NISSWA-Crosby-Ironton graduate Brock Tesdahl returned to the top of the podium and newcomer Megan Sauer won the women's race in Saturday's 11th annual Run for the Lakes Marathon.

Tesdahl, 25, sprinted across the finish line in 2:38:25, nearly 14 minutes faster than his time last year when he finished second to Brainerd's 38-year-old Casey Miller. In 2016, Tesdahl, running in his first RFL Marathon, edged the veteran Miller for first starting a friendly rivalry between the two.

This year's RFL marked the first time in the event's 11-year history that Miller did not compete after placing in all 10 previous races, including six marathon wins.

Tesdahl, who now lives in Hopkins and teaches and coaches in the Hopkins School District, said he had been looking forward to running with Miller again this year.

"I'm disappointed Casey did not run this year," Tesdahl said. "He got me last year so I kind of wanted to get some redemption. I'm bummed he wasn't here, but that's the way things go. I understand."

Saturday's race began at 8 a.m. under sunny skies, but with temperatures hovering around 32 degrees.

"The worst part about the start (in the cold) is the wait," said Tesdahl. "Once the gun goes off, and you're running, that's the last thing you think about.

"I really wanted to come out fast, so right away I thought I would stick with the half marathon pack as long as I could. They kind of broke off about mile 8 and from then on I was pretty much by myself. Even being by myself, I wanted to push myself.

"This was probably my strongest finish ever. I don't think I ever sprinted a finish in my career. I've done 11 marathons and I don't think I've ever sprinted one at the end. I felt really good at the end."

Tesdahl finished the 26-mile event nearly 20 minutes ahead of second-place finisher, Dalton Struck, 21, from Alexandria who crossed the line in 2:58:20. He credited his faster finish this year to the "unseen" work he put into preparing for the race.

"Going into this year's race, last year was on my mind," Tesdahl said. "That wasn't my best race. It just comes down to hard work-the stuff people don't see-like getting up at 3 in the morning and working out until 6, teaching all day, and then coming back in the gym and doing another two- or three-hour workout. I guess it's doing the little things that people don't see that adds up to big things."

While the RFL was Tesdahl's first race of the season, it's definitely not his last.

"I usually do two or three marathons during the spring and summer months," he said. "This year I'm going to try an international triathlon as well. That's what makes the summer go by so fast-between coaching and training and running-it's the best, man. You can't beat it."

Women's winner surprised by finish

Sauer, a 23-year-old from Lismore, Minn., finished seventh overall in 3:14:01 and was totally unaware she had won the the women's race.

"Really? Oh my gosh," she said. "I didn't know that! That was not expected."

Sauer said she ran her first marathon last October in Mankato and the RFL was just her second time in a 26-mile race. She graduated from Adrian High School and works there now as a paraprofessional in the Adrian Middle School.

Her winning time was 13 minutes faster than second-place Alyssa Cassiere, 20, Sleepy Hollow, Ill., who was 14th overall at 3:27:25.

Sauer said that her sister was also running the RFL Saturday, although not as fast, and that they picked this race because "we were looking for one in April and what better place than up here where it's usually cooler."

"I love cold racing so this was like perfect," Sauer added. "It wasn't too windy. It's different here because I'm used to training with no trees. There are no trees where I live (in southern Minnesota), so it's different running in a half shady course."

The full marathon consists of two scenic loops with several hills around area lakes, sometimes surprising for runners in their first RFL.

"The first lap I was like, it's not too bad," said Sauer, "but the second lap, I could definitely feel some of the bigger hills. I was like, my pace doesn't matter, I just need to get to the top.

"My hamstring was kind of bothering me the first loop, but I told myself I'll be fine. Then about mile 16 I could feel it really start to get tight and I started to really feel it more. I just tried to keep my mind positive and focus on finishing the race, that my time doesn't really matter, just that I cross the finish line."

Little did she know that she was picking up her first career win.

Sauer said this summer she's planning on doing a few 10Ks in Iowa and then running the Mankato Marathon again in October.

Race notes

According to race director Carissa Meyer, more than 1,000 runners were competing this year in the various races of the RFK. She said Saturday's chilly start was not as bad as the first RFK in 2008 that was run in a blizzard.

Meyer added that officials were checking, but believed that Jordan Roby, 27, Wayzata, may have set a course record winning the 10K with a 39:28 time. Alexandria's Betsy Hills, 38, won the women's 10K.

Jesse Prince, 37, Bemidji, won the men's half marathon for the second year in a row and 30-year-old Samantha VanWechel was first for the women.

Three teenagers from Pequot Lakes dominated Friday's 5K run. Fourteen-year-old Dawson Ackerman edged Jesse Clausen, also 14, by less than two-tenths of a second to win the men's event and 13-year-old Riley Fogarty was the women's winner.

Meyer said they added a new category in each event for runners age 70 years or older. There were 11 70-year-old competitors in this year's RFL.

Les Martisko, 73, North Mankato, was the only septuagenarian running in the full marathon. He finished 133rd overall in 5:50:22.

Leroy Jordan, 71, Backus, and Kathy Peterson, 75, Outing, were first in the category for the men's and women's half marathon.

Fred Fey, 71, Pine River, and Linda Breen, 76, Lincoln, NE, were first for their age group in the 10K. Top finishers in the 5K were Rick Hans, 71, Brainerd, and Kathy Trees, 75, Pequot Lakes.

Complete marathon results are at www.runforthelakes.com or www.itsyourrace.com.

Top 25 finishers

(Place, name age, city, time)

1-Brock Tesdahl, 25, Hopkins, 2:38:25

2-Dalton Struck 21, Alexandria, 2:58:20

3-Levi Palmer, 20, Minneapolis, 3:10:41

4-Andy Spence, 41, Minneapolis, 3:11:25

5-Hezekiah Hayes, 18, Minneapolis, 3:12:54

6-Matthew Forys, 35, St. Paul, 3:13:20

7-Megan Sauer, 23, Lismore, 3:14:01

8-Jonathan Osterlund, 20, White Bear Lake, 3:14:30

9-Erik Kaitala, 46, Knife River, 3:18:40

10-Carl Branch, 21, Alexandria, 3:21:22

11-Hans Slade, 21, Minneapolis, 3:23:38

12-Matt Swanson, 31, White Bear Lake, 3:24:00

13-Christopher Hanson, 47, Nisswa, 3:26:29

14-Alyssa Cassiere, 20, Sleepy Hollow, IL, 3:27:25

15-Margurite Jakubiak, 21, Shakopee, 3:29:42

16-Patrick Barrett, 47, Shorewood, 3:30:04

17-Natalie Timmers, 35, Garfield, 3:31:22

18-Tricia Sladky, 40, Clearwater, 3:31:37

19-Jesse Tolmie, 24, Brainerd, 3:32:01

20-Chelsey Gloude, 29, Warren, 3:32:10

21-Sarah Schettle, 33, Rochester, 3:32:11

22-Andy Mestad, 26, St. Louis Park, 3:33:55

23-David Taylor, 46, Aitkin, 3:33:56

24-Sarah Metzger, 31, St. Louis Park, 3:34:04

25-Brian McCormack, 37, Sartell, 3:34:27

Men's Half Marathon Winner: Jesse Prince, 37, Bemidji, 1:16:52

Women's Half Marathon Winner: Samantha VanWechel, 30, Fergus Falls, 1:30:13

Men's 10K Winner: Jordan Roby, 27, Wayzata, 39:27

Women's 10K Winner: Betsy Hills, 38, Alexandria, 46:30

Men's 5K Winner: Dawson Ackerman, 14, Pequot Lakes 20:14

Women's 5K Winner: Riley Fogarty, 13, Pequot Lakes, 21:37

Run For The Lakes Marathon winners

MEN

2018: Brock Tesdahl

2017: Casey Miller

2016: Brock Tesdahl

2015: Brian Ropers-Huilma

2014: Casey Miller

2013: Casey Miller

2012: Patrick Russell

2011: Casey Miller

2010: Casey Miller

2009: Casey Miller

2008: George Bienusa

WOMEN

2018: Megan Sauer

2017: Rebecca Johannes

2016: Michelle Ostien

2015: Melissa Jansen

2014: Michelle Andres

2013: Melissa Jansen

2012: Melissa Jansen

2011: Jill Kroc

2010: Jill Kroc

2009: Kristine Hup

2008: Amber Bowman