Illini racers know how to win

By Anna Carrera

Published 04/21 2014 11:09PM

Updated 04/21 2014 11:12PM

CHAMPAIGN -- The University of Illinois' Tatyana McFadden took first place in the Boston Marathon for the second year in a row. She won all four major races last year and she's halfway to doing it again. But she still has a long way to go to match up with another big Illini wheelchair athlete -- Jean Driscoll.

"The Boston marathon is always an exciting time of the year," said Driscoll.

And Driscoll would know. She's been to Beantown a few times before.

"I wanted to win everything but I really wanted to win the Boston Marathon," said Driscoll.

Even though she was reluctant at first, she set her sights on the big race.

"I'm sitting on the starting line of my first Boston, actually yelling at my coach under my breath, not thinking I belonged in this race," said Driscoll. "And then 26.2 miles later, I won my first Boston Marathon and broke the world record by almost seven minutes."

Driscoll won seven more times after that, setting five course records and five world records. She was paying attention to this year's race when a fellow University of Illinois racer took home the top prize.

"She's creating her own legacy," said Driscoll. "She's an amazing athlete."

"It was definitely a great birthday present," said McFadden. "It was a wonderful day."

McFadden was behind at the start, but she blazed through the course -- clocking in at one hour, 35 minutes and six seconds.

"Support along for the whole 26.2 miles," said McFadden. "Every mile there were crowd people there."

Driscoll says she sees a lot of promise in McFadden, which could help her win a few more first place finishes.

"One of the things I see in her that every great athlete has is this undying fire inside," said Driscoll. "There's so much more she can do if she desires it."

Driscoll says it's bittersweet to watch her records fall, but she says if it's going to be done -- she hopes someone from central Illinois is behind it.

"I want an Illinois person to win every year," said Driscoll. "It's really fun to see the younger athletes being successful and carrying on the Illini tradition."

Driscoll says through the years, she's seen the Champaign-Urbana community rally around wheelchair athletes. And McFadden has made everyone proud again. Third place finisher Susanna Scaroni also goes to the University of Illinois.

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