Cheptoek claims top American honors

PARKERSBUG – Uganda born 27-year-old Patrick Cheptoek crossed the finish line during Saturday’s 27th running of the News and Sentinel half marathon in 1 hour, 5 minutes and 34 seconds to claim the $1,000 prize for being the top United States runner.

Cheptoek, who finished 10th overall and resides in Bowling Green, Ky., actually stayed with the lead pack and overall champion Julius Kogo for almost half the race before settling into his own pace. Cheptoek was able to hold off Canton, Ohio runner-up Nik Schweikert, who placed 12th overall and clocked in at 1 hour, 6 minutes and 25 seconds.

“This was my second time. I raced here two years ago,” said Schweikert, who graduated from Malone College. “Conditions were perfect as far as I was concerned.”

In 2011, Schweikert made his first visit to Parkersburg, but it wasn’t something he was extremely proud of.

“My time was five minutes faster than I ran here two years about. I was sick two years ago,” he said. “Still, five minutes is a lot no matter what. I was just hoping to be under 1:09 so I was two and a half minutes faster than what I expected.

“The first time was a bad experience on my part because I was sick, but they do such a good job during the race. They do a great job here and I wanted to come back and give it a second go and kind of get a chance to do better than I did last time because they brought me down here and I ran like junk.”

The second time being in Parkersburg also meant he knew what to expect toward the end of the race when the 13th Street hill arrived.

“Last time, I remember walking up it last time,” said Schweikert, who picked up $500 for his efforts. “This time I was wait, wait, wait, wait and I knew it was there so I was waiting for it. I thought I could come back here and maybe do something better for them then last time.

“They do a great job with this race taking care of the elites and the race is so well organized. I wanted to redeem myself from last time.”

For the first time in the history of the race, a senior grandmasters division was created for athletes who are 60 and older. The first-time winner turned out to be race veteran Terry McCluskey, who came down from Vienna, a northeast Ohio town. His time of 1:27:38 allowed him to earn $750.

“This is the first year they’ve had that. It’s really cool to win money, but it’s also cool they recognize people who have been running for years and have advanced in years and we are still running well,” McCluskey said.

“They understand it’s difficult to compete with 50-year-olds or 40-year-olds so it’s a recognition. You’re getting respect for the hard work that you are doing. It’s much harder for us at our age to do what we are doing.”

Despite not being completely happy with his time, McCluskey was actually OK with it.

“That was very slow, but next year when I run 1:30 I’ll think it’s fast,” he quipped. “This is a beautiful and fun race. It’s challenging but fun and the crowd is just excellent. The race organization is superb.

“You couldn’t ask for a better race. Chip Allman and his group are just fantastic. That’s why we keep coming back. It doesn’t get any better than this.”

John Piggott, a 48-year-old from Williamsburg, Va., captured the masters title with a time of 1:16:30, finishing ahead of Scott Reamer (West Newton, Pa.) and his time of 1:18:27.

“The course is a tough course but I come up here all the time because it’s during my training period,” said Piggott, who like McCluskey walked away with $750. “I’m getting ready for the Sioux Falls marathon in three weeks. I wanted to run around a 1:17 and I was way better than that today.

“If I wasn’t training for a marathon I would’ve ran harder, but because of my training I want to be at 1:17 for a marathon at the halfway point. It was good. It was fun. I enjoyed the whole day. The people and the support, I love this race. I’ll come back every time I can come.”

The masters champion, for ages 50-59, went to Herman Garbini. The 51-year-old from Waynesboro, Va., crossed the line in 1 hour, 23 minutes and 19 seconds. Morgantown’s Josh Simpson, who is 29, was the first West Virginian to finish, concluding his trek in 1:06:46.