"It's an incredible tragedy," coach Adam Bleakney wrote in a text message. "I was at the Sheraton lobby a few blocks from the blasts. I didn't hear them. A few athletes were eating lunch closer to the finish line and heard the blasts. They said it was a hard scene to swallow. Very shocking."
BOSTON — Tatyana McFadden continued Illinois' dominance in the women's wheelchair division at the Boston Marathon, giving Adam Bleakney his first coaching win at the fabled race.
But by day's end, neither athlete nor coach was in a celebratory mood.
The wheelchair races ended hours before Monday's explosions that killed three and injured more than 100 near the finish line. Bleakney said the 14-member Illinois contingent was out of harm's way when the blasts occurred.
"It's an incredible tragedy," Bleakney wrote in a text message. "I was at the Sheraton lobby a few blocks from the blasts. I didn't hear them. A few athletes were eating lunch closer to the finish line and heard the blasts. They said it was a hard scene to swallow. Very shocking."
Late Monday afternoon, Bleakney was making travel arrangements for team members.
"I'm trying to get our folks out of here to the airport," he wrote.
McFadden, the fourth Illini to win in Boston and the first since Christina Ripp in 2003, was scheduled to leave for London today in advance of another marathon this weekend.
"I'll be going to bed early," she said in a telephone interview conducted before chaos erupted.
McFadden handled the course and competition with ease Monday morning, winning her first Boston Marathon. Only seven more and she'll catch another Illini great, Jean Driscoll, who has won more Boston titles than any other female.
"Let's just take one at a time," McFadden said. "It's very cool because everyone knows who she is."
McFadden, too, is emerging as one of her sport's best. A gold medalist at the London Paralympics, McFadden came to Boston with three major titles on her resume: New York and Chicago (twice).
"This is special," she said.
Driscoll could have told her that.
"It's a cliche, but Boston is the granddaddy of them all," Driscoll said. "Boston is one of those legendary races that you want to win."
McFadden finished in 1 hour, 45 minutes, 25 seconds, comfortably ahead of runner-up Sandra Graf. Another Illini, Amanda McGrory, was third in 1:49.19.
"I'm incredibly proud," Driscoll said. "Tatyana is the talk of women's wheelchair racing right now. She's a young phenom. She's doing great things, and even greater things are ahead of her."