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Gracey tops women's half-marathon field

Neely Spence Gracey qualified for next week's U.S. Track and Field Championships, but she chose to skip it to run the Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon instead.

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Neely Spence Gracey of Boston was the women’s winner of the Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon Saturday morning in 1 hour, 11 minutes, 25 seconds. (Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com)

Neely Spence Gracey qualified for next week’s U.S. Track and Field Championships, but she chose to skip it to run the Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon instead.
That move paid off as Gracey won in 1:11:25, continuing the 25-year-old’s shift to running longer distances.
Gracey took the lead five miles into the race and her confidence grew as she settled into leading the race and grouping up with some of the male runners, she said.
“By about eight miles, I knew that it was mine and that I just needed to stay focused,” she said.
Runner-up Megan Hogan finished 69 seconds behind Gracey in 1:12:33.
Until Saturday, Gracey hadn’t won a race in two years. She managed to better her half-marathon personal best by more than a minute, making Duluth the location for two of her road racing personal records. Gracey finished sixth at the Minnesota Mile last September.
Gracey’s father, Steve Spence, ran the marathon at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. He coached her from the time she was in eighth grade through her college career at Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania. He still gives her advice today.
“He told me at my last half-marathon that I went out too easy because I was telling him I was able to breath really comfortably through, like, 10 miles,” Gracey said. “He was like, ‘You shouldn’t breath that easily.’ So today I tried to focus a little more on pushing myself earlier.”
For now, she’s taking a break from track and giving the longer road races a test. If all goes well, she may follow her father in becoming a marathoner.
“I felt like my heart was just more on the roads; I just got more excited,” Gracey said.
She might make her marathon debut at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials in Los Angeles in February ― she’s already qualified with her previous half-marathon time. However, she’s still aiming for the U.S.Olympic Trials in the 5- and 10-kilometer distances.
Gracey added that her recent move from Boston to Boulder, Colo., where she trains at an elevation of 5,200 to 5,500 feet, has been beneficial.

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Baeaan Sorenson of Brooten, Minn. (from the left), Courtney Kramer, Ann Dovenmuehle and Lindsey Kramer, all of Hutchinson, Minn., and Jared Sorenson of Brooten, Minn., cross the finish line in the Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon together on Saturday in Canal Park. Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com

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