Sakiko Minagawa, an alumna of the Ohio State women’s cross country/track and field program, was the champion of the 2021 Nationwide Children’s Hospital Columbus Marathon, held Sunday in Columbus.
Minagawa finished first with a time of 2:41:12, 3:01 ahead of the second-place finisher.
A native of Dublin, Ohio, Minagawa competed for the Buckeyes from 2012-16. She helped the women’s team to a 26th-place finish at the NCAA Cross Country Championships and still holds the third fastest 10K time in school history.
Minagawa, who now resides in Westerville and is a registered dietitian for the Division of Sports Medicine at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, took some time to talk about her running career, time at Ohio State and more.
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Can you describe what you were feeling when you crossed the finish line Sunday as the champion?
I saw my coach around mile 24 and he told me to ‘enjoy it’ so after I turned onto Long Street, the final stretch to the finish, I just couldn’t stop smiling and really tried to take in the moment. I saw my twin sister Minori [also an Ohio State cross country/track and field alumna] standing on the other side of the finish line and as I crossed the finish, I just ran straight to her and gave her the biggest hug. I was thinking about all the people that helped me get to this moment and all I could think of was ‘We did it!’
How did you make the transition to being a marathon runner?
After I finished my collegiate career in 2016, I joined the Columbus Running Company elite team and started working with my current coach, Jim Jurcevich. I knew I would eventually move on to the longer marathon distance but I knew to be patient and work up towards it. I wanted to make sure I felt confident and prepared.
I ran my first marathon at the California International Marathon – which was the USA Track and Field Marathon championship race that year and ran under the 2020 Olympic Trials standard of 2:45:00. I ran my second marathon in Atlanta, Ga., at the 2020 Olympic Trials. The NCH Columbus Marathon was my third marathon.
What are your future running goals?
I would love to continue to compete and improve on my time, but more importantly I want to inspire and motivate runners of all levels to enjoy running. I know I can make a difference to the running community regardless of my running performance.
In regards to racing, I would love to qualify and compete at my second Olympic Trials in the marathon for 2024.
What has your career path been since finishing your undergraduate degree?
I received my bachelor’s degree in exercise science and then I continued to study at Ohio State in the medical dietetics program in the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences. I received my master’s degree in 2019 and became a registered dietitian. In August 2020, I was hired as the registered dietitian for Nationwide Children’s Hospital in the department of Sports Medicine.
How has Ohio State impacted your life … running-wise, career-wise and/or both?
Ohio State has made such a positive impact in my life and helped me become the person I am today. Sara Mason Vergote and the OSU coaches and support staff helped me believe in the potential I had as a runner. They supported me through my highs and lows and continued to motivate me throughout my collegiate and post-collegiate years.
My passion in nutrition became clear during my sophomore year as I learned the importance of nutrition for my health and sports performance. I reached out to my mentor, Dr. Jackie Buell, and shared with her my passion in sports nutrition. She introduced me to the OSU medical dietetics program. During my dietetic internship, I had the opportunity to intern with Jess Napolitano, the NCH sports dietitian at the time. This experience with her solidified my passion to become a sports dietitian.
Any favorite memories from your time at Ohio State?
Too many favorite memories! But mostly I cherish the day to day practice and time I spent with my teammates. One of my favorite racing moments was running the 10k at the Stanford invitational in 2015 with Minori, my twin sister. We both ran our personal best after watching Shalane Flanagan race and taking a picture with her afterwards.
Coach Mason Vergote Wins Age Group, Places 11th Overall
Another Buckeye was among the top finishers at the Columbus Marathon Sunday.
Sara Mason Vergote, Buckeye associate head cross country coach/assistant track and field coach, placed 11th overall and finished first in her age division.
Mason Vergote, now in her ninth year on the Buckeye staff, finished in a time of 3:01.5.
— Sara Vergote (@vergotes) October 17, 2021
Photo credit: Ben Ko, top two photos; Columbus Marathon, finish line photo