Lake Havasu's Kuch, Yuma's Berg win Yuma Territorial marathons
Locals dominate half marathons
SOMERTON — A Lake Havasu City police officer and a teacher from Yuma County won the men's and women's categories respectively in the second annual Yuma Territorial Marathon hosted Saturday by the Caballeros de Yuma.
Dan Kuch led the way throughout the course of the 26.2 mile race, finishing with a time of 2 hours, 38 minutes, 31 seconds. Emily Berg, an English teacher at Southwest Junior High School in San Luis led all female runners, finishing the marathon in a time of 3:35.34. Both improved on the times of the winners in the inaugural run last year.
The event was held in conjunction with the Healthy Yuma 2011 Celebration and Welcome Rally at Cocopah Casino.
The marathon was the 45th in seven years for Kuch, who has run in marathons in Boston, Chicago, New York, San Francisco and San Diego.
“I felt very good,” he said. “In fact, I was surprised by time of an 1:17 halfway through the marathon. It's a flat, fast course with lots of straightaways. This course allowed me to run a lot faster.”
The marathon route began at Cocopah Casino and followed Highway 95 to San Luis before looping back to the casino.
Kuch, who has won 38 marathons over the past four yeas, said the hardest part of the run was at the start of the race, when the morning chill made it difficult for him to warm up. His closest competitor was Gary Krugger, of Erie, Pa., who finished the run in a time of 2:54.56.
Berg, a 24-year-old Yuma resident, was participating in the Yuma marathon for the first time Saturday.
“It was a great experience,” she said. “The weather was perfect. When I run, I always focus on music, but the day was so beautiful that I enjoyed the view more.”
Berg, a member of the Desert Runners running club, said her finish in the Yuma Territorial Marathon was the best in the four she has run.
Finishing in third place on the men's side was Jorge Mendoza, who had the best showing among local runners in the competition, finishing the distance in a time of 3:08.03.
“It's a flat course (designed) especially for fast times,” he said. “I finished in my second fastest time ever.”
The Yuma Territorial Marathon was the 12th for Mendoza, a 44-year-old mechanic who previously participated in the well-known Boston and New York marathons.
Mendoza nearly matched his time in the inaugural Yuma marathon, when he finished with a time of 3:06:10.
Finishing in second place among the women was Jennifer Toavs, of New Hope, Minn., with a time of 3:37:41, while Amber Hansen, a resident of Gilbert finished in third place with a time of 3:37:58.
Yuma-area residents dominated the half-marathon, taking the first- and third-place finishes in both the men's and women's races.
Among the men, Kyle Smith, won with a time of 1:23:35, while Charles Stelk, from Iowa, finished in second with a time of 1:26:37. Yuma runner Heath Jabs finished in third with a time of 1:30:20.
Among the women, Tami Jo Harmon of Yuma won the half-marathon with a time of 1:44:26, followed by Staci Reldinberg of Poway, Calif., with a time of 1:46:39 and Claudia Diaz of Yuma, 1:47:57.
Bob Brown, a Caballero de Yuma member and organizer of the marathon, said the number of runners this year grew 50 percent, with 270 participating. Runners came not only from around the United States, but Denmark and Germany.
“It's a good course for the runners, very fast, and the weather was fabulous,” Brown said. “This event will keep on growing.”