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Long-distance shooting

Basketball player Ripp set to rip

By Bob Monahan, Globe Correspondent, 4/18/2003

Christina Ripp, a wheelchair entrant in Monday's 107th Boston Marathon, is a basketball player first and a marathoner second. But most of all, she's a 22-year-old from Dane, Wis., studying at the University of Illinois.

She's hoping to improve on last year's time of 1:49:32, good for second behind Switzerland's Edith Hunkeler (1:45:57).

"That's my goal and I'd like to think I can win," said Ripp, who arrived in Boston Wednesday night. "But realistically this is only my third marathon. I won at Chicago in 2001 and was second here last year. I've been training, but haven't competed in a marathon since last year.

"Between going to school and playing basketball there just wasn't enough time for a marathon. I do feel stronger and I'll make my best effort."

Ripp knows pressure. She plays for the US women's wheelchair basketball team and competed for Gold Cups in Sydney in 1998 and 2000 and last year paced the US to a silver in the Gold Cup competition in Japan.

"I can shoot the three," said Ripp with a grin. "I got familiar with the bigger basketball used in international play and when I play here with the smaller ball I can shoot easier. We all can. At times I feel I can hit from midcourt."

Ripp, who was born with spina bifida, has dedicated herself to helping others. "My major is kinesiology, which is basically teaching physical education. I love it. Can't wait to start teaching kids." Ripp's trainer is Marty Morse, who has her practicing on rollers while watching films of previous marathons.

"That really helps," said Ripp, who will work out at hilly Wompatuck State Park today and tomorrow.

Eight-time Boston wheelchair winner Jean Driscoll also attended Illinois. "She's great," said Ripp. "I pushed with her a lot and learned from her.

"My strongest points are climbing hills," said Ripp. "My weakness is going down hills. Last year I was doing pretty well and was going down the first big hill 35 miles an hour and I was scared. And then Edith passed me big-time and she must have been doing 40 miles an hour. This year I hope to improve on the hills. I don't get much practice on hills because Illinois has to be the flattest state in the country."

In the International Paralympic Committee's Track and Field Championships last July in France, Ripp stunned an experienced field (including four-time Boston champ Louis Sauvage) to capture gold in the 5,000 meters, and finished second in the 800-meter event. Ripp has also won the last two Peachtree Road Races in Atlanta.

Hunkeler isn't ready to give up her title just yet, though. The 29-year-old broke through last year after finishing runner-up in Boston in 2001, pulling away from Ripp and Wakako Tsuchida of Japan in the Newton hills. Hunkeler is expected to arrive in Boston tomorrow night.

Ernst Van Dyk is seeking a third straight men's wheelchair title in Boston, and he thinks a course record is possible. The standard of 1:21:23 was set by Heinz Frei of Switzerland in 1994.

"My biggest concern is the weather," said Van Dyk, 29, whose best time in Boston is 1:23:19, set last year. "Going from 82 [degrees] to 32 in a few hours was a shocker. I'd like to see it in the 50s. I also expect to see a close race. We have a fine field and many opponents feel they can beat me. I'm looking forward to the competition."

. . .

The men's and women's wheelchair fields each have a $40,000 purse. The winners earn $10,000 apiece, and the next four finishers receive $5,000, $2,500, $1,500, and $1,000, respectively.

This story ran on page F8 of the Boston Globe on 4/18/2003.
© Copyright 2003 Globe Newspaper Company.

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