The 2012 Santa Barbara International Marathon

By his count, Jalen Commadore has played in 146 football games, 32 of them as a varsity lineman at Santa Barbara High. His last game was unique. For the first time, he wore the shiny Golden Tornado uniform that is brought out of storage only when the Dons are in the CIF postseason playoffs. And in the first minute of their game against the Cathedral Phantoms of Los Angeles, he realized an interior lineman’s dream by scoring a touchdown. He slammed into a Cathedral running back, forced a fumble, and carried the ball into the end zone.

“Tonight was my highlight,” Commadore said. “I’ve been looking for this for a long time. One of the best feelings was to put this jersey on.” Unfortunately, the Golden Tornado’s first appearance in four years ended in defeat. Cathedral quarterback Hayden Rettig showed why he has been recruited by LSU, as he threw four touchdown passes in the Phantoms’ 28-23 victory. The Dons rallied from a 28-14 deficit in the final quarter but ran out of time. “We had a great season,” said Commadore, one of 30 seniors on the team. “We had camaraderie. We set a foundation for a lot of future Dons.”

The Dos Pueblos Chargers, who shared the Channel League championship with Santa Barbara, also made an early exit from the Western Division playoffs in a 34-20 loss to Culver City. Meanwhile, the Bishop Diego Cardinals could be called the Red Storm, as they moved to 11-0 with a 43-9 trouncing of South Torrance in their Northwestern Division playoff opener. They next play at Village Christian in Sun Valley on Friday night, November 16.

MARATHON MADNESS: If it was hard to find a room in town last weekend, blame the fourth annual Select Staffing Santa Barbara International Marathon and Half Marathon. According to the event’s organizers, runners from around the country booked at least 5,547 hotel nights.

Abraham Kogo, the winner of the marathon (2 hours, 23 minutes, 10.6 seconds), stayed in the home of Bill Rupp, manager of the Goleta portion of the course. Kogo, a late entry, arrived in Santa Barbara Friday at 5 p.m., after a 32-hour bus ride from Colorado Springs. He joined several other fellow Kenyans at the Rupp residence, including 17-year-old Cynthia Jerop, who “cooked rice and potatoes for everybody,” Rupp said.

Kogo got off to a slow start on a bright and breezy Saturday morning — “My body did not respond fast,” he said — but pulled out to a five-minute victory over Oklahoma’s Scott Downard (2:28:19.1). Next across the line were Kenyans Blue Benadum (2:28:25.9) and two-time defending champion Moninda Marube (2:29:38.6).

Paige Higgins of Littleton, Colorado, shaved more than four minutes off Andrea McLarty’s course record in the women’s marathon. She finished seventh overall in 2:48:35. Also breaking three hours were Sarah Hallas (2:52:11.4) of Petaluma and Santa Barbara’s Joy Moats (2:55:04.1). They were 11th and 14th, respectively, out of 1,375 runners who completed the 26.2-mile distance.

Alvina Begay, a Navajo runner from Arizona, showed her strength in the women’s half marathon, clocking 1:14:59.2 to place sixth out of 3,529 finishers. The teenager Jerop placed second in 1:19:05.5, 30 seconds ahead of Santa Barbara’s Tori Tyler.

Geofrey Terer was the fourth Kenyan to make the podium, winning the men’s half in 1:06:59.5, ahead of Oxnard’s Aaron Sharp (1:07:13.5) and Goleta’s Ramiro “Curly” Guillen (1:11:21.3).

With 160 runners in a marathon relay, the total number of SBIM finishers Saturday was 5,064 — 1,100 more than last year. At their peak flow, they created long waits for drivers trying to enter or leave Hidden Valley. But course volunteers said the neighborhood residents, forewarned by signs and mailings, showed patience and understanding.

STRONG EFFORT: Five-year-old Gwendolyn Strong rolled to the finish of the half marathon just ahead of her parents, Victoria and William. They were inspired by their daughter every step of the way as they pushed her custom-made, 85-pound stroller. It had all the apparatus needed by Gwendolyn, a survivor of spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), to pump air into her lungs and nourishment into her bloodstream. When his legs were burning on the steep Cliff Drive hill, William Strong said, “I looked at my daughter and thought she would give anything to trade places, and that kept me going. She was borrowing my legs to run her marathon.”

PATIENCE — BUT NOT IN L.A.: As college basketball teams jumped on the road to March last week, they hoped for steady improvement. Junior guard Nicole Nesbit of UCSB’s women declared, “The season is a marathon, not a sprint.” That’s not how the Lakers view it, even though the NBA season is much longer. In their abrupt coaching change to Mike D’Antoni, the Lakers decided they need to sprint.


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