Midway through the Kansas Health Foundation River Run 10-kilometer race Saturday, Brayden Barrientez decided to throw in the towel.
Barrientez won the race last year, but a sore Achilles and upset stomach kept him from repeating — or even finishing.
“The 10k wasn’t so kind to me this time,” Barrientez said. “I just pulled off a little bit and decided I would run the 2-mile.”
That decision proved to be the right call when the 21-year-old won the 2-mile race just a few hours later with a time of 9 minutes, 40 seconds.
“I’m more of a miler, so this is a little closer to my event,” Barrientez said. “I know I have pretty good finishing speed and I knew what times had won it in the past. I was hoping I would have enough to get it done.
“As the race unfolded, I felt fine through a mile and a half and just kind of took it out and controlled the race from there.”
Barrientez ran track and cross country at Campus High, winning the 2008 Class 6A cross country race his senior year. Scholarship opportunities soon followed, leading him to a four-year career at Oklahoma Christian University in Edmond.
That career, which ended last month, included appareances in the 2011 NAIA national championship and the 2012 NCCAA national championship, both in cross country.
He says the 2011 national title, the first in the school’s history, is his most memorable moment as a runner.
“It was a big deal for our program,” Barrientez said. “We weren’t 100-percent sure we won when we crossed the line, but when we found out we just went crazy.”
Barrientez still lives in Oklahoma and traveled to Wichita just for the races, narrowly escaping some of the rough weather that hit the area.
“We dodged some tornadoes getting up here,” he said. “It was insane.”
Lemon wins women’s 2-mile — A.J. Tuhro enjoys running with Kim Lemon, his girlfriend of more than two years, even though he knows he simply can’t keep up with her.
“She is definitely way faster than I am,” Tuhro said. “We try to run together, but she always speeds up and I’m always a couple of minutes behind her.”
It wasn’t only Tuhro that couldn’t keep up with her on Saturday. Lemon’s time of 11 minutes, 43 seconds outpaced the rest of the women in the field and was better than all but five men.
Lemon, who has already won three races this year in three attempts, including last week’s Get Your Rear in Gear 5K, had high expectations coming in but didn’t see herself winning.
“It’s only how I could dare to hope,” Lemon said. “I was hoping for top three and I really wanted my time under 12 minutes, which I got. But no, I certainly wasn’t banking on it. I’m not the fastest there is and this is usually pretty competitive.”
Lemon ran competitively in high school at Clearwater, but was burned out by the time she started college at Friends and decided to run only for fun.
Then, about four years ago, that fire to compete was reignited. And for Lemon, 31, the best part is being able to run better today than she did when she was in her 20s.
“I’m kind of surprised and I’m pleased to see the best times that I’ve had, ever, come at the age of 31,” Lemon said. “I’m excited to win at 31, not that it’s old. But sometimes you think you’re done at 18 or 20.”
Lemon may have been surprised to win on Saturday, but Tuhro wasn’t. He has seen the way she has competed — and won — all of her previous races this year and expected more of the same at the River Run.
“When you win every race, it’s kind of a normal thing,” Tuhro said jokingly. “I just figured she would win it. I was excited, definitely.”