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WOMEN'S WHEELCHAIR

Blauwet surges to the forefront

The American flag flew a bit higher after the women's wheelchair race yesterday. Cheri Blauwet, a native of Iowa, recorded a nifty time of 1 hour 39 minutes 53 seconds to outlast Switzerland's Edith Hunkeler (1:41:13) and Sandra Graf (1:42:13).

Blauwet is the second straight American to win this division, following the path of Christina Ripp of Illinois in 2003.

Blauwet took her first lead at the 8-mile mark, fell back to third, then took the lead again at 10 miles. Graf took over from Mile 13 to Mile 17, but Blauwet, racing a tactical race, went in front to stay at the 18-mile marker. The race was a nail-biter at times. At the 15-kilometer mark, Graf, Diane Roy of Canada, 2002 winner Hunkeler, and Ripp were less than two seconds apart.

"We were racing together to sort of help each other," said the 23-year-old Blauwet.

"I was in front for a while and then I thought it best to drop back a bit and have someone ahead of me. After 16 1/2 miles, I made a move. We all have our weak points and strong points, and when I felt we were in that part of the race that I'm comfortable, I just pulled ahead. I felt strong." Said Graf, "I tried hard to catch her, but I just couldn't. She was fast and strong and I knew she was going to win."

Blauwet was runner-up here last year to Ripp by 10 seconds. She won the 2003 New York Marathon and this year she won the Los Angeles Marathon.

Blauwet was injured in a farm accident when she was 15 months old, and when she entered high school in Larchwood, Iowa, she was advised to take up wheelchair track. She quickly excelled. She won a Junior National Wheelchair Championship in 1998, and before she knew it, she was competing on a national and international level.

She attended the University of Arizona and now she's in medical school at Stanford.

"I'm into development pediatrics," said Blauwet. "If I can, I'd like to help disabled children. I'd be happy doing that.

"Naturally, I'd like to keep racing, and right now I'd like to come back to Boston next year."

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