PARKERSBURG - Heather Cleary made it two American women's titles in a row for the Mountain State.
Cleary, from Maidsville in Monongalia County, finished fifth overall in the women's competition in the Parkersburg News and Sentinel Half Marathon with a time of 1:22:42, almost nine minutes ahead of second USA finisher Heather Parks of Bruceton Mills. She follows last year's American women's champ Aubrey Moskal of Morgantown to keep the prize in West Virginia for the second consecutive year.
Cleary, who barely seemed winded moments after crossing the finish line, said she came to Parkersburg with precisely that goal in mind.
Heather Cleary, of Maidsville, crosses the finish line as the first American women to finish at Saturday’s Parkersburg News and Sentinel Half Marathon.
Photo by Jeff Baughan
"I was the second American last year behind my teammate in Morgantown, Aubrey. She's been out with an injury, so she couldn't make it this year."
Taking the top American crown, she said, "is what I came here to do. I was trying to break 1:20, but being the top American is a lot better."
Running under gray skies rather than the scorching sunshine many expected may have been helpful, but Cleary said it was anything but an easy day.
"It was a good day; a little humid, but that's to be expected this time of year.
"(The course) is challenging. You never get any kind of rhythm because you're constantly up-and-down, so your stride is never consistent with the up and down hills."
She echoed the sentiment commonly expressed among Saturday's competitors that Parkersburg's event was organized and supported particularly well.
"It's put on really well. There's great crowd support; plenty of water, which is key during the summer months. It was a great event; I enjoyed it."
As for the encouragement she received along the route, Cleary commented enthusiastically, "it's awesome. Every water station, every church, they were all really supportive. That's really helpful during this time of the year."