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Utah ANG Millipedes leapfrog over mountains

SALT LAKE CITY -- The morning was cool and crisp, perfect for running. The anticipation was strong as we started our 188-mile trek through the Wasatch Mountains. One runner was already out pounding the pavement. Five more of us were waiting in the van with the driver. Our 12-person team, divided into two vans, leapfrogged for the next 30 hours to complete the relay. Like toads hopping across lily-pads, each van ran its six people and then turned it over to the other van. 

Most of us were repeat participants and knew what to expect. Runners ran a variety of short to long runs, or uphill, or downhill runs. Each runner could be expected to run a leg that could be either a hot, dry, dusty day run, or a dark, cool, lonely night run, or anything in between. The adventure took us over five mountain passes, weaving in and out of small mountain towns, with an overall elevation gain of 2,165 feet. 

The Utah Air National Guard Millipedes competed in the 2009 Wasatch Back Relay race from Logan to Park City, Utah June 19. 

During the race, our team merged as one, like an invertebrate with many legs, to complete the trek. 

"It takes a team effort to meet the challenge, but everyone counts on everyone pulling their share to meet the end goal," said team captain Chief Master Sgt. Denise Rager, from the 151st Air Refueling Wing. 

Along with building teamwork, the run helps Guard members maintain physical readiness. 

"Fitness is such a big part of our membership in the Air National Guard, and doing events like this help reinforce that," said Chief Rager. 

Ten of the 12 Millipedes team members belong to the UTANG. Those members include: Lt. Col. Lisa Olsen, Chief Rager, Senior Master Sgt. Laura Davis, Senior Master Sgt. Kathy Durka, Master Sgt. Chris Christian, Tech. Sgt. Michelle McEntire, Staff Sgt. Nick Orozco, Staff Sgt. Bruce Weaver Jr., Senior Airman Amanda Menlove and Senior Airman Enoch Pitzer. Additionally, the UTANG Millipedes also contributed two volunteers, Master Sgt. Joanie Cornell and Staff Sgt. Alicia Menlove, to assist at exchange stations. 

The 188-mile Wasatch Back Relay included 650 teams, and the UTANG Millipedes placed 206th overall. The team's final time was 29 hours and 58 minutes, and although we weren't one of the top teams, we were just proud to have successfully accomplished the challenging competition.