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Student Runners Advance Marathon Dreams in Charlotte Race

Student marathoners
Davidson marathoners (l-r) Haya Nakanishi ’18, Mason Lin ’17 and Alex Tyner ’16.

Three Davidson students saw the recent Charlotte Marathon as a long stride toward achieving their dreams.

Alex Tyner '16 finished second overall with a time of 2:39, bolstering his determination to compete in the Olympics.

In his second-ever marathon, Mason Lin '17 was encouraged at finishing first in his 18-24 age group. He has qualified to compete in the 2017 Boston Marathon.

Haya Nakanishi '18 ran in thanks for his mother's recovery from cancer, and to prepare with her and his sister, Maho, to take on the grueling Marathon des Sables, a 150-mile, five-day trek in April through the Moroccan desert.

All three men are as outstanding in the classroom as on the run.

Tyner is a math and physics double major who plans to enroll in a doctoral program in physics. Since beginning marathon running at age 15, he has run 14 competitive marathons and finished on the podium in several, while continually lowering his time. In addition to furthering his studies in quantum physics, he plans to keep running toward the Olympic trial qualifying time of 2:19.

Nakanishi, a chemistry major writing a thesis with Associate Professor Nicole Snyder, is filing applications to attend medical school. He is also a former prize-winning international violin player and long jumper on Davidson's track team.

Charlotte was only Nakanishi's third marathon, and his time of 3:29 didn't put him on the podium. But he was spurred on with special purpose. Nakanishi's mother, Nasako, was a five-time national champion Japanese tri-athlete who was diagnosed with colon cancer when Nakanishi was eight years old. Doctors predicted she would die within six months. Young Nakanishi was devastated.

But miracles happen, and Nasako is alive and training again. She ran the Marathon des Sable years ago, and finished second among women runners.

As an offering of thanks for her recovery, Nakanishi proposed the family run the Marathon des Sables together.

"I have been wanting to help her toward her dream," he said.

He spent last summer back home in Japan, training to run the ultra marathon with his mother and his sister, Maho. Based on his mother's experience, he hopes to specialize in oncology and help others overcome cancer.

Charlotte was just the second marathon for Lin, a math major from Hong Kong planning to pursue a master's degree in mathematical finance. He won his age group with a time of 3:02 but didn't set a new personal record (2:57) because of "a nutritional mistake."

To lighten his load, Lin didn't carry packs of nutritional jell with him. It turned out that he didn't have enough fuel for the distance. He "hit the wall" in the final mile and walked and jogged laboriously to the finish. He confessed he was so hungry at the end of the race that, "I didn't really care whether or not I was going to medal in my age group. I rushed straight to Domino's for a large pizza!"

Despite the rough finish, Lin says the experience helped him discover a new love of the marathon distance. He's now planning a training regimen to assure he has a better finish in the Boston race on April 17.

Looking even further down the long marathon road, Lin said he would love the opportunity to live out a dream of representing his country in the 2020 or 2024 Olympics.

Bill Giduz