Surprise guest Cabada rolls to Burli-Mot win

Prior to Saturday’s third annual Burli-Mot Half Marathon, race director Connie Feist indicated there would be a surprise competitor on the course.

“Any race wants a big name,” she said.

The surprise guest, 32-year-old Fernando Cabada, finished the 13.1-mile course 1 hour, 7 minutes, 18.41 seconds.

Cabada, a member of Team USA’s 2014 World Half Marathon Championships squad – is a former American record-holder in the 25-kilometer run. In 2008, he was named distance athlete of the year by USA Track and Field.

Yet despite his decorated history and California roots, Cabada found himself running across Ward County in the rain Saturday afternoon.

“I wanted to bring some excitement,” Cabada said. “The Feist family has done so much for me. I just want to do everything that I can, and if that means coming out here and running the best I can is the best thing for them and for Minot, then it’s good for me.”

Cabada first encountered the Magic City after spending a semester at Minot State.

MSU won consecutive NAIA national titles in men’s cross country in 2002 and 2003, inspiring Cabada’s decision to join the Beavers. But former MSU coach Scott Simmons accepted a job with Virginia Intermont College – another NAIA school – soon after, and Cabada followed.

It turned out to be a good decision. Simmons coached Cabada and his teammates to three straight national championships.

Currently training for the Berlin Marathon on Sept. 28, Cabada claims Saturday’s Burli-Mot was simply another training exercise, a part of his “110-mile week.”

“I’ve been running for over 20 years,” he said. “This is what I do, all day, every day. This is just another day at the office for me.”

Cabada hopes to finish under the 2:10 mark in Berlin.

As for the rest of the field, it was a North Dakota native who crossed the line second. Bismarck’s Kyle Downs, a former University of North Dakota runner, finished in 1:14:43.26, more than seven minutes behind Cabada. Downs was the only other runner in the field with a sub six-minute mile pace.

Former Minot State runner Max Boeckel, an Our Redeemer’s Christian School product, was the first Minot native to finish the race. He took third, just under 10 minutes behind Downs (1:24:14.45). Two-time defending champion Kyle Sturdefant of the Minot Air Force Base finished sixth.

The Burli-Mot featured athletes from 12 different states and provinces. Feist thinks that’s a good sign.

“As we develop a history of putting on a good race, word spreads throughout the running community,” she said. “We’re starting to attract some real talent.”

In the relay portion of the event, Team “Half Fast” finished first with a 6:32 mile pace between its four members.

Seven of the top nine relay teams were from Minot.

Joe Mellenbruch covers high school sports and general assignments. Follow him on Twitter @Mellenbruch_MDN.