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Local woman makes good

by dan thomas

After the exploits of Katie Gengler locally and Margaret MacGregor nationally, fans might decide the weekend of Oct. 10 was a big one for women.

A day after MacGregor won the first sanctioned boxing match between a man and a woman in New York, Katie Gengler claimed the first gender-neutral, winner-take-all prize purse in the Lake Tahoe Marathon on Sunday. Gengler, 28, a long-time Lake Tahoe local before moving to San Luis Obispo last year, converted a head start of 30 minutes – the time difference between the men’s and women’s marathon world records – into a win of one minute, 32 seconds over the fastest man in the race, and a $500 cash prize. Gengler crossed the finish line at Pope Beach three hours, 20 minutes, six seconds after she left Tahoe City, holding off the race’s fastest man, Kevin Sawchuk, for the win.

“I’m pretty excited,” Gengler said. “He was pretty close.”



The race course doubles back upon itself about half a mile before the finish, and Gengler saw Sawchuck making up time at the turnaround.

“Obviously, he was gaining, because about halfway, he was, they said, 2.5 miles behind me,” said Gengler, who finished more than 10 minutes ahead of the next-fastest woman.



Sawchuck, who won the race last year for his first marathon victory, couldn’t make up Gengler’s half-hour head start. He was, however, the fastest runner of the day, finishing the race in 2:51:38. Sawchuk didn’t know how much time he had to make up on Gengler because he wasn’t sure how many of the leading women he passed, and couldn’t see the color-coded numbers on the fronts of racers’ shirts.

“I didn’t know if I was behind the second or the first woman,” said Sawchuk, slowed after his recent participation in the Angeles Crest 100-miler near his hometown of Alamo, Calif. “There were too many people to know.”

Still, Sawchuk, 34, was happy with his second win in as many tries at Lake Tahoe. While he won last year, he wasn’t recovering from a recent 100-mile footrace. Sawchuk won another marathon earlier this year for his second career victory, and is concentrating on longer-distance events. He is considering coming back next year to defend his two men’s titles, and anticipates leaving himself more training time to prepare for the marathon.

“I know better how to prepare for a 100 followed by a marathon now,” he said.

Clifford Banister of Pendleton, Ore., was the second-fastest man in the race, with a time of 2:55:14, and Mike Miller of Sonora, Calif.; Bill Suffrins of Winona, Minn.; and Rigo Chavez of Los Angeles rounded out the top five men.

Gengler was more than 10 minutes faster than the next-quickest woman in the race, Missy Saudeman, of Homewood. Saudeman finished in 3:30:09, ahead of Patti Minton of Gainesville, Ga.; Amy Plummer of Estes Park, Colo.; and Linda McFadden of Modesto, Calif., who rounded out the top five. Sheryl Oliver of Zephyr Cove was 10th, with a 3:56:51 run, and Sue Tarter of South Lake Tahoe was 15th in 4:11:07.

As for Gengler, a former coach for Whittell High’s cross country and track teams who also holds the local half-marathon record, Sunday’s win wasn’t a triumph in strategy. Instead, she won despite a strategy she called “awful,” and has $500 to pay off her credit-card bills.

“They weren’t good,” she said. “I didn’t have any strategy, but I won $500, and that’s all that matters.”

Organizers expected around 2,000 participants for the race, but race director Les Wright estimated more than that number turned out.

“We had a lot of entries,” he said. “We had more people than we expected and apparently, we had big crowds.

“Everything’s going really well, but we ran out of water, but we’ve got water in the lake and water in the fountains, so it’s not too bad.”

The fifth running of the Lake Tahoe Marathon already is on schedule for Oct. 8.

“I’ve been planning next year for four months now,” Wright said.


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