but after the first 20 miles he was questioning his decision to enter.

"It was my first and last marathon," he said. "It's now Tuesday and I'm still feeling the after-effects of the run."

Hage's goal was to stay with the 4:15 pace runner but after that person passed him, he set his goal on the 4:30 pacer.

"He passed me too, but then I saw him just about at the finish line and booked it (past him)," he said.

Gibson's time was just six minutes off the qualifying time for the Boston Marathon. Had Gibson met the qualifying time, she would have entered the fabled run.

"Boston is kind of like the elite, the best," she said.

"It's a goal for most every (runner)."

Also competing in the Rock 'n' Roll was Gibson's 8-year-old daughter, Julie. The youngster entered the Kids' Rock 1-mile fun run that drew more than 2,000 pint-sized runners. No times or places were kept.

Of the 29,528 runners who entered both the 1/2 and full marathon, 23,213 finished; 7,365 finished the full marathon and 15,848 completed the 1/2 marathon.

Although Hage jokes that he finished about 3,000 in the marathon, that finish is commendable when the total runner of runners is considered.

Ethiopian Terefe Yae won the men's division of the full marathon in 3:51.

In the women's division, Ethiopian Olympic alternate Shitaye Gemechu defended her Rock 'n' Roll title in 2:32.51.

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