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Originally published Saturday, June 26, 2010 at 6:44 PM

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Australian wins Rock 'n' Roll half marathon

Andrew Letherby wins the men's half marathon by nine seconds, and Japan's Mari Ozaki wins the women's half marathon by almost two minutes.

Special to The Seattle Times

They were half-marathons, but both the men's and women's fields were packed with a full house of elite talent at Saturday's Seattle Rock 'n' Roll Marathon.

Australian Andrew Letherby, a past World Championships and Commonwealth Games competitor, broke away in the final mile to win a competitive men's race, and Mari Ozaki of Japan placed first in a women's top 10 stocked with seven international racers, including four-time Olympian Lidia Simon of Romania.

In a speedy time of 1 hour, 4 minutes, 55 seconds, the 36-year-old Letherby won the men's race by outpacing 26-year-old Patrick Rizzo of Schaumburg, Ill., the 10th-place finisher in last fall's Chicago Marathon, by nine seconds.

"We had five of us together for about nine miles," said Letherby, who didn't reach Seattle until after midnight Friday due to airplane delays in his adopted home state of Colorado. "Then Patrick started cranking it, and I was just trying to hang onto him.

"Once we got a gap it was a two-man race, and with just over a mile to go, I made a move and managed to get a 30- to 40-yard break, but he kept me fighting right to the line."

Chad Johnson, 34, of Chetek, Wis., took third in 1:05:27 and 24-year-old Washington State grad Drew Polley (1:05:38) finished fourth.


• Ozaki won the women's half in 1:10:52, nearly two minutes ahead of second-place Benita Willis of Australia. Ozaki's biggest thrill on her first visit to Seattle? "Watching Ichiro play baseball," Ozaki said through an interpreter.

Nick Roumonada, 31, an Issaquah and Washington graduate now living in New York City who runs with a high-tech, carbon fiber prosthetic on his left leg, finished the half-marathon in 1:38:38, his 10th half-marathon this year. The leg, made available through the Challenged Athletes Foundation, gives Roumonada, whose diseased leg was amputated below the knee at age 13, the ability to run distance races, even on trails.

"It just doesn't hurt as much as running on a walking leg," he said. "Now I'm feeling just as good or as bad as everyone else."

Uli Steidl of Shoreline, winner of eight straight Seattle Marathons (1999 to 2006), placed seventh in 1:07:00. "I was just running to see what my fitness is at this point," said Steidl, a native of Germany who earned dual-citizenship status in February. "It's about a minute off my (personal best)."

• Polley has moved to Rochester, Mich., to train with the Brooks Hanson Distance Project. "It's kind of a gamble," said Polley, the fifth-fastest American in April's Boston Marathon with a time of 2:16:36.

"I just packed up and went over there to pursue my dream, but it's been going really well. I'm putting everything else on hold right now."

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