Rim Country Senior Rocks In Big Race

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A 75-year-old veteran runner, with Senior Olympic and Lori Piestewa Native American Games experience, led the Rim Country charge at P.F. Chang's Rock 'n' Roll Arizona Marathon and 1/2 Marathon.

The master runner, Tom Cooka, finished second in the 75- to 79-year-old age division of the 1/2 marathon, touring the course in 2:04.18.

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Tom Cooka ran his way to a second place age division finish in the P.F. Chang Rock 'n' Roll Marathon held in the Valley.

"I'm a little disappointed in myself. I wanted to do better," Cooka said. "But I haven't been training as hard as I should have. I needed another three weeks."

The annual run was held Jan. 15 on a course that ran through Phoenix, Scottsdale and Tempe.

Running is nothing new for Cooka, who grew up rounding up his family's horses on foot and as a 50-year-old was a member of the Northland Pioneer College track and field team.

Also representing Payson in the P.F. Chang's run were 14 other entrants, including Pat Meyers, who was the only local to enter the 26.2-mile marathon.

Competing in the 60- to 64-year-old age division, Meyers was 17th among her age group, covering the 41.3K course in 5:34.26.

Meyers is no stranger to long distance runs, having competed in San Francisco, San Diego and earlier Rock 'n' Roll marathons.

Among the other impressive showings from a Rim Country entrant was Jason Cress in the 1/2 marathon.

Entered in the 35- to 39-year-old division, Cress recorded the fastest time of all local runners -- 1:39.24. In an age division that featured 1,114 participants, Cress was 113th, averaging 7:35 per mile for more than 13 miles.

Other Payson runners in the 1/2 marathon included Jeanette Beck, 45 to 49 years, 3:26.18; Debra Colbertson, 50 to 54 years, 2:31.19; Karen Evans, 30 to 34 years, 1:49.23; Amity Justice, 30 to 34 years, 2:11.23; Ann Leonard, 55 to 59 years, 3:26.08; David Manor, 60 to 64 years, 3:33.37; Susan Manor, 60 to 64 years, 3:47.35; Jackie NuDelman, 55 to 59 years, 3:34.96; Deb Stevens, 50 to 54 years, 2:27.13; Debbie Stuart, 50 to 54 years, 3:04.27; John White, 65 to 69 years, 3:25.21; and Pam White, 50 to 64 years, 3:25.22.

The Payson representatives were among the more than 33,000 who took part in the races -- the largest group to ever compete in a 1/2 and full marathon.

Haile Gebreselassie, 32, of Ethiopia, won the 1/2 marathon, setting a world record of 58:55.

Fellow Ethiopian Shimelis Mola won the marathon in 2:13.08.

Last summer, P.F. Chang's Rock 'n' Roll Arizona was named the state's best "Special Event" by Gov. Janet Napolitano at the 25th Annual Governor's Conference on Tourism.

It was acknowledged for its "unique draw for tourism and attracting visitors from outside the local area ... an event that stands out in the crowd because of its creative approach, distinctive appeal, media coverage and/or enhancement of community pride."

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