By Warren Blenkusk
ROGUE RIVER Stented arteries and all, Brookings runner Ron Griswold was all heart in the June 14 Evans Valley Duathlon.
The 62-year-old, who suffered a heart attack in 2006, looked as ferocious as ever on his bicycle and with the help of teammate John Leuthold, of Phoenix, held off defending champion Sean Campbell to claim the top time in the 17th annual event.
"It was a big comeback for me," said Griswold , who also has artificial replacements in both knees. "That's why this means a lot. It really feels great."
The 241/2-mile race, which consists of a pair of 5-kilometer runs sandwiched around a 30-kilometer bicycle race, begins and finishes at Rogue River Middle School.
The duo fell behind early when Damian Baldovino of Lakeview, a runner who ranks among the top five in the nation in the master's division, took the overall lead by almost a minute over the 40-year-old Leuthold after the opening 5K run.
From there Griswold charged back, steadily overtaking Baldovino on the bike before eventually being surpassed by a hard-charging Campbell.
Griswold did his part in just a shade over 49 minutes and averaged a speed of 23.1 miles per hour.
With just a half mile remaining in the second running portion, Leuthold made his move against Campbell to eventually edge the defending champ by five seconds.
Griswold and Leuthold finished in 1 hour and 24 minutes and, in turn, became the first overall winners to come out of the 100-and-over combined age division.
"I knew if I kept (Campbell) in sight, John was a strong enough runner and could pass him and John did," said Griswold. "I knew if I held my way on the bike, we could catch him and we needed every second we could get."
Campbell, who had a comeback of his own last year when he passed six competitors after falling behind early to set the record for the men's age 40-49 division, was still able to earn the best individual time, clocking 1:24.05.
The Klamath Falls native was able to hold off Ashland's Jeremy Eisen in the middle stages of the race.
"I took the lead and tried to keep the lead, but Jeremy nearly got me around the bend on the bike," said Campbell.
"Sean's just dominant," said Eisen. "He heard I was coming up and he hit the afterburners and I didn't have anything left to respond.
"I kept him in sight, tried to reel him in, but it didn't happen. It made for a great race."
With Eisen trailing about midway through the cycling portion, Campbell nearly crashed into four deer that crept out into the middle of a winding road.
"(The deer) heard the hum of my spokes and they just stopped, looked up at me like Ahh!'" added Campbell.
Eisen was also able to avoid the hazard. He finished third overall and second among the individuals with a time of 1:24.14.
Baldovino finished fourth overall and was third among the individuals. He clocked 1:27.30 and finished second only to Campbell in the men's age 40-49 division.