Despite an extremely cold winter endured by 10 Wisconsin Army and Air Guard members during their train-up for the 2014 Lincoln National Guard Marathon, the team set a state record in making this year's All Guard Marathon Team, May 4.
After running a challenging 26.2 miles in Nebraska's 37th Lincoln Marathon, seven members of the Wisconsin Marathon Team finished with times fast enough to earn a place on the team. This is the most representatives Wisconsin has had make the team since the All Guard Team program began in 1984.
"It's awesome to have that many people representing," said Air Force Maj. Michael Western of the 128th Air Control Squadron, the Wisconsin team coordinator.
That level of participation reflects well upon the Wisconsin National Guard, he said.
The Wisconsin team competed against 42 other states and territories and acquitted itself well, placing second overall.
Out of 184 Army and Air Guard members running in the race, only the top 40 men and 15 women qualify to make the All Guard Marathon Team. They will represent the Guard at a national level in a series of marathon competitions throughout the year.
"The goal of the Marathon Team is recruiting and retention, morale, fitness and basically esprit de corps of drawing everybody together," said Sgt. 1st Class Michael Hagen, National Guard Bureau Marathon coordinator.
Hagen added how the All Guard Marathon Team program sparks interest in people to join the National Guard and motivates those already in the military.
"It's a really neat program and I think it only takes your first time to come to Lincoln to catch the fever," said Western. "You get the 'I think I can do better next year' type thing."
Western was the top Wisconsin finisher with a time of 2:54:05. Army Capt. Seth Kaste, with the 54th Civil Support Team, finished close behind with a time of 2:55:46. Right on his heels was Army 1st Lt. Nicholas Plocar, 2nd Battalion, 127th Infantry, finishing in 2:56:36.
Plocar is no stranger to grueling events, as he was half of a team that placed second in last month's Best Ranger competition.
Western, Plocar and Kaste's finishing times, when averaged, earned second place in the team awards for the National Guard. This marked the third consecutive year the Wisconsin team has achieved second place.
Air Force Master Sgt. Melanie Peters, of the 115th Fighter Wing, was the first Wisconsin female to finish with a time of 3:44:30. Peters was one of two women on the Wisconsin team.
Army Spc. Brady Anderson, with 1st Battalion, 128th Infantry, completed his first year on the team with a 3:00:15 time. Army Staff Sgt. Jason Kirch, with the 229th Engineering Company, finished with a 3:02:47, and Air Force Airman 1st Class Robert Miles, with the 115th Fighter Wing, finished with a 3:06:23.
The seven Wisconsin members to make the team were: Western, Plocar, Kaste, Peters, Anderson, Kirch and Miles.
Even though the thought of running just over 26 miles in uncertain weather can be overwhelming, many on the Wisconsin team keep coming back year after year.
"I really like the camaraderie, the networking with different folks that show up to the race [as well as] the competition," Western said.
Army Staff Sgt. Megan Leuck, with the 112th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, ran her first marathon and finished with a time of 4:14:48. Army Capt. John Jordens of 1st Battalion, 128th Infantry finished with a time of 3:19:44 and Air Force Airman 1st Class John Leuck, with the 115th Fighter Wing, also completed his first year on the team and finished close behind with a 3:20:42.
While the remaining three individuals didn't make the All Guard Team, they put forth a valiant effort and will have something to shoot for if they decide to join the Wisconsin team next year.
"Now that I've had a taste of what it's all about, I am more excited to come back next year," John Leuck said.
For any Army or Air Guard member interested in joining the Wisconsin Guard Marathon team, contact Maj. Michael Western at or 319-610-7900.
"It's a great opportunity, it's a great race and it's a good weekend overall," Western said.