LINCOLN, Neb. - After a year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, nearly 200 National Guard Soldiers and Airmen representing 42 different states and U.S. territories returned to the 2021 Lincoln Marathon, May 2.
The Lincoln Marathon has served as the official time trial for Soldiers and Airmen hoping to compete for a spot on the "All Guard" Marathon team every year since 1984, with one exception. The 2020 time trial shifted to the Omaha Marathon in September after the Lincoln race was canceled during the height of the first wave of COVID-19 in Nebraska.
California Army National Guard Capt. Kenny Rayner was the second male Guardsman to cross the finish line and has participated in the Lincoln Marathon almost every year since 2013. According to Rayner, the National Guard marathon program has convinced Guard members to stay longer because it is a unique experience that the Guard provides.
"This is probably the best retention piece I've ever seen in the Guard," Rayner said. "It's the best opportunity you get to travel the country and represent the Guard in races."
Idaho Army National Guard Maj. Laura Newell participated in the Lincoln Marathon for the first time this year and was the first female Guard member to finish. Despite being newer to the National Guard marathon program, Newell has already seen its impact on bringing in new Soldiers.
"There will be some young people for whom this is going to be part of the reason they join or continue serving," Newell said.
"If it's one soldier or ten soldiers that we can bring in or retain because they want to have this be part of their experience, then I think it's worth it."
In previous years, each state's running team would train together as often as possible, but because of COVID-19, this year's marathon preparation looked a little bit different.
For Rayner, his runs with the California National Guard Marathon Team were put on hold, so he had to find his own way to train solo. "It's hard when no one's pushing you," confessed Rayner. "So you get to race day and you're not as mentally prepared."
However, for Newell, who had never trained for a marathon before the pandemic, the limitations were something she could use to her advantage. Because of the restrictions in her daily life, she was able to focus more on her training.
"It made my training better," Newell said. "That's been my focus for the past year, getting outside and running and being as active as I can."
With the Lincoln Marathon making its long-awaited return, seasoned marathon runners like Rayner were eager to be back and running the race they remember from years past.
"I ran Omaha last year, but Lincoln's kind of the tradition," Rayner said. "It's where we're supposed to be, and it's the best place to be for the race."
This year's top National Guard Marathon Team awards went to the following individuals and overall team:
National Guard men:
- Sgt. Derek Yorek (Arkansas) 2:36:52
- Capt. Kenny Rayner (California) 2:42:47
- Spc. Nathaniel Sink (Ohio) 2:49:48
National Guard women:
- Maj. Laura Newell (Idaho) 3:20:53
- Capt. Rebecca Linder (South Dakota) 3:29:03
- Maj. Samantha Wood (California) 3:30:39
This year's top National Guard Marathon Team awards went to the following teams:
- 1st place: Idaho
- 2nd place: Ohio
- 3rd place: Pennsylvania
The following guardsmen fall into the masters' division (Age 50 and older):
National Guard Men:
- Staff Sgt. William Collins (Ohio) 3:15:03
- Lt. Col. Brad W. Marlow (South Carolina) 3:41:43
- Maj. Jeffrey Kragh (Oklahoma) 3:43:56
National Guard Women:
- Lt. Col. Deborah Fisher (Pennsylvania) 3:48:59
- Maj. Miki Matsuo (New Mexico) 3:51:13
- Capt. Amanda Tooke (Texas) 4:19:21
Altogether, out of the field of nearly 200 who registered, 76 National Guard runners were named to the All Guard Marathon team.
This year's All Guard team qualifiers are as follows:
- Staff Sgt. William Collins (Ohio)
- Lt. Col. Brad W. Marlow (South Carolina)
- Maj. Jeffrey Kragh (Oklahoma)
- Lt. Col. Deborah Fisher (Pennsylvania)
- Maj. Miki Matsuo (New Mexico)
- Capt. Amanda Tooke (Texas)
- Sgt. Derek Yorek (Arkansas)
- Capt. Kenny Rayner (California)
- Spc. Nathaniel Sink (Ohio)
- Staff Sgt. Tyler Lundquist (Pennsylvania)
- 2nd Lt. Gage Garcia (Kansas)
- Sgt. Jesse Dunn (Idaho)
- Spc. Nathan Wanuch (Tennessee)
- Capt. Valentine Roberts (Hawaii)
- Sgt. Geovanne Popoca (Kansas)
- Sgt. Daniel Soliz (New Mexico)
- Staff Sgt. Richard Mercedes (Puerto Rico)
- Maj. Bob Luther (West Virginia)
- Staff Sgt. Chris Edwards (Ohio)
- Staff Sgt. Jerrod Abel (Ohio)
- Capt. Ethan McIntosh (Texas)
- Staff Sgt. Earnest Fullwood (Pennsylvania)
- Staff Sgt. Javuer Torres Rolon (Puerto Rice)
- 1st Sgt. Eddie Clements (New Hampshire)
- Maj. Seth Kaste (Wisconsin)
- Capt. Gary Parks (Indiana)
- Pfc. Mason Grundy (Wisconsin)
- Staff Sgt. Whitney Lake (Indiana)
- Sgt. Maj. Joe McFarren (Indiana)
- Maj. Miguel Perez (New Mexico)
- Maj. Lex Grimley (Utah)
- Sgt. Jesus Ortega(New Jersey)
- Sgt. Timothy Rollings (Arkansas)
- Staff Sgt. Paul Duncan (Nevada)
- Staff Sgt. Robert Gibson (Wisconsin)
- Sgt. 1st Class Eric Schafer (North Dakota)
- Spc. Joseph Kubiak (Texas)
- 1st Lt. Lucas Bourget (Maine)
- Capt. Paul Fitzpatrick (Michigan)
- Sgt. 1st Class David Langford (Arkansas)
- Staff Sgt. Ben Blessing (Idaho)
- Spc. Richard Langdeaux (South Dakota)
- Capt. Joel Engle(South Dakota)
- Pfc. Bryce Peterson(Colorado)
- Maj. Brendan Thompson (Washington)
- Sgt. 1st Class Adam Walton (Minnesota)
- Capt. Travis Kirchner (Nebraska)
- 1st Lt. Daniel Kysela (Pennsylvania)
- Sgt. 1st Class Michael Embury (Kentucky)
- Chief Warrant Officer 3 Martin Ellison (West Virginia)
- Spc. Brandon Hurst (Oklahoma)
- Sgt. Jordan Reid (Utah)
- 1st Sgt. James Roller (Iowa)
- Master Sgt. Chi Huynh (California)
- Lt. Col. Joseph Gagnon (New Jersey)
- Col. Ryan Price (South Carolina)
- Maj. Laura Newell (Idaho)
- Capt. Rebecca Linder (South Dakota)
- Maj. Samantha Wood (California)
- 2nd Lt. Anna Potts (Oklahoma)
- Spc. Jennifer St Amand (Minnesota)
- Maj. Brooke Muhich (Washington)
- Sgt. Miranda Kibler (Ohio)
- 1st Lt. Lauren McGettrick (Texas)
- Capt. Leah Baldwin (Wisconsin)
- Capt. Hannah Manson (Oklahoma)
- Capt. Ferne Ryder (Colorado)
- Spc. Jessica Pal (Kansas)
- 2nd Lt. Tonisia Jackson (Ohio)
- Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jasmyne Huffman (West Virginia)
- Sgt. 1st Class Phoebe Begay (New Mexico)
- Staff Sgt. Ayrin Hamner-Ripperger (Iowa)
- Chief Warrant Officer 3 Amanda Nesbitt (Pennslyvania)
- Maj. Elizabeth (Noel) Collins (Louisiana)
- Sgt. Maj. Shelley Horner (Texas)