Alaskans shine at 123rd running of Boston Marathon

April 15, 2019

Cheseto at 2018 Anchorage RunFest

Marko Cheseto outdid himself at the 123rd Boston Marathon on April 15 and was rewarded with a world record. Keri McEntee made a similar improvement but came away heartbroken.

Cheseto, previously a national champion runner at the University of Alaska Anchorage who now lives in Orlando, Fla., set a world record for double amputees in 2 hours, 42 minutes and 24 seconds. That eclipsed Richard Whitehead of Great Britain’s run at the 2010 Chicago Marathon by 28 seconds.

Cheseto, a 35-year-old native of Kenya representing the United States for the first time as an American citizen, ran on specialized prosthetics (carbon fiber running blades). He placed 450th overall among more than 26,000 finishers with an average pace of 6 minutes, 12 seconds per mile and was the fastest of 49 mobility impaired entrants.

Starting in 2020, the Boston Marathon will include three para athlete divisions, including one for amputees. Those champions will officially be recognized and prize money will be awarded. The race has featured a wheelchair division since 1975 but no divisions for other physical impairments.

Boston was just Cheseto’s second marathon and a significant improvement from his 2:52 debut at the 2018 New York City Marathon. He lost both legs below the knee due to frostbite in 2011.

Meanwhile, McEntee placed among the top 50 women at Boston for the second straight year but called the race “bittersweet.”

An occupational therapist who moved to Fairbanks from New York state several years ago, McEntee, 29, ran 2:45:28 in good conditions to place

McEntree at 2018 Mayor’s Marathon

50th woman. The performance was more than 10 minutes faster than a year earlier at Boston, when McEntee placed 36th among women in nasty conditions that included rain, cold and a strong headwind.

However, McEntee just missed qualifying for the 2020 U.S. Women’s Olympic Marathon Trials, which requires a time of 2:45:00 or faster.

“Proud to have a new PR, especially after an injury-filled winter, but also truly heartbroken to have missed the OTQ (Olympic Trials Qualifier) by just 28 seconds,” McEntee wrote on Facebook.

McEntee has until the end of 2019 to accomplish this goal and plans to try again later this year.

Alaskans Anna Dalton and Aaron Fletcher have already qualified for the 2020 Trials. Fletcher, an Anchorage native now living in Salt Lake City, Utah, had a taxing day on Monday, taking 400th place in 2:41:03. (He qualified for the men’s Trials last November in 2:17).

That left the honor of fastest Alaskan up for grabs, and Jerry Ross of Anchorage seized it with a near even-split performance of 2:35:19. The result was good for 197th male and 17th in the men’s 40-44-year-old age group. Ross, a teacher in Anchorage, even recorded a Facebook Live video while running past Wellesley College near halfway and again at the finish line.

Laura Fox, one of the athletes Ross helps coach, achieved her goal of a sub-3-hour finish by placing 163rd woman in 2:59:29. (She was 94th in 3:01 a year earlier).

John Huffer of Fairbanks ran 2:59:54 to place 10th in the male 55-59 age group.

Other strong Alaskan results on the Patriots’ Day journey from Hopkinton to Boston included Lyon Kopsack of Palmer, who ran 2:42 in his Boston debut; James Miller of Anchorage, 2:51; Derek Gibson of Soldotna, 2:57; Eric Troxell of Anchorage, 3:00; Alec Nevalainen of Juneau, 3:08; Daniel Folmar of Anchorage, 3:08; Jan Byrne of Anchorage, 3:09; John Bursell of Juneau, 3:11; Paul Oldenburg of Anchorage, 3:15; Alex Yang of Anchorage, 3:16; Derek Nottingham of Eagle River, 3:18; James Ustasiewski of Juneau, 3:18; David Johnston of Willow, 3:21; Hannah Booher of Chugiak, 3:21; Samantha Longacre of Anchorage, 3:25; Bridget Oldenburg of Anchorage, 3:25; Crystal Berwick of Anchorage, 3:26; Lisa Anglen of Anchorage, 3:26; Jane LeBlond of Fairbanks, 3:28; and Stan Wharry of Palmer, 3:30.