Betsy Saina, Diego Estrada win Amway River Bank Run 25K

Betsy Saina, now a back-to-back champ, crossed the finish line first to win the 47th annual Amway River Bank Run women’s 25K Saturday, followed by the record-breaking men’s winner Diego Estrada.

Saina finished with a time of 1:22:31.61. Estrada had a time of 1:13:09.51, breaking the American record. Each earned the $10,000 first prize and Saina got a $2,500 bonus for winning the ‘race within a race’ that pits the men against the women.

After winning the River Bank Run for the second year in a row, Saina said Grand Rapids has a special place in her heart.

“Last year, when I came, I won the race, and I felt like it was a special place for me. Honestly, I love Grand Rapids. It’s one of the best cities I like to be in. The people are so nice. Everything is just so perfect for me. That is why I am here,” she said.

Saina, who has a 2-year-old boy, had a message for her fellow mothers.

“I just want to let them know that no matter what, when you have a child, it’s not the end of the career, it is the beginning of it,” said Saina.

At this year’s race, Estrada broke the course record and set a new American record for the 25K. After finishing the race, Estrada fell at the finish line out of exhaustion.

“I was very exhausted. I made sure to put everything I had so there was nothing left in the reserves. So when I finished, I was like I hope it does not hurt because I’m going down,” said Estrada.

He said that he pushed himself hard during the last two miles of the race.

“Well, to be completely frank, when you are broke and this is how you eat, you can’t leave it up to chance,” said Estrada. “I knew I kind of had to suffer and put it down and that is what I did. I made a move.”

The 25K is the largest road race of its kind in the country and the national championship event for USA Track and Field. It has included the “race within a race” since 2015: The elite women get an 10:30 head start on the men to compensate for the average difference in finish times between sexes. If the women hold their lead and finish first, they win. If the men make up that difference and finish before the women, they win.

Tom Davis, from Fremont, Indiana, won the 25K handcycle race. He is a retired two-time Paralympian who started handcycling after he was injured while serving in Iraq.

“I started doing handcycling for therapy. A couple of years after that, I felt like God was telling me to get my bike out, start riding it, and race it and do it to glorify him. I did. It has been about eight years racing at the top level in the world,” said Davis. “I’m out here doing it for fun now.”

Miguel Jimenez-Vergara, from New Jersey, won the 25K wheelchair race. It was his first time participating in the Amway River Bank Run.

“It’s a really, really, really cool course. I have never done it before. It’s my first time coming out. It’s a really cool course with smooth roads and rolling hills. It was really cool,” said Jimenez-Vergara.

He plans to take part in the U.S. Paralympic Trials in Florida in July in hopes of joining the U.S. Paralympic Team this year in Paris.

posted Monday May 13th
by Michael Oszust, Rachel Van Gilder