LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The first all-American championship finish in the 11-year history of the Walt Disney World Marathon put Floridians Matthew Dobson of Jay and Kim Donaldson of St. Petersburg into the winner's circle Sunday. Dobson also became the first U.S.-born overall winner of the event which this year attracted more than 15,000 entrants.
Meanwhile, a trio of Michigan runners tuning up for the Olympic Trials crossed the Disney Half Marathon finish line together in record-shattering time. Clinton Verran and Nicholas Cordes of Rochester Hills and Brian Sell of Rochester all had an official time of 1:05:43 -- more than two minutes better than the event record time -- with Verran declared the winner, followed by Sell and Cordes.
The trio is part of an Olympic development distance running program coached by brothers Keith and Kevin Hanson of suburban Detroit. A fourth protégé of the program, Jeffrey Campbell of Rochester, finished eighth. Another Olympic hopeful, Marine Corps Marathon winner Peter Sherry of Great Falls, Va., finished fifth in a field of some 8,500 runners.
Kim Pawelek of Arden, N.C., became the first three-time Disney Half Marathon champion by leading the field virtually from start to finish. Her time, 1:18:12, reflected the lack of challengers. It lagged behind her winning times of 2000 and 2001 by as much as 2:53.
Another start-to-finish winner was wheelchair champion Saul Mendoza of Wimberley, Texas. Mexico's athlete of the century for the 20th century and the wheelchair event winner at the 2000 Olympic Games claimed the Disney chair title for the eighth straight year.
Also running at the front throughout the race was women's open champion Donaldson. The 42-year-old and 47-year-old Mary Ann Protz, also of St. Petersburg, ran together at the front for the first eight miles. Donaldson then went to the front, finishing in 2:59:13 -- a personal record by about two minutes as a Master's (age 40+) runner. Protz finished second (3:00:36).
Anything but "start to finish" was the path of men's overall winner Dobson, a track and field/cross country coach at the University of West Florida. The 34-year-old runner from the Florida panhandle had to chase down fast-starting Brazilian Pedro Moura, who bolted to the lead by Mile 2 and put enough distance between himself and the other runners that he was out of sight by Mile 7.
Between Mile 11 and Mile 12, however, Dobson began to move up. He was within 45 seconds of the leader by Mile 12. In the next mile, the Floridian closed within 15 seconds, and by Mile 18 he and Moura were running side by side.
For the next three miles, the pair dueled. But between Mile 21 and Mile 22, Dobson opened a 15-second advantage. Moura began to fade, and by Mile 25, Dobson was in control. He won in 2:27:58. Moura finished second in 2:30:16.