By Zach D'Amico
No, he didn’t shatter any world records while competing in the Boston Marathon on Monday. Instead, Kevin Wanichko made headlines for another reason—an act of selfless sportsmanship captured on video that went viral Monday.
Wanichko, a Latrobe-native and Saint Vincent College alum, had the finish line in sight when he noticed a fellow competitor in need of assistance completing the 26.2-mile race.
“I turned onto Boylston Street for the finish. You turn on that street and you see the big arches at the finish line…I’d say it was about half way down that road whenever I saw the man (Chris Fernandez) fall over and kind of hit the side of the curb,” Wanichko said.
After turning make the turn from Hereford Street onto Boylston Street, the finish line is around 600 meters ahead.
“I kind of held him up on my shoulder. I probably got about another hundred meters down and the other gentleman (Allan Villanueva) came on the other side and we helped get him to the finish line,” he said.
When he finally crossed the finish line, Wanichko finished with a time of 2:50:23 taking 1,116th place overall.
The video which featured Wanichko and Villanueva aiding Fernandez captured over 60,000 views on NBC Olympics Twitter page through Tuesday night.
Wanichko is currently the women’s cross country/track head coach at Saint Vincent. The viral video captured praise from the Saint Vincent online community, including a few of the athletes Wanichko coaches.
“It’s great to see the Bearcat community come around like that because that’s what Saint Vincent is all about. Being a student there over four years, you really grow and learn what Saint Vincent is all about, the Benedictine values. Saint Vincent is a very special place. It’s small but when people go there they realize it’s something special,” he said.
Unfortunately for Wanichko, the race did not pan out as he intended. He competed in his first marathon—the Erie Marathon—on Sept. 8, 2018 and placed third with a time of 2:33:04 out of 1,481 competitors. Wanichko was looking to shave around eight minutes off his September time for Monday’s marathon in Boston.
“That race was not anything that I had planned out. I went in with a pretty lofty goal. I was hoping to run close to 2:25:00. Whenever I saw (Fernandez) stumbling, it’s just my coaching nature to look out for someone. I know how much training I’ve put in training for such a big day as most marathoners do. It’s months and months of work. If I could help just one person get to the finish line then I’m interested in helping,” he said.
What’s unbeknownst to most is that Wanichko was suffering from a calf cramp throughout the majority of the race.
“That was what put my race in a spiral pretty quick. Roughly the mile three I got a calf cramp and it kind of went on and off. Around mile eight it got worse and by the time I hit 10 miles it was really bad. But I kind of fought through it. I realized about 10 miles in that I wasn’t going to get my time goal so it became a goal of trying to just finish the race” he said.
Wanichko wasn’t the only Saint Vincent alum who competed in the Boston Marathon on Monday. He was joined by former teammates Cam Stumme, his college roommate, and Chansler Poole. Wanichko frequently trained with Stumme, who also lives in Latrobe, leading up to the marathon on Monday.
Stumme placed 1617th with a time of 2:54:33 while Poole finished 281 spots behind the first-place winner with a time of 2:37:55.
Wanichko commented on what it meant to be able to compete in the Boston Marathon with his former teammates and friends.
“It definitely made it special. All three of us were on the team together [at Saint Vincent]. We trained together through college. It’s kind of like that Saint Vincent family that carries on after college. So to be able to go to Boston with two of my close friends and teammates was good,” he said.
While at Saint Vincent, Wanichko captured the school’s current fourth-best cross-country performance with a time of 25:28. He also currently holds records in the 5000m (14:51.54) and the 3000m (8:57.70). Meanwhile, Stumme holds the school’s 3000m Steeplechase record (9:39.99) and Poole has the 1500m record at 3:49.22.
Since Wanichko’s first Boston Marathon didn’t go as planned, he will have to decide soon whether he wants to compete in the Pittsburgh Marathon on May 5.
“Unfortunately for me, Boston didn’t go as planned. I will decide (Wednesday) if I’m going to enter Pittsburgh which is 17 days away. Most people don’t run marathons that close together. But I woke up feeling pretty good so I might take a shot at running in Pittsburgh to see if I can get some redemption,” he said.
However, Wanichko doesn’t hold any resentment towards what happened in the race on Monday.
“It wasn’t in the cards that day. As we know at Saint Vincent, sometimes God has a bigger plan for us,” he said.