BEMIDJI - It is only fitting that a pair of former Lumberjacks took top honors in Saturday’s inaugural Bemidji Blue Ox Marathon.
Pete Miller of Shorewood, Minn., graduated from Bemidji High School in 1988 and earned many individual running honors during his Lumberjacks career. Gina Aalgaard Kelly had similar success during her tenure at BHS and the 1995 Bemidji High School graduate now is a sociology professor at North Dakota State University in Fargo.
Both runners are familiar with the marathon course and on Saturday, they put that knowledge to good use. Miller dominated the men’s race, winning in 2:46:19.56. Aalgaard Kelly also wasn’t challenged down the stretch and her time of 3:04:51.88 was almost three minutes faster than that of her nearest pursuer.
“I knew the course and that is something unique for me when it comes to running a marathon,” she said. “I was feeling very good running around Lake Irving but I had a tough time on the trails along the east side of Lake Bemidji.
“The wind also affected me when we were by the golf course but, at least I knew where I was and how much further I had to go.”
Aalgard Kelly was able to play one more trump card before hitting the home stretch.
“I grew up on Birchmont Drive and the course went right past my house,” she said. “When I reached that spot, my entire family was at the end of the driveway honking the horn and cheering me on.
“And that support really helped me.”
Aalgaard Kelly never was challenged during the 26.2-mile endurance test and enjoying that three-minute advantage over runner-up Jessica Lovering of Eden Prairie, Minn., at 3:07:30.49. Claiming third was Andrea Nelson of Bemidji at 3:24:26.92.
“My goal on Saturday was to win,” Aalgaard Kelly admitted. “I thought it would be really cool to win the first marathon in my home town.
“I only started running marathons when I was 30, so I feel that I’m still relatively new to running. I really didn’t know how long this race would take so I just wanted to follow my planned pace and see what happened.”
Miller also entered Saturday’s men’s marathon without a scouting report on the field.
“I felt I had a chance to win, but I wasn’t sure what would happen because I didn’t know who was going to be here,” Miller, who works in the running division of Lifetime Fitness in Chanhassen, Minn., said. “I’ve done many marathons before, but I haven’t done many in the past few years, so I didn’t know what to expect.
“But I was pleased with my time.”
Miller was in second place through the first half of the race but when the course switched from Lake Irving to Lake Bemidji he was able to take the lead.
“I was on my own the rest of the way,” Miller said.
Cley Twigg of Moorhead placed second at 2:51:06.60, while Robert Preston of Athens, Tenn. was third with a time of 2:55:36.49.
Jared Davis of Bemidji made the top 10 as he placed eighth, 3:05:37.95.
Olson, Miller champions in half marathon
A week ago, Pam Olsen of Hendricks, Minn., finally decided to make the trip to Bemidji for the Blue Ox half marathon. On Saturday afternoon, Olsen was glad she did as she won the women’s division after completing the race in 1:32:26.17.
Kenny Miller of Wadena, Minn., was the men’s half marathon champion with a time of 1:14:03.90.
“I have a sister who lives in Bemidji and she asked me to visit,” Olsen said. “And, as long as I was coming, I thought that I should run.”
Olsen and her contemporaries were greeted with a strong wind, chilly temperatures and, during the latter stages of the race, a light mist.
The conditions bothered many of the volunteers stationed throughout the course, but it didn’t affect Olsen.
“I’d rather run in weather like this than when it is 100 degrees,” she said. “It was an exciting and very fun day.”
Kenny Miller also has ties to Bemidji as he was an All-NSIC track athlete at Bemidji State University in the late 1990s.
Miller currently is a physical education and health teacher at Bertha-Hewitt High School and he practices what he preaches in class.
“I raced Sunday in the Twin Cities 10-mile (finishing 12th) but it was tough for a 36-year old to come back in six days and run here,” Miller said. “When I registered, I thought a top-five finish would be very good but when I saw who was in the field I thought I might be able to make the top three.
“But there were so many people I didn’t know in the race that I wasn’t sure what to expect. Personally, all I wanted to do was maintain a 5:40 pace and that’s what I did.”
That pace was rewarded with a 54-second victory over runner-up Andrew Papke-Larson of Bemidji. The only other Bemidji runner to crack the top 10 was Tyler Lange who was 10th in 1:31:14.37.
Full results are available here.
Blue Ox Marathon
Top 10 Men Finishers
1-Pete Miller, Shorewood, 2:46:19.56
2-Cley Twigg, Moorhead, 2:51:06.60
3-Robert Preston, Athens, Tenn., 2:55:36.49
4-James Manecke, Lengby, 2:58:57.83
5-Jordan Hanlon, St. Paul, 3:00:01.26
6-Justin McDowell, Severn, MD, 3:04:25.23
7-Keith Scotland, Dillon, Colo., 3:05:29.01
8-Jared Davis, Bemidji, 3:05:37.95
9-Eric Scotland, Lyons, Colo., 3:12:24.28
10-Shane Johnson, Sartell, 3:14:15.77
Top 10 Women Finishers
1-Gina Aalgaard Kelly, Lisbon, N.D., 3:04:51.88
2-Jessica Lovering, Eden Prairie, 3:07:30.49
3-Andrea Nelson, Bemidji, 3:24:26.92
4-Traci Bartz, Seattle, 3:28:07.28
5-Jennifer Lovering, Eden Prairie, 3:28:10.59
6-Danielle Bartz, Baxter, 3:29:08.65
7-Tracy Sik, Willmar, 3:29:18.05
8-Judi Nacionales, Woodbury, 3:34:21.19
9-Angie Mahar, East Grand Forks, 3:35:03.68
10-Amy Will, Thief River Falls, 3:37:36.13
Blue Ox Half Marathon
Top 10 Men Finishers
1-Kenny Miller, Wadena, 1:14:03.90
2-Andrew Papke-Larson, Bemidji, 1:14:57.55
3-Brian Zalewski, Muskego, Wis., 1:17:22.09
4-Ben Bruce, Waubun, 1:20:31.23
5-David Lewis, Nevis, 1:20:46.42
6-Chris Hagen, Little Falls, 1:21:53.80
7-Billy Sackett, Grand Rapids, 1:22:50.14
8-Adam Noll, West Fargo, 1:25:01.61
9-Nathan Wisehart, Duluth, 1:29:57.23
10-Tyler Lange, Bemidji, 1:31:14.37
Top 10 Women Finishers
1-Pam Olson, Hendricks, Minn., 1:32:26.17
2-Michelle Swenson, Kansas City, MO, 1:32:45.50
3-Christel Kippenhan, Bemidji, 1:39:03.57
4-Jill Andersen, Bemidji, 1:40:54.31
5-Mary LaRue, Willmar, 1:42:26.65
6-Jenna Dean, Walker, 1:43:41.67
7-Lisa Martin: 1:44:14.07
8-Katie Guzek, Minneapolis; 1:44:52.95
9-Jessica Miller, Wadena, 1:45:55.53
10-Lori Grover, Warroad, 1:46:20.71