LINCOLN, Neb. - More than 200 Airmen and Soldiers representing the National Guard from all 50 states, three U.S. territories and the District of Columbia ran the 46th annual Lincoln Marathon May 7, competing for a spot on the National Guard Military Competitions All Guard Marathon Team.
It was the first time in more than three decades that “all 54” were represented in the field of National Guard competitors for the 26.2-mile race.
Staff Sgt. Derek Yorek, Arkansas Army National Guard, placed first overall in the male category, and Capt. Brittany Downs, Ohio Army National Guard, placed first overall in the female category for the All Guard Marathon Team time trials. The Ohio National Guard Marathon Team was the overall National Guard team winner.
Runners who qualified for the All Guard Marathon Team will travel to many more races over the next two years throughout the United States and possibly abroad. The National Guard Military Competitions Program, which includes both a Marathon Team and an Endurance Team, exists to promote physical fitness, self-discipline and esprit de corps among National Guard members while assisting recruiting and retention efforts.
“I want to represent the Guard the best that I can,” said Yorek, who took the top spot in the All Guard Marathon Team time trials again this year after earning first in 2021. He said the goal is to inspire others to join the National Guard and to attract even better athletes who want to be part of the All Guard Marathon Team.
“So hopefully, more people come along and I am no longer our champion,” he said. “The idea is that we continually get better.”
For Downs, this year’s competition was all about redemption. Having first attempted to run the Lincoln half-marathon in 2021 while pregnant, she chose to leave the race due to some discomfort at mile 8. The Ohio team placed second that year and banded together to prepare for their 2023 return.
“You never know what’s going to happen on race day, so you just give it your all and hope for the best outcome,” Downs said. After having her son in July, Downs hired a personal coach to help her train and joined the team for group training runs. But the team primarily used a running community app to track individual runs and hold one another accountable.
“It’s amazing to be part of a team like this,” Downs said. “The running community in general is so nice and supportive, and they want to see everyone succeed.”
Downs ran her first full marathon in April 2022, securing a coveted Boston Marathon qualifying time. She ran the 127th Boston Marathon April 17, just three weeks before her first-place finish in Lincoln.
“I was in such shock,” Downs said about her National Guard win. “It still doesn’t even feel real.”
Down said helping the state team win was an even bigger reward than her victory.
“Being part of a team brings out the best in people and shows a different side of what you can achieve in life,” she said. “Everybody is a runner, no matter what your pace is or how you view yourself.”
The All Guard Marathon Team includes 78 members determined by the time trials: the top 51 males, top 21 females (including one Air Guard member per gender), plus the top three runners of each gender in the over-50 Masters category.
“Personally, I think this event is a great representation of the National Guard. The marathon is a community event where we are competing right alongside people for whom we serve,” said Capt. Daniel Kysela, Pennsylvania National Guard Marathon Team coordinator. “No other military competition is held right within the community, and our program showcases how the Guard is made up of everyday people who also happen to be part-time service members.”
Kysela said he first tried out for the team in 2010 and has returned to Lincoln almost every year.
Yorek said the community built across “the 54” by being part of the National Guard Military Competitions program is what makes running each event so rewarding.
“Once you’ve been a part of this, you can get ahold of anybody on the team and they’ll help you with whatever you want so that you have a friend in any state that you go to for life,” Yorek said.
In addition to those competing for spots on the All Guard Marathon Team this year, an additional 75 National Guard members – including 60 members of the home-state Nebraska National Guard – completed the half marathon. Many wore “Citizen Soldier Athlete” shirts, while a few members of the Nebraska National Guard’s Women Leadership Advisory Council wore their uniforms and carried rucksacks the entire 13.1 miles.
Nebraska National Guard Soldiers and Airmen also supported the annual Lincoln Marathon with multiple aid stations, performances by the 43rd Army Band, the starting line cannon and finish line medals and medical escorts.
This year’s top National Guard Marathon winners and times:
National Guard Men:
Staff Sgt. Derek Yorek (Arkansas) 2:39:05
Sgt. Jesse Dunn (Idaho) 2:42:03
2nd Lt. Nathan Wanuch (Tennessee) 2:43:44
National Guard Women:
Capt. Brittany Downs (Ohio) 3:15:14
Spc. Wilanie Oyola-Bonilla (Massachusetts) 3:19:02
2nd Lt. Chiara Warner (Montana) 3:19:50
This year’s top National Guard Marathon Masters Division (Age 50 and Older) awards went to:
National Guard Masters Men:
Lt. Col. Joseph Gagnon (New Jersey) 3:29:54
Staff Sgt. William Collins (Ohio) 3:31:36
Master Sgt. Kalan Althoff (Wisconsin) 3:38:22
National Guard Masters Women:
Lt. Col. Deborah Fisher (Pennsylvania) 4:04:24
Lt. Col. Apolla Benito (Hawaii) 4:10:18
Chief Warrant Officer 5 Tracy Dooley (Alaska) 4:11:27
This year’s National Guard Marathon Team winners:
1st place: Ohio 3:00:14 (Average)
2nd place: Wisconsin 3:12:59 (Average)
3rd place: Minnesota 3:15:07 (Average)
This year’s All Guard Marathon Team qualifiers:
Staff Sgt. Derek Yorek (Arkansas)
Sgt. Jesse Dunn (Idaho)
2nd Lt. Nathan Wanuch (Tennessee)
1st Lt. Lucas Bourget (Maine)
Sgt. Bronco Hollowell (Utah)
Staff Sgt. Tyler Lundquist (Pennsylvania)
Capt. Paul Fitzpatrick (Michigan)
Staff Sgt. Chris Edwards (Ohio)
Capt. Jordan Rick (Illinois)
Warrant Officer Andrew Merrill (Florida)
Staff Sgt. Jerrod Abel (Ohio)
Maj. Brendan Thompson (Washington)
Sgt. Maj. Joe McFarren (Indiana)
Sgt. Chad Terry (Kentucky)
Tech. Sgt. Christopher Ager (New Hampshire)
Spc. Nathaniel Sink (Ohio)
Staff Sgt. Richard Mercedes (Puerto Rico)
Sgt. Daniel Soliz (New Mexico)
Capt. Joel Engle (South Dakota)
Capt. Ethan McIntosh (Texas)
Maj. Bob Luther (West Virginia)
Sgt. 1st Class Adam Walton (Minnesota)
Maj. Lex Grimley (Utah)
Capt. Valentine Roberts (Hawaii)
Maj. Robert Killian (California)
Capt. Matthew Stern (Pennsylvania)
Sgt. Timothy Rollings (Arkansas)
Sgt. 1st Class Robert Gibson (Wisconsin)
1st Lt. Blaine Zimmerman (Indiana)
Sgt. 1st Class Earnest Fullwood (Pennsylvania)
Staff Sgt. Anibal Soto (Puerto Rico)
Staff Sgt. Paul Duncan (Nevada)
2nd Lt. Richard Langdeaux (South Dakota)
Capt. David Buchanan (Maryland)
Spc. Geovanni Popoca (Kansas)
Capt. Gary Parks (Indiana)
2nd Lt. Ethan Effinger (Wisconsin)
Maj. Miguel Perez (New Mexico)
Maj. Nick Whaley (New York)
Staff Sgt. Gary Roberson (South Carolina)
2nd Lt. Lee Reagan (Alabama)
Sgt. James Potteiger (Virginia)
Sgt. 1st Class Paul Hoffman (South Dakota)
Spc. Michael Rodriguez (Delaware)
2nd Lt. Joseph Nail (Kansas)
Maj. Nicholas Plocar (West Virginia)
Spc. Austin Loomis (Wisconsin)
Capt. Christopher Sinnett (Indiana)
Spc. Daniel Temme (Montana)
Capt. Jonathan Fleming (Hawaii)
1st Lt. Nicholas Lahr (Kansas)
Capt. Brittany Downs (Ohio)
Spc. Wilanie Oyola-Bonilla (Massachusetts)
2nd Lt. Chiara Warner (Montana)
Staff Sgt. Marguerite Zaepfel (Wisconsin)
Spc. Jennifer St Amand (Minnesota)
Maj. Samantha Wood (California)
Maj. Amanda Schmid (Nebraska)
Tech. Sgt. Amber Martine (New Hampshire)
Sgt. 1st Class Erica Fuentes (Michigan)
Capt. Melinda Dominguez (Texas)
Staff Sgt. Tricia Haugen (Montana)
Staff Sgt. Melissa Guckian (New York)
Staff Sgt. Tessa Pettit (New York)
2nd Lt. Cassidy Huesers (North Dakota)
Capt. Rebecca Roselles (South Dakota)
2nd Lt. Jessica Pal (Kansas)
Maj. Kimberly Quinn (Florida)
Warrant Officer Sarah Barnes (Michigan)
1st Lt. Tonisia Jackson (Ohio)
Capt. Amy Mireles (Oregon)
Sgt. 1st Class Phoebe Begay (New Mexico)