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Five members of the University of Wyoming Army ROTC program won the grueling Bataan Memorial Death March marathon recently in White Sands, N.M.
Members of the UW team were cadets Logan Dannemiller, zoology and physiology sophomore, Cody; Casey Dschaak, political science junior, Belle Fourche, S.D.; Mason Heimer, business administration senior, Gillette, Ben Nemec, civil engineering junior, Seabrook, Texas; and Mark Verburg, political science junior, Moorcroft.
The UW team members covered the uphill and in sand 26.2 mile course in 5:51 -- a nearly two-hour margin of victory against the second place ROTC team. They competed against 25 ROTC college teams from across the nation winning the "heavy" teams division. More than 4,400 marchers from every state competed in the event.
"Heavy" means that the UW ROTC team members were in their Army uniforms, combat boots, and carrying a 35-pound ruck sack.
The 19th Annual Bataan Memorial Death March, at the White Sands Missile Range, honors a special group of World War II heroes -- soldiers that defended the islands of Luzon, Corregidor and the harbor defense forts of the Philippines.
On April 9, 1942, tens of thousands of American and Filipino soldiers surrendered to Japanese forces. Among those seized were members of the 200th Coast Artillery, New Mexico National Guard.
The captured soldiers marched for days in the scorching heat through the Philippine jungles where thousands died. Those who survived faced the hardships of a prisoner of war camp and others were wounded or killed when unmarked enemy ships transporting prisoners of war to Japan were sunk by U.S. air and naval forces.
New Mexico State University's Army ROTC unit in 1989 began the memorial march.
"I am incredibly proud of these guys, this is quite an accomplishment," says Lt. Col. Brent Reinhardt, UW professor of military science. "Coming across the finish line, the crowd could not believe that these guys were carrying the 35-pound ruck sacks as they beat most of the ‘light' runners. The state of Wyoming and the University of Wyoming should be very proud of them. They were the talk of the event that Sunday afternoon."
Three other UW ROTC cadets also competed in the death march.
Dustin Wambach, engineering freshman from Guernsey, was named the number one heavy marcher in the under 20 years of age competition. His winning time (5:48) was eighth overall among all participants in the various categories.
Christopher Kaiser, microbiology freshman, Avon, Ind., competed in the heavy division and finished in 6:49 minutes; and Geoff Dean, undeclared sophomore, Colorado Springs, Colo., competed in the civilian light division and finished the 26.2 miles in 4:28, 58th among the 756 competitors in his category.
"The keys to finishing first were training here at elevation (7,200 feet), following Cadet Heimer's training plan, which included running up and down Roger's Canyon in Laramie, and the ‘high fives' that the Bataan veterans gave us just prior to the march," says Reinhardt, who also competed. He finished the course in 5:15, good for 140th among the 756 competitors of all ages.