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On Her Way to Nagano, Despas Wins a Road Race


IRVINE — Jane Despas usually doesn't mix business with pleasure, but last weekend was something special. Despas spent Friday and Saturday in Colorado celebrating with her sister, Maria, who will be competing in the Winter Olympics in Nagano, then flew home to Irvine and finished first among the women in Sunday's Orange County Half Marathon.

Despas, 32, finished in 1 hour 19 minutes 17 seconds, 35 seconds ahead of the second-place finisher, Cynthia Moreshead.

"To be truthfully honest, I'm very tired," Despas said. "I did this for [Maria] today, I guess I'm on a natural high."

Maria Despas will represent Australia in the women's freestyle moguls skiing competition, the only Australian woman in that event. Jane Despas said she will be leaving for Japan on Wednesday to cheer on her younger sister.

"The opening ceremonies are Friday and her event is on Saturday," Despas said. "So it's the first event, which is nice."

Despas had a 30-second lead over Moreshead at the halfway point and maintained that advantage the rest of the way. Despas said she felt very comfortable with the two-lap layout that began and ended near Sand Canyon Avenue and Barranca Parkway.

"It was a sensational course," she said. "I like the fact that it was two laps, the surface is very forgiving, unlike some road races, but it was great on the knees."

Danny Gonzalez of Rancho Santa Margarita was the overall winner, completing the 13.1-mile course in 1:06:31. Defending champion Gus Quinonez of Los Alamitos was second (1:10:14), followed by San Diego's David Kloz (1:10:22) and Jesus Gutierrez of Placentia (1:10:35).

"I just happened to take it out at a pace that felt good to me and I maintained it," Gonzalez said. Gonzalez, 33, has been slowed in the last 18 months by a hamstring injury suffered during the 1996 Olympic Trials and had a sixth-place finish at last weekend's Redondo Beach 10K. His next race will be a 30K in Japan in two weeks.

Wilhelm Gidabuday of Riverside finished first in the 5K, despite getting mixed in with half marathon runners toward the end of his race and then missing the turn-off for the 5K participants. Gidabuday said he missed the 5K turn-off because it wasn't set up yet, then accidentally knocked down a race official trying to get back on the right course.

Gidabuday finished in 14:05, but said the mix-up probably cost him about 10 seconds, he said. Dan Arsenault of Garden Grove was second (15:23), followed by Brad Alexander of Foothill Ranch (15:32). The first women to finish was Augie Nava of Anaheim, who finished in 17:11, followed by Yayoi Liu of Irvine (18:32).

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