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April 28, 2011
MARYVILLE, Mo. - When 15 competitors from Missouri took to the White Sand Missile Range in New Mexico last month for one of the most challenging marathons around, three participants were representing Northwest Missouri State University and its Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC).
The Bataan Memorial Death March, in which thousands from around the world participate, was founded by ROTC soldiers to commemorate the service of a group of soldiers who defended the island of Luzon, Corregidor and the harbor defense forts of the Philippines during World War II.
Capt. Ryan Jennings, a 2003 Northwest graduate; Sgt. Jeremy Kramer, a Northwest student enrolled in ROTC; and Capt. Rick Frese, officer of strength management for the ROTC, participated in this year's marathon March 27.
Jennings, of Clarinda, Iowa, was captain for the male light team which finished first in the National Guard category and earned Missouri the honor of being the first National Guard team to cross the finish line. Jennings is the full-time administrative officer for Headquarters Battery in Maryville and is the commander for Battery B in Chillicothe.
In the male heavy division, the Missouri National Guard took second place. Kramer, of Stanberry, competed on the team and serves with Battery A in Albany.
Frese, of Grant City, led Missouri's co-ed light team which also finished second. Frese serves with Headquarters Battery in Maryville.
The men first competed in a 13-mile state qualifier with other Missouri National Guardsmen from across the state. The five fastest competitors in each of three groups then trained for the Death March.
The Death March course sends competitors on a challenging trail that covers mountains and deep sand. The competitors must wear military uniforms, and all members of each five-man team must finish within 20 seconds of each other.
Additionally, competitors in the race's heavy division must wear backpacks weighing 35 pounds. Kramer rose to that challenge.
"You've got to train for it," Kramer said. "It puts a toll on you, but after a while you really can't feel it and you keep going."
Jennings, who participated in the Death March last year, thought the marathon was a good way to recognize both of his grandparents for their service in the Pacific Theater or Operations during World War II.
"This is probably one of the more challenging marathons out there and over 6,500 competitors from across the country participate," Jennings said. "It's always an honor to represent your community at an event like this. Hopefully we can bring out more people to represent."
Mark Hornickel, Media Relations Specialist
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Northwest Missouri State University
215 Administration Building | 800 University Drive | Maryville, MO 64468