UI wheelchair player takes second place in marathon



By Josh Birnbaum

Amanda McGrory, a member of the Illinois wheelchair track team, placed second in the women’s wheelchair division of the Boston Marathon on Monday with a time of 1:58:01.

“I’m really proud of it,” McGrory said. “This time last year I really wasn’t even considering doing a marathon. I’ve come a long way in a year.”

The first-place finisher, Wakako Tsuchida from Japan, also stole first place from McGrory in the Oita Marathon last October in Japan.

“(Tsuchida) took off pretty fast from the start,” McGrory said. “So I went after her and caught up to her a few times, but she was coasting down the hills a lot faster than I could.”

McGrory, who won the New York City Marathon last November, did say that while she hoped for first, she was pleased with her time, especially considering the harsh weather.

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“We had to fight through some wind and rain the whole way,” said McGrory. “I’m not incredibly strong in the wind, so that went against me for sure.”

Wheelchair track head coach Adam Bleakney, who finished fifth in the men’s wheelchair division with a time of 1:45:51, said he was also pleased with the results.

“This was the toughest marathon I’ve done in 12 years in terms of the weather,” Bleakney said. “Amanda did amazing.”

Wheelchair athlete Josh George also competed, but he was hindered with technical problems caused by the wet weather. He finished 10th with a time of 2:02:58.

“The whole key to propelling your chair forward in wheelchair racing is the friction between the rubber in your gloves and the rubber in your push rims,” George said. “For me today, there wasn’t much friction there.”

Coach Bleakney was disappointed with the result, but said he did not feel it was due to a lack of preparation on George’s part.

“He just had a technical problem,” Bleakney said. “It wasn’t reflective of his level or ability by any means.”

George flew into Boston straight from the U.S. wheelchair basketball team tryouts that took place last Thursday through Saturday. George made the team.

“I was 1-for-2 in athletic events this weekend, I guess,” George said.

Up next for the wheelchair track team are two runs at the beginning of May, in Spokane, Wash., and Birmingham, Ala., followed by the Colorado Colfax Marathon on May 20. The Colfax marathon is the U.S. National Marathon Championship.

Last year in the Colfax Marathon, McGrory placed third, Bleakney placed second and teammate Miriam Ladner placed second.

“I’m definitely hoping for better weather there,” McGrory said. “The course is a bit less up and down.”

Click for more Boston Marathon coverage.