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Husband, wife pull off a first in Pear

The husband and wife tandem of Bill and Sarah Raitter of Bend pulled off a Pear Blossom Run first Saturday.

The Raitters became the first married couple to both finish in the top three in the men's and women's 10-mile races. But they took their feat one step farther, each finishing third in their divisions.

It just happened, said Sarah Raitter, 27, who finished third in the women's race in a time of — hour, — minute, 27 seconds. We weren't both trying to get third. It worked out that way.

Bill Raitter, recent winner of the Shamrock men's 8-kilometer race in Portland, certainly didn't want to be third.

He was edged out by Mike Lynes of Tacoma, Wash., for second place. Lynes ran a 51:33 time, and Raitter was clocked at 51:54.

I thought I was going to get second, but I tripped coming to the finish, said Bill Raitter. It's disappointing because I thought I was going to make it.

I didn't taper this week, and I didn't have a kick left in me, said Bill Raitter. I'm getting ready for a marathon in May, so I'm not doing any tapering.

Bill and Sarah Raitter met on a running track in Michigan. They both ran track and cross country for Western Michigan University.

We met in practice, said Sarah Raitter, a special education teacher in Bend. Now, we have a nice relationship with a shared interest.

We talk about running all the time. We practice some together, but he's way faster than I am.

Bill Raitter wasn't the only one who slowed at the finish.

Justin Loftus, a former Southern Oregon University runner wearing a white wedding veil, dropped down to his knees and proposed marriage to his girlfriend, Heidi Hoggatt, who was standing on the sidewalk, approximately 20 yards in front of the finish line near Medford City Hall.

When she said yes, an excited Loftus rose to his feet and sprinted to finish the race.

Medford's Bonnie Havens, who was the fastest Rogue Valley woman finisher in the 1998 Pear, missed last year's race due to a broken ankle. But she returned to the race Saturday and placed 10th in 1:09:04.

I still have some soreness in that ankle area, but I'm happy with 10th place, said Havens, a teacher at Kennedy Elementary School of Medford. It's been a long grind back from the injury, but it's getting better. I like marathons, and I think that's my future.

It's wonderful being back.

Bob Rose of Grants Pass won his sixth wheelchair title in 55:07. He only had one competitor, 19-year-old Corey Hartgraves of Murphy, in the race. Hartgraves finished in a time of 1:08.

The conditions were great, said Rose. It was warm and there was no rain. Wheelchairs don't like rain.

But we need to get the word out better to get more wheelchair racers out. We need more participation.