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Return of Ruth Perkins: Elite runner soars to third Sound to Narrows victory

VIDEO: Pavement pounders and pooches at 2016 Sound to Narrows

The annual series of races on North Vassault Street in Tacoma had a little bit of everything, from long-striding pros to short-legged mutts.
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The annual series of races on North Vassault Street in Tacoma had a little bit of everything, from long-striding pros to short-legged mutts.

The Olympic Trials didn’t go as Ruth Perkins would have preferred.

But Saturday’s trip to Vassault Park in Tacoma for the Sound to Narrows 12-kilometer footrace?

“I knew within the first mile that I was the winner,” Perkins said.

Perkins, a Puyallup resident and graduate of Yelm High School, finished in 44 minutes, 2 seconds, outpacing second-place Kristi Houk by more than three minutes, to win the women’s division of the 7.46-mile course at the Sound to Narrows — the oldest race in the South Sound.

It’s Perkins’ third Sound to Narrows victory after she finished first in 2011 and 2013.

Gregory Leak of the Tacoma City Running Club (TCRC) won the men’s division of the 44th annual race in 38:31, earning a $400 reward after finishing ahead of TCRC teammate (and roommate) Francis Reynolds (39:03).

“Fastest roommates around,” Reynolds quipped.

Dan McLean, the reigning Sound to Narrows champion, finished fourth in 40:59.

“It’s a great course, a historic course,” Leak said. “And it’s a tough course, so it’s fantastic to win this.”

The Sound to Narrows returned to normal, finishing in the actual park area of Vassault Park this year. The route had to be altered last year because of soil cleanup in the park.

Leak was an All-American, running cross country at Dickinson College in Pennsylvania, before he joined the Army and was stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

He participated in the Sound to Narrows one other time in the Military Run in 2012, when he led the 1-377 FA’s Super Squad to a first-place finish.

Leak said he’s trained alongside McLean with the TCRC for about the past four years. So he decided to see what running the Sound to Narrows, with its signature dips and climbs, was all about.

“We’ve been best friends,” Leak said.

“This is a great course. This is a course that is going to get bigger and better, and I wanted to have my name on the list of winners out here.”

Perkins hadn’t competed in the Sound to Narrows since her last victory because of injuries.

Perkins, 35, is an elite runner. She’s sponsored by Brooks, is a member of Seattle’s Club Northwest and runs Perkins Coaching in Puyallup.

She ran the marathon for the Olympic Trials in February in Los Angeles, but only recently had recovered from a broken hip — she fell from her outdoor elliptical bicycle and was in a wheelchair for six weeks.

She finished the trials marathon in 2 hours, 59 minutes and 52 seconds for 120th place.

“And that’s like the slowest time since I began marathoning,” Perkins said.

She decided to dedicate 2016 to “being a year of fun.”

“No marathons,” Perkins said. “Just really wanting to really do races that I wanted to run, but I don’t get to do when I’m being competitive.”

Perkins was known as Ruth Hawkinson when she competed in cross country at Yelm High School before graduating in 1998. She ran cross country and track at Seattle Pacific for four years.

And it turned out that running 12 kilometers on Saturday wasn’t enough for her. Perkins kept on running shortly after she was announced as the winner.

“Gotta to make it a long one,” she said.

Staff writer Craig Hill contributed to this report.

TJ Cotterill: 253-597-8677

@TJCotterill

12k Men

1. Gregory Leak, 28, Tacoma (38:31)

2. Francis Reynolds, 27, Tacoma (39:03)

3. Tyler Shipley, 22, Forest Grove, Ore. (40:33)

4. Dan McLean, 34, Tacoma (40:59)

5. Brett Purtzer, U.S. (41:49) 

12k Women 

1. Ruth Perkins, 35, Puyallup (44:02)

2. Kristi Houk, 32, Port Orchard (47:29)

3. Nicole O’Loughlin, 26, Tacoma (47:43)

4. Asher Henry, 30, Lakewood (47:52)

5. Nancy Ellis, 42, Tacoma (48:03) 

5k Men

1. Bo Carlton, 13, Snohomish (19:55)

2. Zane Carlton, 18, Snohomish (20:25)

3. Casey Bennett, 16, Tacoma (22:25)

4. Matthew Beal, 27, Gig Harbor (22:37)

5. Matthew Shafer, 18, Tacoma (22:43) 

5k Women 

1. Kenzie Richards, 15, University Place (20:40)

2. Caleb Timmer, 33, Tacoma (23:03)

3. Tatiana Salazar, 47, Tacoma (23:27)

4. Jen Doss, 45, Puyallup (23:51)

5. Rees Jacot, 15, Tacoma (24:05)

For full results, to go soundtonarrows.org

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