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Alle-Kiski runners prepare to compete in Boston Marathon

Bill Beckner Jr.
| Thursday, April 16, 2015, 9:57 p.m.
Linsey Westerman and Melissa Kemp jog together at Freeport High School on Wednesday, April 15, 2015.
Erica Dietz | Trib Total Media
Linsey Westerman and Melissa Kemp jog together at Freeport High School on Wednesday, April 15, 2015.
Melissa Kemp and Linsey Westerman pose for a portrait at Freeport High School on Wednesday, April 15, 2015.
Erica Dietz | Trib Total Media
Melissa Kemp and Linsey Westerman pose for a portrait at Freeport High School on Wednesday, April 15, 2015.
Freeport graduate Lacey Cochran.
Submitted
Freeport graduate Lacey Cochran.
Freeport graduate Lacey Cochran runs a half-marathon in Hershey.
Freeport graduate Lacey Cochran runs a half-marathon in Hershey.

They knew it would happen — in the long run.

Deep-seated friends Lacey (Cochran) Oswalt and Linsey Westerman finally will join each other in the same full-length marathon — Monday's Boston Marathon.

Melissa Kemp, another one of their competitive-running friends, also hopes to stay hip-to-hip among the moving sea of runners in the 119th running of the fabled 26.2-mile race.

Oswalt and Westerman just missed running together at Slippery Rock, but the former Freeport track standouts and Kemp will break away from their teaching jobs to compete.

“I feel like Boston is the ultimate marathon,” said Oswalt, 28, who ran track at Bowling Green before transferring to Slippery Rock. “That was my motivation (to qualify). It will be nice to finally run with Linsey.”

Oswalt is a middle school teacher in Carlisle. She lives in Mechanicsburg. Westerman is a seventh-grade English teacher at Freeport.

Oswalt and Westerman, friends since childhood, have supported one another for years.

A mother of two — Dylan, 10, and Olivia, 8 — Westerman said the only competitive race she ran with Cochran was last year's Pittsburgh Marathon Relays.

“I coached Lacey a little when she was running at Freeport,” said Westerman, 33. “We've always said when it comes to running a full marathon together, ‘If you do it, I'll do it.' ”

Kemp, a Kittanning graduate from Worthington, teaches at Freeport's Buffalo Elementary School and is an assistant track and field coach. She works with distance runners.

The unique thing about Kemp, 28, is that she did not take up running until after high school. At Kittanning, she was a cheerleader and played volleyball.

Boston will be her eighth marathon.

“I try to run at least two marathons a year,” she said. “My goal is to run 50 by the time I'm 50. I'm well on my way.”

Kemp has trekked the Boston course twice but never has competed in the Pittsburgh Marathon.

“I never ran Pittsburgh because I like to make it like a vacation,” Kemp said. “I ran in California and New York. I was lucky to get into the NYC Marathon.”

Her experience will be vital to the local trio.

“Melissa is the expert,” Westerman said. “She'll have to show Lacey and I around. You never really know what to do when you go to a race by yourself. It'll be nice to have her to explain what's going on.”

Kemp has been training with Westerman.

“I have never ran with Lacy, but I know her and Linsey are both very competitive,” Kemp said. “You don't like to take 20-mile runs by yourself.”

Oswalt, who has run three marathons, will make her Boston debut.

“I ran Pittsburgh in 2013 but didn't train as much as I should have (to qualify for Boston),” Oswalt said. “I guess it's that sprinter's mentality in me.”

A former PIAA 400-meter champion with multiple WPIAL track titles, Oswalt also ran in marathons in Erie and at Disney World.

Oswalt, who married Carlisle football coach Josh Oswalt in December, is an assistant cross country coach.

“He encourages me,” she said. “If I'm up at 4:30 and don't get out of bed, he tells me I have to. He took up running too so we train together.”

A former standout hurdler, Westerman has run half-marathons, 5Ks and 10Ks but never a 26-miler.

“I always wondered if I could do it,” she said, “if I did enough training.”

None of the three women said they harbored any fears to run Boston after the nation-jarring bombings two years ago that occurred near the marathon's finish line.

Kemp is engaged to former Freeport star hurdler and football player Talan Conjack, who coaches track and football in the district.

Conjack was in Boston to support Kemp two years ago. Kemp finished just less than an hour after the bombings before a peaceful afternoon turned tragic. Conjack was returning a bike he rented before reuniting with Kemp.

“We didn't find out what had happened until we got back to the hotel room,” she said. “Talan was waiting for me at the finish line (two years ago). Last year, he wasn't able to do that.”

Said Oswalt: “There's more security now than there's ever been. We'll be fine.”

Westerman also is not going in with any reservations.

“You don't want to let something like that stop you from trying to set goals in your life,” Westerman said.

Bill Beckner Jr. is the local sports editor of the Valley News Dispatch. Reach him at bbeckner@tribweb.com.

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