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Fairchild wins her inaugural Pear Run

It was a brand new race for Melody Fairchild, but a familiar result: victory.

The former high school and college All-American braved the rainiest Pear Blossom Run in history to win the women's portion of the 10-mile event in 59 minutes, 40.94 seconds Saturday.

"That felt great," Fairchild said a few moments after splashing across the finish line. "I'm really pleased. I've been training all winter and haven't had a chance to race. It's always fun to compete."

Fairchild, 33, was a phenomenal high school runner in Boulder, Colo., in the early 1990s, setting national records in the 3,000 meters (9:17.7) and the two-mile run (9:55.92). She later starred at Oregon, winning the Pac-10 Conference title in the 10,000 meters in 1996 and a national indoor championship in the 3,000 that same year.

Fairchild also competed in the 1996 and 2000 Olympic Trials, and now, after a two-year hiatus from running, she has her sights set on the 2008 Olympic Trials marathon. She'll attempt to meet the qualifying standard of 2 hours, 39 minutes at a marathon in Deluth, Minn., on June 16.

Saturday's Pear Blossom Run was a training exercise as much as it was a dash to glory.

"This was a very good step," Fairchild said.

Fairchild left the starting line in front of Medford City Hall in conservative fashion. She found herself in fourth place after the first three miles and trailed Camille Herron of Corvallis by about 10 seconds at the midway point of the out-and-back course.

But after Herron slipped and fell on the wet pavement while circling the turn-around section on Hanley Hill, Fairchild moved up on her shoulder. She stayed there for two miles, then charged into the lead and eventually won by over a minute.

Herron secured second in 1:00:38.47, followed by Delores Bergmann of Eureka, Calif., in 1:01:45.35 and Alanna Steinert of Grants Pass in 1:03:56.37.

Nine-time winner and course record-holder Deanna O'Neil of Canby was fifth in 1:04:45.08.

"As a young runner I always seemed to be leading and had girls hanging on my shoulder," Fairchild said, "and so today I told myself I was going to sit there on her shoulder and enjoy it for a while. I kind of felt bad for her, but I've been on the other side."

Fairchild averaged just under six minutes per mile.

"I was prepared to hurt the last three miles, but I was able to stay at a six-minute (mile) pace and felt good," said Fairchild, who's been coaching track at Churchill High this spring. "I loved the run and especially the hill. It was a good time out there."

Reach reporter Don Hunt at 776-4469, or e-mail dhunt@mailtribune.com

Melody Fairchild of Eugene crosses the finish line Saturday to win the women’s race.