News: North Dakota Presents Strong Showing at National Guard Marathon
LINCOLN, Neb. — About 10,000 runners left the starting line here at 7 a.m. Sunday, May 1; 195 of them represented some of the best marathoners in the Army and Air National Guard from across the United States and its territories. They were competing in the 34th annual Lincoln National Guard Marathon.
The North Dakota National Guard fielded two teams of runners, with four men and four women tackling the 26.2-mile course with rolling hills on a windy day.
“I am proud of the athleticism and dedication of the members of our Guard marathon teams,” said Maj. Gen. David Sprynczynatyk, North Dakota adjutant general. “Successfully competing in grueling marathons is a great way for our Soldiers and Airmen to demonstrate physical fitness and mental stamina, which are critical components of successful military service.”
It was the first time an all-female marathon team was sent from North Dakota to compete, and the women made a strong first appearance. Two brought home trophies after placing in their age division categories. One earned a coveted spot on the elite All-Guard Marathon Team, which brings together the top marathoners from Army and Air Guard units across the nation to represent the Guard and compete in events throughout the year.
“Our teams performed extremely well with the strongest showings of any North Dakota Guard Marathon Team ever,” said Lt. Col. David Skalicky, the team’s coach and the competitive sports manager for the North Dakota National Guard.
The women's team, who Skalicky dubbed the “Fabulous Four,” turned in exceptionally competitive times. Staff Sgt. Amy Wieser Willson, who serves with the 231st Brigade Support Battalion’s Company B, led the women’s team with a time of 3:46.41 and earned a position on the All-Guard Marathon Team. Wieser Willson, 33, placed second in her age division group. Sgt. Heather Barta, 23, who serves with the 957th Engineer Company (Multi-Role Bridge), won her age division with a time of 4:24.57.
Rounding out the women’s team was Staff Sgt. Brekka Carlson, 28, who also serves with the 957th Engineer Company, and Capt. Jackie Pekarek, 42, who serves with the 119th Wing’s Medical Support Group. Carlson finished in 4:13.14 and Pekarek, who had the team’s best personal record heading into the marathon, had a difficult race but finished in a respectable 4:31.31.
The men’s team, identified by their coach as the “Fantastic Four,” proved strong, as well, with all four members finishing within minutes of one another. Staff Sgt. Adam Krueger, with the 119th Wing’s Aerial Port, led the team, finishing in 3:23.38. Just behind him was Capt. Andrew Wetzel, who serves with the 141st Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, who finished in 3:24.49. Coming in only 19 seconds later was Capt. Jerod Tufte, who serves with Joint Force Headquarters, and 1st Lt. Robert Meland, of the 817th Engineer Company (Sapper), finished in 3:29.38.
“We have a lot to be proud of,” Skalicky said. “For example, Tufte bested his personal best time by almost 25 minutes. Also, our teams have now competed against some of the top National Guard marathoners and know what to work on for next year’s competition.”
Fresh from running in the Boston Marathon, Skalicky, who serves in Joint Force Headquarters, finished the half-marathon in Lincoln in 1:54.52.
Wieser Willson, of West Fargo, N.D., is the daughter of Ted and Mari Kay Wieser of Valley City, N.D. Barta, of Grand Forks, N.D., is the daughter of Jeff and Kathy Barta, of Minot, N.D. Carlson, of Bismarck, N.D., is the daughter of Arvid and LaVonne Carlson of Minot and Burlington, N.D. Pekarek lives in Moorhead, Minn. Krueger, also of Moorhead, is the son of Allen and Joyce Krueger, of Canby, Minn. Wetzel, of Grassy Butte, N.D., is the son of Patricia Wetzel, of Grassy Butte. Tufte, of Dawson, N.D., is the son of Elton and Mary Tufte, of Sioux Falls, S.D. Meland, of Fargo, is the son of Wanda and Dean Meland, of Bismarck. Skalicky, of Bismarck, N.D., is the son of Ed and Mary Anne Thorson, of Lander, N.Y., and Dan and Del Skalicky, of Minot.
Skalicky anticipates even more stellar running performances next year and said that North Dakota plans on returning to the Lincoln National Guard Marathon with full teams and strong runners.