SELAH, Wash. — Perfect weather and some accomplished runners produced some impressive results at Saturday’s Yakima River Canyon Marathon.
Former Alaska-Anchorage All-American Yon Yilma pulled away from two-time defending champion Masanori Okabe to win the 19th annual run through the canyon in 2:35:07, the fastest time since Nik Southwell posted a 2:30:34 in 2010. After starring in cross country and track at Edmonds-Woodway, Yilma captured a GNAC title in the 10,000 meters and even won his first marathon in 2013, when he crossed the finish line at 2:29:53 at the 2013 Seattle Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon.
But even that time doesn’t compare to the standards set by elite Ethiopian marathoner Taye Babeker Tirea, who elected to run the half marathon as he recovers from his long trip halfway across the globe two days ago. The 28-year-old cruised to victory, breaking Casey Campbell’s course record with a 1:07:57.
Former West Valley standout Audrey Kingsley ran the marathon in 3:05:03, more than five minutes ahead of 2017 winner Jenine Adam and the top women’s time since Nicki Hugie-Terry broke three hours in 2014. Kingsley — formerly Urlacher — still holds the WV record in the 3,200 meters and competed at Idaho State before moving to Boise, where she now lives.
Temperatures began below 40 degrees in Ellensburg for the 8 a.m. marathon start and rose to around 60 degrees by noon at the southern end of the canyon. Cloudless skies and little wind created a stark contrast to last year’s race, when runners endured wind and rain that eventually gave way to sunshine.
That weather perhaps helped attendance as the amount of finishers increased from the previous year for the first time since 2014. The marathon featured 165 finishers and 187 runners completed the half marathon, including women’s winner Lillian Manahan of Tumwater.