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Record field beats heat in Green Lake Road Race

SPICER -- There's nothing like a 12-mile jaunt to get you going on a Sunday morning.

Starting at 7 a.m., 258 runners -- plus one heroic figure in a wheel chair -- circled Green Lake.

"We believe it's a record number," said Green Lake Road Race race director Jane Benson. "The weather's been perfect all weekend. We had about 100 register here last evening, and it's a good thing because we had 80 walk-ups this morning and we couldn't have handled them all at one time."

Kyle Eckhoff, 22, of Willmar, won his first Green Laker, but third race in a row in the Glacial Lakes Championship Running Series. He went to the lead immediately and, just like the Foot Lake Four a week earlier, no one could make a dent in his huge lead.

Newcomer Sarah Hillman, 29, of Sioux Falls, S.D., was 18th overall and the first woman. Katie Reigstad, 25, of Willmar was 2:30 back in second.

The mass of runners started at Saulsbury Beach just after 7 a.m. with the mercury at 69 degrees. By 8:45 a.m. when one hundred runners had already looped the lake, it was 75 degrees and 77 percent humidity.

"Just before the start, I asked who was in favor of the early starting time and I think everyone raised their hand," said race director Benson.

Last year 185 runners made the trek. Starting at the traditional 8 a.m., the field suffered in high humidity under a blistering 80-degree sun with 20 not completing the circuit.

One of the best races within the race was for third place behind 16-year-old Lukas Gemar, the runner-up.

Joe Buckentine, 45, of St. Cloud and Craig Christians, 47, of Bellevue, Neb., ran side-by-side until the near the end when Buckentine pulled away to take third by a 23-second margin over the Willmar native.

This was the event's 33rd year and perhaps its most successful with 152 male finishers and 107 females.

Race notes: Eckhoff, who will be a senior at Minnesota State Moorhead, ran two seconds faster (1:09:50) than a year ago when he was runner-up to Peder Arneson of Montevideo, who was not back.

- Women's victor Sarah Hillman led most of the race in her first Green Lake run. The one-time Concordia Cobber said because of the heat and hills the race was tougher for her than the Fargo half-marathon in May.

- Wheel-chair winner Paul Pranghofer, 54, finished his fourth Green Laker in a row though his time of 2:31.18 is far short of his personal-best of 2:09. His determination is remarkable. Pranghofer was born without arms and only one fully developed leg. He uses the good leg to push himself backwards up hills and otherwise faces forward, also using his right foot as a brake.

- Craig Christians, 47, of Bellevue, Neb., ran his first Green Lake since 1983 when he did the last of four in a row. A civil engineer and high-school cross-country coach, he ran for Coach Jeff Peterson at Willmar in the late 1970s. He took fourth overall.

- Lukus Gemar, 16, of Moorhead finished in second place five minutes behind Eckhoff. He will be a sophomore for the Spuds this fall.

- Reigstad, a medical students from Willmar, was also second at Foot Lake. Kari Bloch, Svea, who was first at Willmar and here last year, took third this time, though she cut five minutes.

- The Family champions were Jaime Martinez and Jessica Martinez, both 26 of Willmar, in an average time of 1:28.53.

- Coming the greatest distance was Naoko Kumagai, 35, of Asaka City, Japan. She finished 176tth overall.