Sondra Stonecipher runs in the Kenai River half-marathon on Sunday, Sept. 24 near Kenai.

Sondra Stonecipher runs in the Kenai River half-marathon on Sunday, Sept. 24 near Kenai.

Kenai River Marathon makes strides

One did it using a handcycle after breaking his back seven years ago. Others competed after coaching at — or even running in — the Region III meet just outside of Palmer the day before.

Another finished after a spill that had him looking more like a Mount Marathon finisher than a Kenai River Marathon finisher, and still others chased The Boston Marathon qualifying time while trying to raise a family.

But the one thing all — 178 runners plus 10 relay teams — had in common is having the courage and commitment to sign up to run five kilometers, a half marathon or a marathon, then coming through no matter what a rainy, overcast autumn day or their finicky bodies threw at them on the courses that loop between Kenai and Soldotna.

Anchorage’s Ira Edwards, 42, was the only handcylist at the race. Finishing the 26.2-mile course in 2 hours, 5 minutes and 11 seconds, he joked that he finished both first and last.

In 2010, Edwards was working as an Alaska State Parks ranger when a tree-cutting accident broke his back.

A month in intensive care and a lengthy rehabilitation followed. Four years ago, he did his first marathon on a handcycle and completed his ninth Sunday.

Edwards had run 19 marathons before his accident, including The Boston Marathon, and Sunday was part of his effort to get back into The Boston Marathon.

Were time just the issue, Edwards would be qualified. But The Boston Marathon says its handcycle field is primarily made up of U.S. veterans disabled in service to their country and survivors of the 2013 Boston bombing. The field also includes up to six that don’t meet those two criteria, which gives Edwards narrow odds.

He wanted to really make a statement by popping an impressive time Sunday.

“I finished it in 1:50 this summer pushing easy, so I figured I could do 1:40,” he said. “But it took me too long to get warm.”

Edwards said the cold air, combined with the road spray, pushed his time over two hours.

The men’s marathon was won by Pedro Ochoa, 21, while the women’s half marathon went to Annie Ridgely, 35.

Ridgely is the head coach for the Homer High School cross-country team, while Ochoa is an assistant.

Saturday, the Mariners were just outside of Palmer for the Region III meet, where the girls won a fourth straight Division II title and the boys finished second in the quest for a third straight title.

The two coaches went all the way back to Homer with the team Saturday night, arriving just before 11 p.m.

Ridgely’s alarm then went off at 6 a.m. Paul and Annie Ridgely soon had their four kids fed and ready to head to Kenai.

“He’s the real champ,” Annie said of her husband.

Ridgely actually raced in the same clothes she wore at the region meet, never having had time to change them.

After going through all of that, the jockeying in the three-person lead pack in the race wasn’t a big deal.

“I had to race smart,” she said. “I was pretty tired.”

The big point in the race was with less than 10 kilometers left, when Anchorage’s Jessie Pierce, 21, came from fourth to take a run at the lead.

Ridgely rode Pierce to the front and stayed there. Ridgely won at 1:39:56, while Pierce was second at 1:40:05.

In the end, Saturday’s coaching trip may have been the difference.

“They are so inspirational,” Ridgely said of her team. “I thought of a different runner each mile.

“I thought of all the heart and battle they showed yesterday.”

Ochoa used a similar tact in winning the 26.2-mile race in 2:56:06, going under three hours for the first time in his third marathon.

“Running with them is an inspiration,” Ochoa said of his runners. “It helps build the flame.”

Ochoa did not have plans of going under three hours, but Samuel Atkinson, 22, of Kotzebue, set a strong pace and Ochoa followed.

About Mile 21, Ochoa, who has qualified to run for the Army National Guard team, noticed Atkinson was slowing down, so he sped by him to take the win. Atkinson was second at 3:02:50.

Ochoa said Team Homer actually had its eyes on the triple crown Sunday, but driving back on the bus Saturday, assistant Robert Ostrom learned it was too late to register for the five-kilometer race.

“The running culture just keeps growing in Homer,” Ochoa said.

While Ridgely and Ochoa get kudos for running after coaching Saturday, at least they didn’t actually race Saturday.

Soldotna sophomore Lance Chilton did. Chilton finished 15th in the Division I varsity race, then finished fifth in the marathon at 3:26:31, and honestly didn’t appear all that tired after crossing the finish line.

So what advice did SoHi coach Ted McKenney have for his runner?

“He said, ‘Don’t kill yourself’” Chilton said.

SoHi has practice Monday to begin preparing for state Saturday. Chilton is anticipating an easy day.

The women’s marathon went to Samantha Wilson, 34, who ran 3:29:51 to beat the 3:58:59 of Sara Kennedy, 34, of Eagle River.

Wilson has run on and off for her entire life. Her two kids are getting old enough that she can devote more time to training, so in January she decided to try for a Boston qualifying time. She got that time Sunday.

“I heard this has a nice, flat course, so I came down to try it out,” she said.

While Wilson said she’d always like a course to be flatter, one of her worries about the course didn’t come to fruition.

“A lot of people were out, so that made it fun,” she said. “I was worried about that because there were only 40 or 50 of us, but a lot of people were supporting us officially and unofficially.”

In the men’s half marathon, Travis Mabe, 26, turned in a dominant victory. He ran 1:13:32 while runner-up Victor Samoei, 26, of Anchorage was at 1:29:13.

Mabe spent the summer at the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge in environmental education and visitor services. He arrived Feb. 5 and is leaving Oct. 14 to head back to Michigan.

There he will train on the track in hopes of running a 10K in less than 30 minutes and a 5K in less than 14:30.

“It’s really bittersweet,” Mabe said. “I love it here, but I’m also looking forward to going back to Michigan.”

Mabe was sporting a scraped left elbow and wrist after the race, and he was also guessing he wiped some skin off his hip.

In the third mile of the race, he was rounding a corner and slipped.

“It happened during the third mile and that was actually my fastest mile,” he said. “I got up and thought I had to make up for lost time.”

Kenai River Marathon


Five kilometers


1. Joel Thunder Carson, 22 minutes, 26 seconds; 2. Luke Morse, 23:53; 3. Travis Hall, 24:49; 4. Landen Showalter, 27:07; 5. Thomas Rhyner, 27:47; 6. Micheal Reahl, 28:45; 7. Emelian Reuton, 31:01; 8. Jonathon Walters, 35:29; 9. Stephen Hart, 42:44; 10. Caleb Smith, 1:01:48.


1. Morgan Ekemo, 20:52; 2. Amelia Hall, 24:27; 3. Mallory Millary, 25:02; 4. Breanna McConnell, 26:45; 5. Madison McDonald, 27:17; 6. Amanda Millay, 27:55; 7. Kelly McDevitt, 28:20; 8. Kate Tutela, 31:19; 9. Maria Sweppy, 35:46; 10. Mary Rhyner, 36:47; 11. Jennifer Dennis, 37:31; 12. Tina Meier, 37:59; 13. Natasha Reuton, 39:37; 14. Colette Reahl, 40:33; 15. Kathleen Cole, 42:29; 16. Kailey Crowell, 43:43; 17. Susan Michelle Greer, 43:44; 18. Rebecca Waters, 44:25; 19. Wendy Cazares, 44:27; 20. Chrissy Smith, 1:01:50; 21. Beth Knorr, 1:02:24; 22. Ruth Bratz, 1:02:25.

Half Marathon (13.1 miles)


1. Travis Mabe, 1:13:32; 2. Victor Samoei, 1:29:13; 3. Bryan Hesse, 1:33:40; 4. Anthony Snook, 1:35:48; 5. Koda Poulin, 1:39:51; 6. Daniel Lightning Carson, 1:41:50; 7. Edward Wickham, 1:42:45; 8. Lee Frey, 1:42:47; 9. Nathan Elerick, 1:44:11; 10. Jon Iannaccone, 1:45:20; 11. John Bramante, 1:46:59; 12. Kevin Barnett, 1:47:24; 13. Dustin Brito, 1:48:05; 14. Carl Kincaid, 1:48:27; 15. Bill Taylor, 1:49:39; 16. Kevin Lauver, 1:50:56; 17. Steve Cole, 1:51:56; 18. Jeff Murray, 1:52:01; 19. Matthew Knorr, 1:56:57; 20. Roy Stuckey, 1:58:20; 21. Akshay Madane, 1:59:26; 22. Jason Hemphill, 2:01:15; 23. Ryan Fecteau, 2:03:11; 24. Nate Nelson, 2:04:28; 25. Dustin Bradshaw, 2:07:29.

26. Christian Hames, 2:07:44; 27. Richard Bond, 2:12:29; 28. Don Connelly, 2:14:09; 29. Eric Trevino, 2:16:12; 30. Wayne McKinzey, 2:22:14; 31. Travis Million, 2:22:14; 32. Bud Sexton, 2:22:20; 33. Austin Martin, 2:32:25.


1. Annie Ridgely, 1:39:56; 2. Jessie Pierce, 1:40:05; 3. Victoria Oxetenko, 1:40:07; 4. Susan Craig, 1:40:36; 5. Danielle Meyers, 1:43:08; 6. Petra Richards, 1:48:13; 7. Amanda Cherok, 1:48:32; 8. Emily Heale, 1:48:56; 9. Sondra Stonecipher, 1:49:01; 10. Rachel Neuendorf, 1:49:34; 11. Kamie Miller, 1:50:47; 12. Elizabeth Hardie, 1:51:49; 13. Amanda Day, 1:54:25; 14. Melanie Sexton, 1:57:09; 15. Karen McIntyre, 1:58:00; 16. Nicole Schmitt, 2:01:07; 17. Yvonne Leutwyler, 2:03:04; 18. Andrea Barnes, 2:04:18; 19. Amy Snook, 2:04:53; 20. Britta Anderson, 2:05:30; 21. Elizabeth Cox, 2:06:17; 22. Sarah Pribbenow, 2:06:36; 23. Maggie Nelson, 2:06:39; 24. Candy Goldstein, 2:06:40; 25. Jill Stein, 2:08:48.

26. Jo Oxentenko, 2:09:06; 27 (tie). Jessie Huett, Kristin Davis, 2:09:32; 29. Amy White Baxter, 2:10:22; 30. Lucy Neenan, 2:10:37; 31. Jen Novobilski, 2:11:22; 32. Anna Bradshaw, 2:12:51; 33. Cheryl Illg, 2:12:53; 34. Theresa Halpin, 2:14:07; 35. Carly Reimer, 2:14:08; 36. Vivian Wilson, 2:15:10; 37. Jen Hammond, 2:15:24; 38. Ashley Grayson, 2:15:24; 39. Kelly Murray, 2:15:50; 40. Janelle Hames, 2:16:36; 41. Kristin Oelschlegal, 2:16:46; 42. Kimberly Buskirk, 2:17:26; 43. Kate Swaby, 2:17:26; 44. Candace Cartwright, 2:17:26; 45. June Stuckey, 2:17:40; 46. Alyssa Frothingham, 2:18:17; 47. Hilary Fell, 2:18:37; 48. Laura Roofe, 2:19:15; 49. Shirley Soth, 2:20:45; 50. Elaine Clinton, 2:20:52.

51. Amy Drake, 2:22:25; 52. Pam Soderholm, 2:23:34; 53. Laura Henkelman, 2:25:33; 54. Kelly Walker, 2:27:21; 55. Deanna Beck, 2:27:27; 56. Megan Kohler, 2:27:34; 57. Katie Evans, 2:33:03; 58. Teslin Hacklin, 2:33:59; 59. Lanie Hughes, 2:34:00; 60. Skyla Walcott, 2:35:14; 61. Kathleen Sorensen, 2:39:05; 62. Sarah Waite, 2:41:34; 63. Alyssa Vanek, 2:42:49; 64. Karlene Meyers, 2:43:03; 65. Julie English, 2:48:32; 66. Melodie Epperheimer, 2:48:33; 67. Uran Piedra, 2:50:55; 68. Meagan Raymond, 3:05:10; 69. Natalie Kohler, 3:06:03; 70. Inger Stanley, 3:18:07; 71. Melyssa Nordwall, 3:26:27; 72. Teresa Mullican, 3:26:27; 73. Yvonne Oren, 3:50:06; 74. Johna Beech, 3:50:07.

Marathon (26.2 miles)


1. Ira Edwards, 2:05:11.


1. Pedro Ochoa, 2:56:06; 2. Samuel Atkinson, 3:02:50; 3. Adam Hrnicek, 3:09:03; 4. Nathan Wenger, 3:13:11; 5. Lance Chilton, 3:26:31; 6. Lloyd Raines, 3:29:23; 7. Benjamin McGarry, 3:39:45; 8. Delbert Leavitt, 3:40:51; 9. Orrin Burton, 3:46:11; 10. Martin Renner, 3:46:25; 11. Tony Covarrubias, 3:46:57; 12. Mark Dixson, 3:50:23; 13. Michael Minchaca, 4:02:13; 14. Tom Deakins, 4:04:42; 15. Cameron McCormick, 4:14:12; 16. Joey Klecka, 4:22:04; 17. Eric Meier, 4:28:18; 18. Christopher Johnson, 4:29:49; 19. Scott Downing, 4:39:25; 20. Craig Brunson, 4:39:38; 21 (tie). Humberto Pulido, Ryan Brunson, 4:40:07; 23. Carlo Rapanut, 4:47:51; 24. Eric Thomason, 4:53:34; 25. Brandon Wood, 5:05:19.


1. Samantha Wilson, 3:29:51; 2. Sara Kennedy, 3:58:59; 3. Elizabeth Knapp, 3:59:04; 4. Kristy Berington, 4:05:05; 5. Tricia Fields, 4:05:27; 6. Anna Berington, 4:06:40; 7. Jennifer Booz, 4:16:15; 8. Mallory Okuly, 4:24:21; 9. Lila Johnson, 4:26:38; 10. Judy Dugan, 4:29:01; 11. Erika Thompson, 4:29:11; 12. Dayna Defeo, 4:35:36; 13. Lori Guyer, 4:36:49; 14. Nadia Anders, 4:40:38; 15. Ashlee Werner, 4:53:00; 16. Michelle Thomason, 4:53:33; 17. Elizabeth Agnew, 4:57:51; 18. Abigail Shealy, 4:59:55; 19. Kristine Sonido, 5:05:20; 20. Torie Gutschow, 5:06:36; 21. Cynthia Cazares, 5:08:42; 22. Jinny Cooper, 5:33:46; 23. Trang Tran, 6:16:00.


1. Lost and Found, 3:06:22; 2. Team Andeavor, 3:20:17; 3. Three Seniors and a Sophomore, 3:29:00; 4. Fast Kids on the Block, 3:38:55; 5. Bamrs, 3:55:54; 6. Team Tesoro, 3:56:18; 7. The Regulators, 4:20:17; 8. Fire Hens, 4:29:32; 9. Llama Llama, 4:32:12; 10. Mountain View Maniacs, 4:38:11.

Victor Samoei runs in the Kenai River half-marathon on Sunday, Sept. 24, 2017 near Kenai, Alaska.

Victor Samoei runs in the Kenai River half-marathon on Sunday, Sept. 24, 2017 near Kenai, Alaska.

Runner Jen Novobilski pushes toward mile 11 of the Kenai River half-marathon on Sunday, Sept. 24, 2017 alongside the Kenai Spur Highway in Kenai, Alaska.

Runner Jen Novobilski pushes toward mile 11 of the Kenai River half-marathon on Sunday, Sept. 24, 2017 alongside the Kenai Spur Highway in Kenai, Alaska.

Runners Kimberly Buskirk (left), Kate Swaby, and Candace Cartwright run in the Kenai River half-marathon on Sunday, Sept. 24, 2017 in Kenai, Alaska.

Runners Kimberly Buskirk (left), Kate Swaby, and Candace Cartwright run in the Kenai River half-marathon on Sunday, Sept. 24, 2017 in Kenai, Alaska.

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