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Pike defends wheelchair title at Duluth Marathon with record time

Patrick Monahan (right) chased Aaron Pike near the 22-mile point of Grandma’s Marathon on Saturday, June 22. Pike went on to open up a 1:24 gap over Monahan, winning the race with a record time of 1:20.59. Steve Kuchera / Forum News Service

The Grandma's Marathon course is noted for its fast times for wheelchair racers, but marks entered another stratosphere on Saturday, June 22.

Two-time defending champion Aaron Pike of Champaign, Illinois, obliterated the Grandma's men's record by nearly two minutes, crossing the Canal Park finish line in 1:20:59.

Pike had a rival to keep up the fast pace.

For the first 22 miles, the 33-year-old traded the lead with Ireland's Patrick Monahan. But with the knowledge of how Lemon Drop Hill can change the outcome of a race in a hurry, Pike decided to gamble and go for his third consecutive victory and the event record that eluded him when Joshua George nipped him at the wire in 2012 in 1:22:55.

"I just put my head down and went for the record," Pike said. "I saw how it worked last year and decided that would be a good thing to do."

Pike, a Park Rapids native, worked in concert with Monahan from the beginning in the men's field of 31 wheelchair racers.

When they were regularly hitting 20 mph, Pike knew a good time was in the offing.

"I knew when we hit 39 minutes for a half-marathon, I knew we were on par for a good pace," Pike said. "When you have two people working to get a fast time, that's what you need to get a course record."

A north-northeast tailwind for 90 percent of the race doesn't hurt, either.

Pike, who won this race in 2017 in 1:29:02 and repeated last year in 1:26:48, recently finished ninth in the road world championships in London and is in the process of training for the track world championships in Dubai this November.

Locals compete

Several area runners competed in the 43rd annual Duluth Marathon and Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon.

Five local runners completed the 26.2-mile marathon.

Park Rapids' Zane Nevala (47) finished No. 1,841 out of 6,360 runners, No. 1,226 out of 3,405 runners in the men's division and No. 100 out of 289 in the men's 45-49 age division with a time of 3:45:05.

Park Rapids' Dave Benson (51) finished No. 2,136 overall with a time of 3:51:02. Benson was No. 1,402 in the men's division and No. 104 out of 302 runners in the men's 50-54 age group.

Park Rapids' Shannon Hogan (32) finished No. 2,718 overall, No. 998 out of 2,955 women and No. 536 out of 1,420 women age 19-34 in 4:02:36.

Laporte's Lynn Bessegato (52) finished No. 4,387 overall, No. 1,816 in the women's division and No. 85 out of 174 runners in the women's 50-54 age group in 4:42:15.

Lake George's Ryan Mathisrud (35) crossed the finish line in 5:27:33 to place No. 5,579 overall, No. 3,116 in the men's division and No. 473 of 499 runners in the men's 35-39 age division.

Duluth's Boniface Kongin won the men's title in 2:11:56 while Nell Rojas of Boulder, Colorado, won the women's title in 2:28:06.

Seven area runners completed the 13.1-mile half marathon.

Park Rapids' Matthew Benson (20) finished No. 439 out of 7,491 runners in 1:34:35. Benson was No. 325 out of 2,870 men and No. 197 out of 1,109 competitors in the men's 19-34 age group.

Park Rapids' Kent Cease (57) finished No. 1,659 overall, No. 1,024 in the men's division and No. 46 out of 191 runners in the men's 55-59 age division with a time of 1:52:41.

Park Rapids' Marcus Benson (17) clocked a 1:55:12 to finish No. 1,924 overall, No. 1,166 in the men's division and No. 65 of 130 in the men's 12-18 age group.

Park Rapids' Jodi Erickson (53) finished No. 4,022 overall, No. 2,059 of 4,621 women and No. 119 of 331 runners in the women's 50-54 age division in 2:13:34.

Akeley's Sierra Monroe (19) finished No. 4,682 overall, No. 2,504 in the women's division and No. 1,185 of 1,975 in the women's 19-34 age group in 2:20:19.

Nevis' Linda Lien (60) clocked a 2:38:19 to place No. 6,070 overall, No. 3,531 among women and No. 75 of 129 in the women's 60-64 age division.

Akeley's Tina Monroe (45) finished No. 7,139 overall, No. 4,347 among women and No. 379 of 410 in the women's 45-49 age group in 3:09:43.

Panual Mkungo of Minneapolis led the field in 1:02:37 while Burnsville's Katy Jermann won the women's title in 1:10:27.

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