First time's a charm for West Point grad in Marine Corps Marathon

By C.J. LIN | STARS AND STRIPES Published: October 25, 2015

ARLINGTON — It was Army 2nd Lt. Trevor Lafontaine’s first time ever competing in a marathon, but he needed no beginner’s luck.

Even though he wasn’t quite sure what to expect, the 22-year-old recent West Point graduate breezed across the finish line of the 40th Marine Corps Marathon on Sunday, winning the race with a time of 2 hours, 24 minutes and 24 seconds.

“I did not come in expecting to win, so it feels really good,” Lafontaine said.

Lafontaine, who was invited to run the race as part of the Army team, played it safe and stuck with the pack toward the start of the race, but started making his move on a downhill. He came in nearly two minutes ahead of Oscar Mateo Santos of Mexico, who finished with a time of 2:26:07. Third place runner Brian Flynn of Rockingham, Va., finished at 2:26:53.

“I just kept moving up throughout the race,” Lafontaine said. “And eventually I got to the front and I was like, ‘Well, there’s no point in stopping now. I might as well keep going. I’m feeling good.’ And I managed to hold on.”

Jenny Mendez Suanca, of Costa Rica, was the first female finisher with a time of 2:45:55. Marine Capt. Christine Taranto of Monterey, Ca., finished second at 2:53:29, followed by Maria Elena Jimenez of Mexico at 2:55:34.

“To come in the overall top three on the home course, it just feels good to represent the Marine Corps,” said Taranto, a logistics officer at the Naval Postgraduate School. “It’s my day to represent the Marine Corps and make everybody proud, so I just wanted to bring it on home.”

The 26.2- mile race kicked off on a rainy morning and boasted 30,000 registered participants, including more than 75 wheelchair and handcyclers.

Among the competitors was William “BJ” Ganem, a former Marine sergeant who lost his left leg below the knee to a roadside bomb on Thanksgiving 2004 in Iraq. Ganem, 38, had previously competed in the race on a handcycle, and was running the marathon for the first time on a prosthetic.

“It was a way to kind of show support to everybody else to everyone who trains so hard and try to showcase and challenge myself and try to show other guys who are injured that if we push ourselves, we can still accomplish more,” Ganem said last week.

He and his team, which include former platoon members, were running to raise money for the Semper Fi Fund, a nonprofit which provides financial assistance to servicemembers who were wounded in conflicts after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

“This might be the only marathon I’ll ever run,” Ganem said. “I’m not doing it to try to set any personal records, it’s moreso a show of gratitude and taking part in what’s a really great event.”

Ganem credits the Semper Fi Fund for stepping in with funds when, for some reason after he was injured, he stopped receiving his paychecks for three months. The nonprofit also helped when he didn’t qualify for VA benefits to modify his home to be more handicap-accessible, said Ganem, who is now a manager and does community outreach for the organization.

So far, they’ve raised about $20,000, and the goal is to hit $250,000. To donate or for more information, visit semperfifund.org.

Twitter: @cjlinSS

Team Army’s Trevor Lafontaine crosses the finish line as the winner of the 40th Annual Marine Corps Marathon, with an unofficial time of 2:24.24, October 25, 2015.