WASHINGTON, D.C. -- As if preparing for battle, Jake Lillehaug and Connor Gjevre plotted a strategy months ago for how their St. John's (Minn.) University team would train for this year's Army Ten-Miler.

After all, they felt like Sunday's 28th annual race would be a fight between St. John's, winners of the ROTC division last year, and perennial power Virginia Tech, the 2011 runner-up.

And it was.

But St. John's, crediting a rigorous training regimen, edged Virginia Tech for the second straight year to claim the ROTC crown. The margin of victory was even tighter, with the Fighting Saints beating the Hokies by a little more than a minute.

"Being able to perform at a national level and knowing we can compete with the big schools makes me feel good about our program," said Lillehaug, the team's captain.

A record 68 teams made up the ROTC field. The top four times of each team's eight runners are used to compute an overall time.

St. John's posted a time of three hours, 58 minutes and 54 seconds. Virginia Tech had 4:00:03, and Michigan State University was third at 4:03:17.

Lillehaug, Gjevre and coach Alberto DeJesus laid out the training plan during the summer. Then, when classes began in August, runners logged 10 miles for time each Monday, did a short run on Wednesdays and ran sprints on Fridays. Team members lifted weights Tuesdays and Thursdays.

"It was really a strategic approach," Gjevre said.

Gjevre led all ROTC runners individually, finishing the race in 54:55 for 62nd overall. He managed to overcome a cold he had been fighting in the days leading up to the Ten-Miler.

Though he was concerned about possibly being hampered by the illness, Gjevre remained focused on the run. Once he broke free from the pack at the start of the race, he was able to hit his stride.

At the second mile, and out in front of his teammates, Gjevre said he set his sights on a random runner in front of him who he felt could pace him. Gjevre stayed with the man -- a sergeant from Texas -- the rest of the way.

Because of the Cadets' determination, Lt. Col. Darrell Bascom, the St. John's professor of military science, said he wasn't surprised at how well they performed. He also applauded Virginia Tech's runners.

"These teams are both champions," Bascom said.

Some 30,100 runners from around the world competed in Sunday's Ten-Miler, the third largest 10-mile race in the country. The course's route begins and ends at the Pentagon, in between leading runners through the west and southern portions of the District of Columbia. The path snakes around several monuments, including the Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument and Jefferson Memorial.

For some runners -- particularly first-timers to the Ten-Miler and to the nation's capital -- the race served as something of a sight-seeing tour.

Kelley Gutierrez, of the University of Texas-San Antonio, and Kyle Murphy, of New Mexico State University, said directing their attention on the monuments and supporters lining the course made for an easier run.

"Everybody is motivating you out there, so it's hard to get down on yourself," Gutierrez said.

"Visually, it's the best run I've experienced," Murphy said.

Aimee Moores, of the University of Virginia, turned in her best time of the three Ten-Milers she has run, finishing in 1:08:21. Despite the success, she said she runs the Ten-Miler more for enjoyment than performance.

"I like the atmosphere and the people," she said. "They're so supportive. It makes the race a lot of fun."