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Jack Roddick Shippensburg University Invitational meet director, SU cross country coach and former Olympian Steve Spence, for all of his accomplishments, has been watching his daughter leave him in the dust for the past 26 years.

Last week in the Boston Marathon, Neely Spence Gracey did it again, using years of training and championship experience to finish as the top American female in 2:35.

It was a performance that made Dad proud.

"It really couldn't have gone much better for Neely in her first marathon," Spence said. "I'm pleased she got through it and had a positive experience.

"She's set out to destroy everything I've done as a runner. I won states once in high school and she's won several times. I won two NCAA titles and she won eight. She's been a pro runner for three years already and I didn't start until I was 25 or 26. She has a lot more experience than I do and I anticipate her getting even better."

Some runners make the marathon their first race. For Spence Gracey, her first came at Boston, shortly after turning 26. She would have waited even longer, but a desire to focus on longer distance races took center stage.

"She wasn't planning on running her first marathon this early," coach Spence said. "But she was not having fun racing on the track. She felt it was more like a chore.

"She moved her focus toward the longer road races and that segued into running the Boston Marathon."

Spence said that he is not involved in his daughter's day-to-day running operations, but that he is always available when she wants to chat or needs a tip. The most recent father-daughter conversation involved marathon recovery.

"I was anticipating her telling me how hard her recovery would be, but she said that she feels really good," Spence said. "That's great, but I still encouraged her to take all the time she needs for recovery."

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