Sturdefant defends title at Burli-Mot Half Marathon

Carrying a bouquet of roses at the finish line might’ve added some extra flair.

Otherwise, defending champion Kyle Sturdefant’s first-place finish in the Burli-Mot Half Marathon fit the bill as a perfect love story.

Before runners scurried off at the start near Old Settlers Park in Burlington around 7:30 a.m. Saturday, the 21-year-old from Minot promised his girlfriend, Kylie Bowen, that he’d win the 13.1-mile race for her.

After enduring 1 hour, 16 minutes and 55 seconds of sluggish, sultry conditions, Sturdefant crossed the finish line at Oak Park in first to take home the top prize of $500 – more than enough to take out his sweetheart for dinner and a movie.

“It was really sweet of him,” Bowen said of Sturdefant’s vow. “I know it was really muggy out there but he ran a great race. I’m proud of him.”

For the second year in a row, Sturdefant held off Mark Amondson of Williston by less than 10 seconds.

Amondson, 30, finished second in 1:17:04. Minot’s Chad Wallin was third followed by Tim Schlappich of Minot Air Force Base in fourth and Jeff Steen of Minot in fifth.

Sturdefant’s winning time clocked in two minutes slower than last year, which he and Amondson attributed to the weather.

“Off the start I thought we were going kind of slow,” Sturdefant said, “but I’m really glad we went out at that starting pace because that’s basically what we held for the entire thing. It was a real hot day.”

Said the runner-up: “I’ve been used to running in the heat but, oh man, really muggy. Our pace was a lot slower than I expected it to be.”

Sturdefant and Wallin led the race for the first four miles until the two-time champ pulled ahead for the next four. Amondson caught up at mile 8 and took a slim lead, but Sturdefant passed him shortly after on a steep, lengthy hill.

“I was kind of surprised,” Amondson said. “Usually I’m strongest on hills. I was really hoping to catch him once we got into the park (at mile 11) but it was just so hot.”

Sturdefant retained a 4- to 15-second lead through the park’s winding path toward the finish.

“After I made my move, it was really hard to keep him off,” he said.

Dozens of fans lined the course to cheer on friends, family and strangers, especially in the final two miles. The winner had an admirer waiting for him, expecting him to finish first.

Sturdefant, a crew chief at Minot Air Force Base, was asked if he’ll try for a three-peat next year.

“Definitely,” he said. “If I’m not deployed.”

Ryan Holmgren covers high school sports and general assignment. Follow him on Twitter @ryanholmgrenMDN.