Omaha Marathon: New faces at the finish

It was a day of firsts Sunday at the Omaha Marathon.

Click to Enlarge

Omahan Tonya Janzen crossed the finish line in 3 hours, 22 minutes, 40 seconds, far behind last year's female winning time of 3:07.23.
Tony Clark posted his first marathon victory, capturing the men's division in 2 hours, 47 minutes, 28 seconds. The winning time by the 29-year-old electrician from Wichita, Kan., was slightly more than four seconds faster than the first-place time last year.

"I really didn't expect to win," he said. "I'd finished second before, but things went my way today."

Omahan Tonya Janzen also netted her first victory in the women's division, crossing the finish line in 3:22.40 - considerably behind last year's winning time of 3:07.23. But what made Janzen's victory impressive was that Sunday's marathon was the first for the 29-year-old.

"I usually just run on a treadmill," she said. "I'm used to running indoors, but it was kind of nice being outside today."

Top finishers
Men's marathon
Tony Clark 2:47:28
Scott Beran 2:51:48
Robbie Fitzwater 2:58:22
Julian Romero 3:00:10
Marc Johnson 3:00:46

Women's marathon
Tonya Janzen 3:22:40
Sara Major 3:28:22
Kerrie Sijon 3:29:53
Brenda Peschel 3:30:53
Michel Davy 3:32:55

Men's half marathon
Brian McNeil 1:17:06
David Conn 1:17:35
Luke Christiansen 1:19:20
David Johnson 1:22:36
Matt Weeder 1:23:04

Women's half marathon
Laura Ferguson 1:29:30
Anna Kranz 1:30:27
Shelley Tifft-Lippold 1:33:54
Kerstin Dea 1:34:00
H. Dietrich Swanson 1:34:05

Complete results
The marathon, which drew almost 2,000 runners, began at 7 a.m. under sunny skies. The new start for the race was just east of the Qwest Center Omaha, and the finish line was located near the adjacent Rick's Boatyard Café.

Clark, a former Marine, made a weekend of his trip to Nebraska. He attended the Huskers' game against Ball State on Saturday before netting his first marathon win Sunday.

"I was running scared for about 18 miles," he said. "But I kept getting updates that I was clear of the people behind me, so that made me feel pretty good."

Those updates were coming from race officials who rode bicycles alongside the leaders.

Clark said he was able to win despite the presence of some major hills on the course.

"There were some monsters about six or seven miles into the race," he said. "But once I got past those, I felt pretty good."

Clark's time was more than four minutes faster than runner-up Scott Beran of Council Bluffs, who covered the 26.2 miles in 2:51.48. The 40-year-old also finished second last year but beat his 2006 time by 59 seconds.

Robbie Fitzwater of Leawood, Kan., finished third in 2:58.22.

Defending men's champion Todd Nott of Plattsmouth was sixth in 3:01.52. Despite running slightly more than 10 minutes slower than last year, the high school cross country coach said he was pleased with his time.

"I ran in a 33-mile road race last week, and that took something out of me," he said. "But it was an honor to run as the defending champion, and I congratulate this year's winner."

Women's champion Janzen and her husband, Phillip, moved to Omaha in May from Amarillo, Texas. She said she had dedicated this first marathon to her mother, who is fighting cancer.

"She's had it for nine years," Janzen said. "I told her today that I was running for her, so that really helped push me on."

Like Clark, Janzen was getting updates from a race official once she made the lead.

"I was surprised when I kept hearing how well I was doing," she said. "And the way people were cheering us along the course, that made me run even faster."

Phillip offered support immediately after the race with water, a towel and a lawn chair.

"I told her that she was going to do well," he said. "To win her first marathon and to dedicate it to her mom that way is just awesome."

Finishing second in the women's division was Sara Major of Pittsburg, Kan., in 3:28.22. Kerrie Sijon of Greer, S.C., was third in 3:29.53.

Defending women's champion Sara Otepka, a former Omahan who now lives in Seattle, did not compete this year.

The half-marathon men's winner was Brian McNeil of Charlotte, N.C., who covered the distance in 1:17.06. Jaime Evers of Papillion captured the women's division in 1:23.05.

In the 10K run, Robert Swanson of Omaha was first in 36:57 while Jessica Rettig of Lincoln was the top women's finisher in 39:17.

Crazy Leonard makes it No. 100

With the help of his relay team, Omahan "Crazy" Leonard Vavra completed his 100th marathon.

The popular 79-year-old runner lost a leg above the knee three years ago due to complications from knee replacement surgery. Volunteers pushed him in a specially designed wheelchair at the Omaha Marathon last year for No. 98, and again in the Lincoln Marathon in the spring for No. 99.

Vavra had more than 25 relay pushers Sunday, a group that included his family during the final portion of the race. Sons Don, Doug and Dave and daughters Debbie, Dee and Dionne helped push the wheelchair past the finish line as the crowd cheered.

"He was really excited to be out there today," Don Vavra said. "The people from the running club who have gotten together and done this for our dad, we can't thank them enough."

Vavra toured the course in 4:29.38.

Barefoot runner finishes fourth

Julian Romero finished fourth in the men's marathon, but the fact he ran barefoot made it even more special.

The 24-year-old from Pasadena, Calif., is part of a hardcore group of runners who refuse to wear shoes.

"One guy asked me about three times during the race if I wanted his shoes," Romero said. "I told him that I liked running this way."

Romero said he enjoyed the early part of the course that went past Rosenblatt Stadium.

"I played baseball at Northwestern ,and we never got to the College World Series," he said. "At least I got to see where they play."

Rick Roeber of Lee's Summit, Mo., said this was the 30th marathon in which he had competed barefoot.

"My knees were getting really bad," he said. "But I started running without shoes, and it's really helped."

Sep 24, 2007 7:51 am
71° F Forecast