WHEELING - Tammy Slusser looked around and couldn't believe what she saw. There was nobody in sight for the nearly 50-year-old Monroeville, Pa., resident, except those holding the tape at the finish line in front of her.
''I'm stunned,'' she said.
At 49, Slusser had just hoped to be in contention for her age division. A member of a running club back home, Slusser had no problem settling for the women's overall crown at the 38th running of the Ogden Newspapers Half Marathon Classic, clocking in with a time of 1:32:26.
''We run every Tuesday night,'' Slusser said. ''I should actually be an honorary West Virginian because I run in every big race in the state.
''This is unbelievable.''
Ditto, Wheeling Central and recent Marshall University graduate Kelley Mortakis, said. She heard chatter along the course and had to do a double take when her second-place finish was announced as she crossed the finish line.
''Everyone kept saying 'second female' and I was like, really?' '' she said.
Mortakis finished in 1:33:48, just off the time of Slusser, and said finishing second was important, but can't duplicate the feeling that merely competing brings her.
''My mom's been running this race for years and she can't run anymore so it means a lot,'' Mortakis said. ''I think this is for a good cause and it's a tough course.
''I was going into the last mile and I was saying 'the only thing getting me through this is the weather.' Honestly, we couldn't have asked for better weather.''
Slusser certainly won't argue. She estimates that she has run the course eight or nine times and the conditions the last two years ''have been perfect.''
Sherri Martin, 52, of West Alexander, Pa., crossed in a time of 1:37:21 to finish third. Flannery O'Rourke, 32, of Pittsburgh, finished fourth and Marian Tullius, a 54-year-old from Wexford, Pa., rounded out the top 5.
Locally, Kristina Tomlan, 28, of Shadyside, came in 65th overall and Janie Davis, 51, of Wheeling, was 67th. Elizabeth Thomas, 25, Becky Droginske, 55, and Karissa Duke, 19, and all from Wheeling, ended up 81st, 86th and 88th overall, respectively.