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Posted: June 19, 2016:  

Athletics: Jared Ward Wins Alaska Airlines Rock Ďní Roll Seattle Half Marathon in Olympic Tune-Up

Samuel Golitom Hadgu and Sophia Liu place first in the menís and womenís marathon; Kara Ford wins the womenís half marathon

SEATTLE _ June 18, 2016 - Since its founding, Seattle has been given many nicknames, but the one that really resonated with runners at Saturdayís Alaska Airlines Rock Ďní Roll Seattle Marathon & 1/2 Marathon was Emerald City. With ideal temperatures in the 60s and cloudy skies, Washingtonís most-populous region showed off its beautiful early-summer green hues for thousands of participants who got to take in a mixture of urban views of Seattleís downtown, as well as stunning vistas along the cityís Lake Washington.

The courses for both the half marathon and marathon this year were revamped with the start kicking off within sight of the cityís iconic Space Needle and the finish taking place at the home of the Seattle Seahawks, CenturyLink Field.

Jared Ward, the pre-race favorite, of Kaysville, Utah was the first to cross the half-marathon finish, clocking one hour, 6 minutes and one second. The 27-year-old Wardís victory was a commanding one as the second-place finisher, Craig Hopkins, of Great Britain didnít come through the finish until 1:08:08. Third place went to Jack St. Marie who finished five seconds later (1:08:13).

"It was beautiful out there," said Ward. "The weather was awesome. I donít know how many bands we had out there. I felt like I was smiling the whole way."

Ward will be wearing the Team USA singlet at the 2016 Summer Olympic marathon in Rio in August and was using Seattle to gear up for his big Olympic race. He admitted that Saturdayís win was a good gauge for the 26.2-mile event. "I got a couple more months to get ready."

Since qualifying for the Olympics, Ward said that his life has changed for the better. "I still wake up in the morning and ask myself if this is for real," he admits. "I think it will hit me out there at the Olympic opening ceremonies as I take it all in. I feel really blessed."

Ward has been logging 120-mile weeks with a handful of 25-mile long runs in the lead-up to the Olympics.

As a professional, Ward says that he isnít used to the incredible festival atmosphere that comes with the Rock Ďní Roll brand. "The Rock Ďní Roll team does a great job making it an amazing experience for all the runners. You have all the bells and whistles. You have a fantastic start and finish and great bands along the way. Iíve always loved Seattle."

Kara Ford was the first woman to cross the half-marathon finish in 1:19:59.

"The race was fantastic," said Ford. "The weather was perfect. It was nice and cool. The course was beautiful. I have to say that Iíve run several half marathons and this was one of my favorite courses to date."

Ford, a Broomfield, Colorado resident said that Saturdayís victory was her biggest to date. "I donít really have a competitive career. I didnít run in college and started after I graduated."

Ford raced Seattle as an opportunity to visit friends that live there. "I just liked the looks of the course. Itís a beautiful city and itís so nice to be here."

Monica Folts (1:21:55) and Liz Wilson (1:22:32) took second and third respectively.

In the marathon event, Samuel Golitom Hadgu of Eritrea broke the tape, clocking 2:26:02. His nearest rival was Jeffrey Stein (2:31:06), while Andrew Ivanov was third in 2:32:52.

The womenís marathon champion was Sophia Liu in 2:51:46. Liu has been living in Seattle for the past 5 years and is a research scientist.

"I didnít expect to win," she admitted. "The bands really helped. There were so many people running and cheering for you. The course is beautiful. It wasnít as difficult as I would think."

Second and third went to Lisa Stelzner (2:54:12) and Nikki Leith (2:59:04).

An 8K was also held on Saturday with Alex Doran (27:40) taking the top spot for the men and Vanessa Trofimenkoff (30:31) prevailing in the womenís race.

Waiting for all finishers and their families at the finish line was the Toyota Rock Ďní Roll Concert Series headliner band, The New Pornographers, who filled the Seattle air with their iconic song "Dancehall Domine" and gave everyone something to celebrate at the end of a thrilling and fun-filled day.

Jared Ward - Credit Bruce Wodder/

2016 Race Results
Name, Age, Hometown, Time, Prize

Menís Marathon
1. Samuel Golitom Hadgu, 33, Eritrea, 2:26:02, $500*

Womenís Marathon
1. Sophia Liu, 32, Kirkland, WA, 2:51:46, $500

Menís Half Marathon 
1. Jared Ward, 27, Kaysville, UT, 1:06:01, $450*
2. Craig Hopkins, 27, Great Britain, 1:08:08
3. Jack St Marie, 23, La Jolla, CA, 1:08:13

Womenís Half Marathon
1. Kara Ford, 37, Broomfield, CO, 1:19:59, $250
2. Monica Folts, 29, Golden, CO, 1:21:55
3. Liz Wilson, 48, Bothell, WA, 1:22:32

Menís 8K
1. Alex Doran, 18, Bellevue, WA, 27:40

Womenís 8K
1. Vanessa Trofimenkoff, 21, Canada, 30:31

*Includes time bonus 

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