From the infancy of the Arbuckle to Ardmore Race for Mercy, Goño Enriquez has been there.
A staunch supporter of the marathon and an avid runner, Enriquez had been a part of all three years of the A2A leading up to Sunday’s fourth edition. Through the A2A, he’s made friends for life, partners in the sport, and tested his competitive spirit.
It was only fitting that he’d be the race’s first Ardmore-based winner.
“That makes it very special,” Enriquez said after winning the A2A Bar Nothin’ Marathon on Sunday. “I have a lot of friends cheering for me today. I win for them.”
On a cooler day than the previous three A2As, Enriquez fought through the ever-increasing headwind to make his big breakthrough in his hometown meet. A native of San Luis Potosi, Mexico, Enriquez came to Ardmore in the late 1990s, picked up running in the 2000s and is rounding into form in 2013.
The 29-year-old finished the marathon Sunday in 3 hours and 8.14 minutes, besting Phillip Cox of Edmond (3:15.44). The victory continutes a hot streak for Enriquez that started in January.
Since January, he’s set new personal bests in the marathon and half-marathon. It’s an overdue string of fortune for Enriquez, who battled a three-month string of injuries from August to November, and admittedly has never performed his best at the A2A.
Enriquez still finished fifth last year in an unusually hot race. He didn’t finish the race in 2011 and placed 35th in 2010.
He’s come a long way since then.
“It’s something like revenge for the last races,” Enriquez said of his win Sunday. “‘This is my race. I need to win,’ that’s what I was feeling.”
Last year’s runner-up, Ian Campbell of Moore, placed third on Sunday in 3:19.27, and Mary Kohls of Woodway, Texas, was the first female finisher (3:29.33). The top two men’s times from 2012 were lower than Enriquez’s winning number on Sunday, but times overall were faster compared to last year.
That didn’t mean the marathon was a cakewalk. While the weather was cooler thanks to the race date being pushed up from early April to early March, the runners still had to deal with a nasty south wind blowing into their faces.
Translation: The times in the A2A have to be applied relative to the conditions. Cox, in his first A2A, said the marathon isn’t any more windy than the other Oklahoma races he’s run, but the duration in which he was running into the wind was the kicker.
Page 2 of 3 - “It’s 20 miles straight into the wind,” said Cox, 42, who was running his sixth marathon. “But there were plenty of aid stations. It was a good run.”
Despite the wind, Enriquez’s time on Sunday was more than 12 minutes better than his time in 2012.
“Maybe the time doesn’t look like a good time, but (what) you put in this race is amazing,” Enriquez said.
“This race is probably slower, but it takes everything from me. I put everything (in) so it means a lot.”
Coming into the marathon, Enriquez was nervous about his approach. In two weeks, he’s scheduled to run in a 200-mile team relay race in Texas, so he entered the A2A a little apprehensive about how hard he should push himself.
Post-race, he was happy with his effort. Wrapped in foil, surrounded by supporters, Enriquez soaked up the moment. His brother, Julio, celebrated alongside, decked out in a jester hat while blowing into a bright green horn in honor of Goño.
You couldn’t see Enriquez’s eyes behind black wraparound sunglasses, but the emotion was obvious.
“Hometown race ... first place ... I don’t got words to describe it,” he said.
A2A race director Alison Smalley knew just what to say about a man she’s come to admire in four years.
“All of us love Goño,” Smalley said. “He’s a great friend, a great supporter of the running community. He’s a inspiration.
“In the last couple of years, he’s really stepped up, put serious work into his training, and it’s paid off for him.”
Cook repeats in half marathon
Norman resident Jason Cook joined elite company Sunday when he won the A2A half marathon for the second time.
Cook, 31, finished in 1:16.57, joining Joel Stanslowski as the only two-time event winners in the event’s history.
Stanslowski won the A2A’s full marathon in 2010 and 2011.
“It was tough, but it’s a great course. I love coming here,” said Cook, who shaved two minutes off his winning time from last year. “I wish we could have had a tailwind instead of a headwind, but it was good — nice and sunny.”
Trey Bruton of Winfield, Kan., was second overall in 1:20.20. Julio Enriquez, marathon winner Goño Enriquez’s older brother, was the top area finisher, placing sixth (1:33.56).
April Calaway of Wichita, Kan., was the top female finisher (1:34.42).
Plainview pair tops 5K
Page 3 of 3 - Robert Torres crossed the finish line with his timing chip — and footwear — in his hand.
Used to the perils of cross country, however, the Plainview senior went unfazed when his shoe came off at about the 3K mark of the A2A’s 5K.
Torres, 17, still won the race on Sunday, crossing the line in 17:29, one sock to the ground. His Plainview classmate, Makayla Miller, was the first female finisher in the 5K, running a 20:21.
Miller, 17, who is verbally committed to Central Oklahoma for cross country, said the race was a good primer for the upcoming track season. Plainview’s girls start their Class 3A state title defense Friday at the Gregg Byram Track and Field Classic in Norman.
“It’s good to just kinda get the feel of being back out,” Miller said. “Just to kinda get the race jitters out of the way.”
The Plainview program showed off its chops on Sunday, as eight of the top 10 finishers in the 5K run for the Indians’ high school or middle school programs.
“The whole team works really hard and we just all want to get better,” said Torres, who will run for St. Gregory’s University next year. “From the younger kids to the older kids, we all just run.”
Follow Horne on Twitter: @ekhorneARD