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Chavez brothers finish 1-2 in Long Island half marathon

Wilson Damian Chavez Chox after completing the 2017

Wilson Damian Chavez Chox after completing the 2017 Long Island half Marathon in a time of 01:14:22 at Eisenhower Park in Uniondale on May 7, 2017. Credit: Patrick E. McCarthy

Wilson Damian Chavez Chox and Erick Obdulio Chavez Chox had been here before, with Erick finishing first and Wilson second in last year’s Long Island half marathon.

But while they may be “attached at the hip,” they’re also competitive. They pushed each other the whole 13.1 miles, and this time Wilson, the 24-year-old younger brother, came in first at 1:14.25, followed by Erick, 26, in 1:15.02 and they weren’t afraid to say they were looking to win afterward.

“Some races we don’t stay together the whole time,” Wilson said through an interpreter. “Sometimes we go up or down, but [a close finish] wasn’t planned.”

The brothers live in Guatemala and have been staying with Deacon Rich LaRossa of St. Raymond’s Church in East Rockaway. LaRossa is the director of Proyecto Don Bosco, which helps Guatemalans like the Chavez brothers with education, food and health care. It was through the program in Guatemala that LaRossa first saw the runners’ dedication.

“They live up in the hills,” LaRossa said. “They spend the whole day farming working in the fields. Then at the end of the day, they take off those clothes and put on their running clothes.”

After the race, LaRossa embraced the brothers. Wilson talked about the possibilities of a celebration at home like the one last year when they held up the Guatemalan and U.S. flags while riding through a parade in a pickup truck. Then he turned to LaRossa and spoke in Spanish.

“He’s very happy to be back here,” LaRossa said with tears welling in his eyes. “He’s happy for the project we have down there. He’s saying thank you to me.”

Hawkins wins wheelchair marathon

Peter Hawkins has traveled all over the world for wheelchair marathon racing, but there’s something special about competing against the clock over 26.2 miles right where he lives.

The Malverne resident, who turns 53 on Tuesday, has raced in faraway locales including the Canary Islands and Japan, but he comes back to where it all started when he was 22 — the first of what he estimates has been 25 Long Island Marathons.

“You’ve got to support the local races, but I hear my name out on the course a lot, see a lot of people,” Hawkins said. “I actually recognize a lot more people than I would ever expect out on the course.”

He won the wheelchair competition in 2:16.56. It’s another victory to add to more than 20 in the event, where he gets to experience a home crowd during a year that normally includes around seven marathons.

“I win a lot of stuff on the Island, I get humbled when I go international, and I come here and do what I do,” Hawkins said.

Hawkins was paralyzed in a 1981 car accident and came to find wheelchair marathoning as a good use of his athletic talents after a push from some teachers. He turned football and lacrosse prowess into a new form of competition where he could utilize his skills.

“It’s been a great outlet for me and it’s given me a lot,” Hawkins said.

NYC man wins 10K, daughter places third in mile

Narciso Mejia came flying down the straightaway at the end of the Long Island 10K race as the announcer noted his result would be the fastest time since the 2011 course record, but the only motivation Mejia was concerned with was making his daughter proud.

Kate Mejia, 9, came in third in the mile race on Saturday, and Narciso wanted to keep the top finishes coming. The Manhattan resident took first in 34:04, just behind Demesse Cefera’s 32:34 mark in 2011.

“I wasn’t thinking about time. I was just trying to match what my daughter did yesterday,” Mejia, 31, said. “I promised her I was going to do my best.”

Mejia came in fourth at last year’s Long Island Marathon and followed it up with the New York City event. He ended up with an injury afterward and opted for the shorter distance this year to help prepare him for another shot at New York in November.

“I think doing two marathons in one year ended up [being a problem] at the end of the year,” Mejia said.

As for Kate, who finished the mile in 7:43, Narciso sees the possibility for following in his many footsteps.

“She has big dreams and hopefully she can accomplish them,” Mejia said.

Man carries son, 3, across finish line

John Preis, 32, felt himself starting to fade right before the final straightaway at the Long Island Marathon, but he got one more pick up to get him through the finish, except he had to do the lifting.

He found his son, Jack Preis, 3, and carried him across the line to a cheering crowd in Eisenhower Park.

“It was a good race, great day for it,” Preis said. “I think I sped up toward the end. I was all excited to see my son, so it was a good day.”

It was Preis’ second time running the race, and he’s done the New York City Marathon a few times as well. He said there are many factors that got him to return to his local event with the short drive from his home in Merrick, the chance to get a few more hours of shut-eye compared to a further away competition and the size of the crowds among them.

But, of course, it also helps to have one of your biggest fans getting you through the home stretch. Jack even got a complementary medal for his first victory lap.

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