Kentucky Guardsmen run marathon, honor Soldier

By Sgt. 1st Class Michael Embury, Kentucky National Guard Marathon Team

The Kentucky National Guard Marathon Team competed in the 2018 Lincoln National Guard Marathon in Lincoln, Neb., May 6, 2018. L-R: Chief Warrant Officer Allen Davis, Sgt. 1st Class Michael Embury, Maj. Varinka Barbini Ensminger, Sgt. 1st Class Amy Parker, Staff Sgt. Michael Simpson. (Photo courtesy of the Nebraska National Guard)

LINCOLN, Neb. – 160 marathoners from the nations Army and Air National Guard representing 45 states and two U.S. territories beat the heat and competed in the 41st Annual Lincoln National Guard Marathon May 6 in Lincoln, Neb.

Led through inspiration to honor a fellow team member the Kentucky National Guard Marathon Team succeeded on all levels in the recent National Guard Marathon Championships.

In December (2017) Sgt. Angela Sullivan, a member of the 201st Engineer Battalion and the Kentucky National Guard Marathon Team for 3 years, was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a bone cancer that typically develops in the shinbone near the knee. Sullivan underwent amputation of her left leg and is currently receiving doses of chemotherapy to complete her treatment.

“This was for Angela,” said Maj. Varinka Ensminger of the Kentucky Medical Detachment, who finished as the fifth overall female and the second overall National Guard female runner, as well as winning her age division.

Sgt. 1st Class Amy Parker competes in the 41st Annual Lincoln National Guard Marathon in Lincoln, Neb., May 6, 2018. Parker and the Kentucky team finished fifth among the 47 states and territories based on the cumulative time of the runners. (Photo courtesy of the Nebraska National Guard)

The team’s close-knit relationship made the run all the more important for this group of runners.

“She’s family,” said Chief Warrant Officer Allen Davis of the 149th Forward Support Company, who finished fourth in his age division.  “I have no doubt we’ll see her back here next year, but between now and then, we are running for her.”

The conditions were far from ideal which provided an extra level of challenge to the 26.2 mile foot race.

Sgt. 1st Class Amy Parker of the 149th Brigade Support Battalion credited a combination of smart running and thoughts of Sullivan to crossing the finish line in first place in her age group.

“The last three miles were tough, but each time I thought about walking, I considered what Angela is overcoming.  She’s tough, and knowing what she has endured made it seem a lot easier in spite of the warm weather.”

Staff Sgt. Michael Simpson of  Alpha Company 1st Battalion, 149th Infantry finished in fifth among Guard runners in his age group.  “This was my first time out here and I didn’t know what to expect.  My relationship with the Sullivan family gave me that extra push and motivation to finish, even in the heat. I can’t wait to run with Angela when she returns next year.”

Beyond individual successes, the Kentucky team finished fifth among the states and territories based on the cumulative time of the runners.  Additionally, based on finishing times, Ensminger, Embury, Parker, and Simpson qualified for the All-Guard Marathon Team, allowing them to represent both the Kentucky National Guard and the National Guard at races throughout the year.

The National Guard Marathon Recruiting and Retention Workshop and Marathon Event serves as the national trials for selection onto the National Guard’s All-Guard Marathon Team. By qualifying, they gain the privilege to represent the National Guard throughout the year in various competitions nationwide.

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 booths event expositions, support and offer advice to local athletes, and gain leads for future recruits and potential athletes.

For more information about the Kentucky National Guard Marathon Team, contact Maj. Varinka Barbini Ensminger at varinka.b.ensminger.mil@mail.mil

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