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LOS ANGELES MARATHON | NOTES

Weather Ruins Driscoll's Win in Wheelchair Race

March 06, 2000|ERIC STEPHENS and JIM HODGES | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

Jean Driscoll showed again that she is the world's best female wheelchair racer. She just couldn't savor the fruits of victory.

Driscoll, the world- and course-record holder in the event, won the women's wheelchair division of the Los Angeles Marathon with a time of 2 hours 12 minutes 17 seconds, 16 minutes ahead of Canada's Sylvie Potvin.

But Driscoll, 33 and from Champaign, Ill., was one of about 100 participants who were treated for hypothermia after competing in the cold conditions, a marathon spokesman said.

She required about 35-40 minutes of attention before leaving the site.

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Saul Mendoza said he believed Heinz Frei would be out for a little revenge after losing last year's men's wheelchair race by less than a second.

But a head-to-head matchup never materialized.

Mendoza easily won his fourth consecutive Los Angeles Marathon title with a 1 minute 51-second advantage over Joel Jeannot of France.

Frei dropped out at 17 miles.

On a better day, Mendoza said he would benefit from the draft provided by other riders but that strategy wouldn't work in rainy conditions.

"If I had done that, the water would have just come up in my face," he said. "In the beginning, I stayed with Heinz for about three or four miles. Suddenly, he tried to attack from the outside. I just took off."

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Pat Rummerfield, the recovered quadriplegic whose story captured the fancy of many of those following this year's race, struggled Sunday, but finished the event in 9 hours 30 minutes.

Rummerfield, from St. Louis, began his day by participating in the bicycle tour, then ran the course.

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The heavy rain didn't keep Armando Ramos or 23,000 entrants from having a good time. Although it kept many spectators away, the rain seemed to uplift the spirits of some runners.

"It was worse than this five years ago," said Ramos, who has finished seven L.A. Marathons.

"That was brutal."

Ramos said he gets together with some of his co-workers to run each year. Sometimes, it's in competition.

"One year I trained for it and I ran a 3:49," said Ramos, 41, from Lomita. "One year I waited 1 1/2 hours to finish with my buddies.

"It's just a great thing to do."

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Sunday's weather made judging the field put together by elite athlete recruiter Bill Orr difficult, and though Marie Patrick, executive vice president of the Los Angeles Marathon, said that a review of Orr's work was forthcoming, she indicated he would be back.

"I think we need to give him a year or two," she said.

Orr is new to marathon recruiting, though he has worked with shorter-distance runners in Florida and was, himself, a competitor.

He faced additional difficulty in that 2000 is an Olympic year and the Los Angeles Marathon has springtime competition from marathons in Boston, London, Paris and Rotterdam.

This year, London is putting up $2.5 million, more money than any marathon ever, according to Basil Honikman of Running USA and USA Track and Field.

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In a weekend meeting between officials of USA Track and Field and Running USA, a coalition of sorts has been formed to try to find help for the United States' struggling marathon effort.

Pocatello, Idaho, and Seattle have been offered as training sites for runners needing support, and others are being sought.

"What we're trying to do is to take the good runners and help them," said Basil Honikman, who represents both bodies. "We're not talking about an NCAA champion. He can get support. We're talking about the second- and third-place finishers who have potential."

Besides logistical support, the group has as its mission a heightened attempt at focusing media attention on U.S. distance running, something that has lagged in recent years along with the performance of U.S. distance runners.

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