Kentucky National Guard team competes in the Lincoln National Guard Marathon Championships

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KY Marathon Team Role Call of the States Team Photo

Kentucky Army Guard Chief Warrant Officer 2 Allen Davis, Staff Sgt. Michael Embury, Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Gilstrap, Capt. Varinka Barbini Ensminger, Staff Sgt. Robert Unger and Kentucky Air Guard Master Sgt. John Hodge celebrate after completing the Official National Guard Marathon in Lincoln, Ne. May 1, 2011.

LINCOLN, Ne. – Five Kentucky National Guard Soldiers and one Airman competed in the Lincoln National Guard Marathon in Lincoln, Ne., on May 1, 2011. This was the largest group of runners that Kentucky has ever sent to compete.

The race covered 26.2 miles through the city of Lincoln and ended on the ever famous fifty yard line in the University of Nebraska “Corn Husker Stadium.” The Lincoln National Guard Marathon serves as the National Guard Marathon Championships.  This race is the solo qualifier for the National Guard Elite Marathon Team.   Thirty-five men and fifteen women are selected by race performance times to represent the National Guard throughout the year in various competitions nationwide.

“It’s a great honor and privilege for those that are able to earn a position,” said Capt. Varinka Barbini Ensminger, the team’s captain and a National Guard Elite Marathon team member.

Team members train independently with their home states and meet up at the duty location of the competition.  Their mission is to advocate for the National Guard through local and national media, host a booth at the event exposition, support and offer advice to local athletes, and gain leads for future recruits and potential athletes.”

In addition to Ensminger the Kentucky National Guard’s 2011 Marathon Team has five other members: Staff Sgt. Michael Embury, Chief Warrant Officer Allen Davis,  Staff Sgt. Robert Unger, Sgt. 1st Class Chris Gillstrap, and Master Sgt. John Hodge.

Embury is a member of the 202nd Army Band and a special education school teacher in Fayette County.   He is a past National Guard Elite Team Member and Kentucky Marathon team member.

Davis is another veteran of the Kentucky Guard Marathon Program.  He serves as the longest running team member to date and is from B. CO. 149th Brigade Support Battalion.

Unger, Gillstrap and Hodge are all newcomers on the team this year.  Unger, is a helicopter engine mechanic, based in Frankfort.  Gillstrap, a first time marathoner, is from the 202nd Army Band, and Hodge is the solo airman from the 165th Tactical Airlift Squadron, 123rd Airlift Wing.

Of the thirty-two teams that competed, Kentucky finished fifth overall with a team average time of 3:01:50. Their time was only a minute and twelve seconds behind Colorado and six minutes and thirty seconds behind the winning team from Wisconsin.

John Hodge_Varinka Barbini Awardees from Lincoln TC Marathon

Kentucky Army Guard Capt. Varinka Barbini Ensminger and Air Guard Master Sgt. John Hodge qualify for a spot on the All Guard Marathon Team after their performance at the Lincoln National Guard Marathon in Lincoln, Ne May 1st, 2011.

Hodge led the team with his outstanding finish of 2:58:12, receiving a fifth place 40-45 age division award from the Lincoln Marathon and earning himself a spot on the Men’s All Guard Marathon Team.

“I really enjoyed representing Kentucky in the National Guard Marathon Championships,” said Hodge.  “It was a great race with some very good competition among the National Guard runners.”

Embury ran his first sub three hour marathon and also earned a spot on the men’s team.  Additionally, he received the National Guard men’s 30-35 age division second place award. Embury owed his outstanding performance to long tempo runs he added to his training schedule twice a week.

Barbini earned the sixth place overall female award for the Lincoln Marathon, the second place female overall award for the National Guard and her fifth consecutive All Guard Marathon Team slot.

Unger and Davis both ran a personal best marathon, while Gillstrap completed his first marathon.

The Kentucky Guard Marathon Team left Lincoln, Nebraska with fond memories, little pain and motivation for next year.  The team hopes to grow for next year and place as respectable as or better than this year.  There are a few members that will be deployed so there are spots to fill.

For more information about the Kentucky National Guard Marathon Team, contact Capt. Varinka Barbini Ensminger.

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