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NEWS | May 7, 2014

Female Air Guard member makes history at Lincoln National Guard Marathon

By Tech Sgt. Jason Melton Nebraska Air National Guard

LINCOLN, Neb. - A female Pennsylvania Air National Guard member made history at the 37th Annual Lincoln National Guard Marathon on May 4 when she became the first National Guard woman to win the marathon's overall female category.

Senior Airman Emily Shertzer, an oboist with the 553rd Band of the Mid-Atlantic, carved her name in history while sprinting across the finish line at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's Memorial Stadium in an official time of 2 hours, 50 minutes, 36 seconds.

Shertzer held a comfortable lead over Capt. Varinka Ensminger, a medical services officer with the Kentucky Army National Guard, who placed second in the National Guard women's category and ninth out of all women with a time of 3:07:05.

"The last few years I came I wasn't very well prepared...this year I really wanted to focus on Lincoln and maybe try to win it," said Shertzer, who led the pack of female competitors for the duration. "I didn't realize I was the first Guard woman to win overall. It's pretty exciting to be the first woman to win overall in Lincoln. There are a lot of faster female marathoners out there, but today it's nice to be the top woman here in Lincoln."

Taking the first place title in the National Guard's men's division was Sgt. Alex Sico, a radio and communications security repairer with the 3650th Maintenance Company from the Colorado Army National Guard, finishing with a time of 2:39:20. Close on his heels was 1st Lt. Kenneth Rayner, a platoon leader from the Massachusetts Army National Guard, finishing with a time of 2:40:30. Sico's time was good for sixth place out of all male marathoners.

Sico, who was competing in his second marathon, said he wasn't sure what to expect at this year's Lincoln National Guard Marathon, which was held under partly cloudy skies. "It was a little bit windy and it got kind of lonely on the second half after all of the half marathoners dropped off. There was a runner hanging close behind me for the last two miles, so I sprinted like I've never sprinted before. After leading for the whole race, I didn't want to give that up."

More than 12,000 marathoners registered for this year's marathon - up from 10,000 in 2013 - in less than 18 hours, making this year's Lincoln National Guard marathon the largest in its history. Among those athletes, 184 intrepid marathoners from the Army and Air National Guard representing 39 states and two U.S. territories tackled the grueling 26.2-mile challenge to compete for a position on the National Guard Marathon Team and a chance for their team to take home a newly-unveiled traveling trophy called "The Cob" for the National Guard team with the best overall time of their top three runners.

The team from Pennsylvania had the honor of being the first team to etch its state into the black, shiny trophy with two ears of corn coming out of the top.

According to National Guard race officials, this year's conditions were very favorable for the race, which is often conducted in less-than-ideal weather. "I'm thrilled to be hosting the National Guard Marathon time trials again," said Sgt. 1st Class Michael Hagen, National Guard Bureau Marathon coordinator. "Even more so because today is by far the best weather I've ever seen for this marathon—minus the wind, of course."

For Guard participants this year's marathon was much more competitive than it has been due to a more active recruiting venture by the states to pick the top runners from each state, Hagen said. "That's why we have a lot of new Guard athletes. The energy this year was higher than it's ever been - on the Lincoln Track Club side and in the Guard - because of all the new participants. I'm excited to see how they all finished and how they feel about the race."

Hagen added that the Nebraska National Guard, which founded the marathon several decades ago, takes significant pride in the marathon. "Everyone who comes here sees it as a reflection of what the Nebraska National Guard does and how hard we work".