OC Marathon men's winner disqualified for taking water from family during race

He knew elite athletes would have access to aid stations but was unaware of the rules about taking water from spectators.
Monday, May 6, 2024
NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. (KABC) -- A 24-year-old from Fountain Valley was disqualified as the men's winner of Sunday's OC Marathon for taking water from a family member during the race.

According to the rules, runners can only get water from official hydration stations.

In a statement, OC Marathon Race Director Gary Kutschar said they were "forced to disqualify a participant" after "it was confirmed they received unauthorized assistance from an individual on a bicycle, in violation of USA Track & Field rules and our race regulations."

"We take these rules seriously to ensure fairness and the integrity of our event for all competitors," said Kutschar.

Esteban Prado, who spent about four months training for the marathon and finished the race in 2 hours, 24 minutes, 54 seconds, said he received a call from the race director, saying a competitor saw him get a water bottle throughout the field.

"The only person that could see me within range was second place," said Prado.

Prado knew elite athletes would have access to aid stations but was unaware of the rules about taking water from spectators.
"Whenever I got to these stations, the volunteers were scrambling because I'm the only runner in sight," he said. "You could barely see me, like, at certain turns."

Jason Yang of San Pedro was declared the winner in 2 hours, 25 minutes, 11 seconds.

"I don't want to argue over something that's 15 minutes away from you, you get no money or anything. You know, if he wanted that congratulations for that first place, if he really felt like he needed it, it's just for him at the end of the day," said Prado. "I really got nothing out of it. I know I won."

Prado won't be able to use his final race time to qualify for future races. He may run his third marathon in the fall and plans to follow all the rules.

Meanwhile, in her first marathon, Gabriella Smith of Lynchburg, Virginia was the women's winner in 3:05:30, 12 seconds ahead of Annika Mellquist of Gardena.

The race served as the national championship for the Road Runners Club of America, the nation's oldest and largest distance running organization.
The 26-mile, 385-yard marathon course began in front of the VEA Marriott Resort Hotel & Spa, then went through Corona del Mar and the Newport Harbor area.

The runners then entered Costa Mesa, passed the Segerstrom Center for the Arts, went around the South Coast Plaza and through Segerstrom High School.

The course continued for one mile in Santa Ana, then turned onto the Santa Ana River Trail for 1.5 miles, exiting at the Gisler foot bridge to run through the Mesa Verde neighborhoods and then the "Bird Streets.''

The race ended at the OC Fair and Event Center in Costa Mesa.

City News Service, Inc. contributed to this report.

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