115th Boston Marathon
When: Monday, 9:32 a.m. (elite runners)
Course: 26.2-mile point-to-point route from rural Hopkinton to Boston.
TV: cbsboston.com; universalsports.com (pay).
By John Bassetti
This is a story about three guys and a marathon.
Make that two guys.
Cory Okular, Mitchell Thornton and Sam Gindlesberger all qualified for this year’s Boston Marathon, but only Okular and Mitchell were able to enter.
Okular, a Cardinal Mooney graduate who is from New Middletown, Thornton of McDonald and Gindlesberger from Magnolia are students in Youngstown State University’s scholars program.
Not only do they need to keep a 3.5 grade-point-average to maintain their scholarships, but they needed a sub-3:10 to qualify for the 115th running of the Boston Marathon on Monday.
All three qualified for a first time: Okular via the Lake Erie Marathon at Presque Isle in September, Mitchell at the Chicago Marathon in October and Gindlesberger at the Columbus Marathon last autumn.
However, when registration opened, only two out of three made the grade.
Gindlesberger was locked out because the Boston Athletic Association online registration was full by the time he gained access.
“It filled up in about 71/2 hours,” Okular said.
“It closed unexpectedly early,” said Okular, who believes that the previous year’s registration period lasted several weeks. That’s a big difference from one year to the next.
“It would have been nice for all three of us to be running,” Okular said of the three Cafaro House residents.
“I think the servers crashed because of how many were trying to register,” said Okular, who finally succeeded in registering about 11 a.m. that day in late October. “It took about two hours of trying,” Okular said of the ordeal akin to online ticket purchases for popular entertainment and sports events.
“We weren’t the only ones going through something new. Everybody else was trying to figure out what was going on.”
None of the three — Okular, Thornton or Gindlesberger — had run a marathon before last fall.
Okular’s qualifying time was 3:06.27 and Thornton’s was 2:59.53.
Okular, who ran cross country and track at Mooney, coaches the junior high cross country team that feeds Mooney and the Holy Family track team.
The 20-year-old Okular is a junior, academically, while Thornton is a sophomore and Gindlesberger a freshman.
Cory’s pursuing a double major of political science and economics. Thornton’s major is English, while Gindlesberger’s is in mechanical engineering.
Both Okular and Thornton flew to Boston this weekend.
The minimum qualifying time for Thornton, who will be accompanied by his parents, Tom and Leslie, was 3:10 for the 18-35 age group. Thornton said he’s assigned to start in wave 1, corral 3, following the elite women who start 20 minutes before the elite men and everyone else. A corral comprises 1,000 runners.
“It’ll be pretty packed,” Mitchell said of the field of 27,000 — still fewer than the 45,000 he was among in Chicago when he placed 698th overall and sixth in his 15-19 age group.
He turned 20 on March 4.
Okular said that last year’s crunch prompted the BAA to change its registration policy.
“They’ve made qualifying times faster and they’re giving preference to people who are significantly faster than their qualifying time,” he said of the more stringent requirements.
Joining Okular will be his mother, Bonnie Okular, and other family members.
Mitchell qualified for the state cross country meet all four years while at McDonald. The Blue Devils’ best finish was runner-up his junior year (2007).
Gindlesberger, the odd man out, graduated from Sandy Valley High School, south of Canton.
“It was a heck of an ordeal,” he said of his bollixed registration attempt.
“It was the day after Columbus,” said the 19-year-old. “That’s why it’s called the ‘last-chance marathon’ because it’s the last opportunity to qualify for Boston. I thought I had a little more time to register, but it filled up in record time.
“I tried around noon, but it shut me out because so many were trying to access the site. After class, I took a nap and then woke up and tried but it logged me out.”
On the bright side, Gindlesberger said, his Columbus time — 3:00.32 in the 18-24 age group when the cutoff was 3:10.59 — still leaves him eligible for the 2012 Boston Marathon.
“That’s the nice thing,” said Gindlesberger, who fosters no grudge against his dorm mates.
“It’s good to know that they got in even though I got shut out. If those two didn’t get to register that would have been a real bummer.”
Sam said he didn’t want to run competitively for YSU, but he still wanted to run, so marathons seemed fitting.
“We [Okular, Thornton] enjoy running in our spare time, but academics plays a big part. Being a D-I athlete eats up a pretty hefty chunk of your schedule.”
Boston hasn’t heard the last of Gindlesberger.
“This is definitely not the end of this.”