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American Runners Thrive at Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona

PHOENIX — The 12th edition of the P.F. Chang’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Marathon and Half Marathon took place over the weekend. Nearly 22,000 runners took to the mostly sunny streets of Phoenix in search of fast times and fun. For the top professional runners, it was a weekend of sweet homecomings and exciting comebacks.

Leading the way in the marathon was Roosevelt Cook from Oak Hills, Calif., who won in 2 hours 24 minutes and 41 seconds. Second and third place went to Yon Yilma (2:25:42) and Solomon Kandie (2:27:38) respectively.

RELATED: Photos: Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Elite Races

The 35-year-old Cook said afterward that he relied on his experience to prevail. “I went in to the race cautious and a little bit tired but I knew once I gained the rhythm of the race something good might happen,” he said.

The women’s race also went to an American, Zoila Gomez from Alamosa, Colo. The three-time Team USA runner in the marathon broke the tape in 2:46:00. Colleen Tindall, 30, of Moorestown, N.J., finished second in 2:50:01 followed by third-place finisher McKale Davis, 30, of Scottsdale, Arizona in 2:53:23. Gomez said afterward that her win gave her confidence to chase the Olympic Trials Marathon qualifier of 2:43.

“I really think it’s doable,” she admitted. Gomez remembered during the race a poignant moment when a volunteer girl at a water station jumped for joy when Gomez grabbed the cup that she held. “It is really nice to come to races like this. Moments like this make me realize that you are changing your life when you run, but you also change someone else’s life. You really can make their day.”

The half marathon saw some of the best performances of the day. Most notably, Amy Hastings-Cragg, an American Olympian won the women’s race in 1:12:04.

“I love being back here in Arizona. It feels like home,” said Hastings-Cragg who graduated from Arizona State University in 2005. “I heard ‘Go Sun Devils’ when I was on the course, which made me feel like I was back in college. I love being a Sun Devil.”

Sunday’s race was a huge win for Hastings who hopes to earn a Team USA jersey at the 2016 Olympic marathon in Rio. Her next big race is the Boston Marathon in April. Natasha Wodak, 34, from Vancuver, BC, a Canadian cross-country champion came across the line 18 seconds later in 1:12:23, while Molly Watcke, 44 of New Bremen, New Jersey placed third in 1:15:59.

The men’s winner of the half was Benson Cheruiyot of Valparaiso, Indiana won in 1:04:16, edging out American Olympian Ryan Hall by one second. All eyes had been on Hall who was making a comeback after recent struggles with injury.

“I had a really good time out there racing today,” said Hall who owns the American half-marathon record. “It was exactly what I needed—putting myself out there. It was all about competition and not time. I didn’t quite get it, but I gave it a good fight.”

Behind Hall was 31-year-old Canadian Dylan Wykes who clocked 1:05:29.

Festivities took place all weekend. Besides the half and full marathon, runners also competed in the 5K and 10K. In those shorter-distance events, legendary American milers Alan Webb and Steve Scott assisted with pacing duties for the runners, Stephanie Bruce, Ben Bruce and Hall to take the Remix Challenge. No Rock ‘n’ Roll event could be complete without a party and the bands OK-Go and the Wallflowers got runners and spectators to their feet at the finish line at Tempe Beach Park.

The 2016 P.F. Chang’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Marathon & 1/2 Marathon is scheduled for January 15-17, 2016.