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Minnesota Wilderness, Grandma's Marathon in the news

The Minnesota Wilderness selected 11 forwards, three defensemen and one goaltender in the 2024 NAHL Draft on Wednesday.

Asanali Sarkenov of Astana, Kazakhstan, a 2006 right winger who scored five points in four games for Kazakhstan’s U18 squad in the U18 World Championships, was the first to have his name called by the Wilderness. The Cloquet-based junior hockey team selected him in the fourth round, 122nd overall, after trading its selections in the first three rounds.

Sarkenov is one of three picks the Wilderness had in the fourth round. For the 123rd overall selection, the Wilderness called Frantisek Netusil, a center from Prague, Czechia. He is a 2007 center who spent 2023-24 with the New Jersey Rockets 16U AAA program, posting 44 goals and 61 assists for 105 points. Netusil is committed to playing college hockey at Western Michigan University.

The Wilderness completed a busy 4th round by selecting defenseman Charlie O’Connell, an Elgin, IL, native who spent the last two seasons with the Chicago Reapers 18U AAA program. He generated 39 points in 50 games with the Reapers in 2023-24.

All 14 Wilderness 2024 draft selections will be invited to the team’s tryout camp July 14-18 in Cloquet.

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Good luck deciding on a favorite this year in either Grandma’s Marathon or the Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon – that’s how strong the fields appear ahead of the June 22 race day.


The weekend’s biggest storyline may well be in the half marathon, as Minnesotan and 2024 US Olympian Dakotah Lindwurm will be back to Duluth for a tune-up race ahead of the Olympic Marathon this August in Paris.

Lindwurm will be racing against her Minnesota Distance Elite teammate Annie Frisbie, who finished 10th at this year’s US Olympic Marathon Trials, and has said publicly her goal is to break the event record set last year by Maggie Montoya.

Another 2024 Olympian will highlight the men’s field in the half marathon, with Lesotho’s Tebello Ramakongoana set to make his debut in Duluth. He ran 1:00:35 last year, which set a new national record and would be a new event record if he’s able to duplicate that effort in this year’s Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon.

Former champions and countrymen Dominic Ondoro and Elisha Barno will dominate the headlines in the Grandma’s Marathon men’s field, together having accounted for seven wins in the past nine years at this race.

Barno won for a record fifth time in his career last year, which came just one day after he was officially inducted into the Grandma’s Marathon Hall of Fame. Ondoro, meanwhile, still owns the event record of 2:09:06, a time he ran in 2014 that broke the longstanding record of Minnesotan Dick Beardsley.

The women’s field may be the most wide-open of all this year’s events, with two-time Belarus Olympian Volha Mazuronak seemingly the pre-race favorite. She has top-five finishes at both the Tokyo and Rio Olympics on her resume, as well as a runner-up finish earlier this year at the Los Angeles Marathon.

American Jane Bareikis and Kenyan Grace Kahura-Malang will be tough competition for Mazuronak. Each has competed in Duluth previously and has finished with multiple top-10 finishes here.


The men’s and women’s wheelchair division is best described as a heavyweight event this year, with former champions, Paralympians, and event records holders on the start list.

Five-time Grandma’s Marathon champion Aaron Pike will return this year, having won each of the last five times he’s been at the start line in Duluth (2017, 2018, 2019, 2022, 2023). The six-time Paralympian has already qualified for the Paris Games and aims to break his event record in 2022.

He’ll be challenged by another former champion, Rafael Botello from Spain, who won here in 2007 and has seven podium finishes since then.

Four-time champion Susannah Scaroni also hopes to extend a winning streak in Duluth, having won the three times she’s been to Grandma’s Marathon (2018, 2019, 2022). A three-time Paralympian who has also already qualified for the Paris Games, Scaroni will also be trying to break her event record from 2022.

Her primary challenge will come from teammate and defending champion Jenna Fesemyer, who was a 2020 US Paralympian and will be hoping to qualify again in several track events later this summer.

The 2024 Grandma’s Marathon and Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon are both scheduled for Saturday, June 22.