ST. LOUIS (AP) — Organizers of the St. Louis marathon stripped the winner of her title this week, saying she had crept onto the course late in the race for the second consecutive year to make it appear she had run all 26.2 miles.
GO! St. Louis Marathon officials said 26-year-old Kendall Schler of Columbia, Missouri, slipped into the race Sunday after the final checkpoint and appeared to be the first of 582 female finishers. The race actually was won by Andrea Karl.
Nancy Lieberman, GO! St. Louis' president, said Friday that race officials had immediate questions about Schler's performance.
Contrary to marathon guidelines, Schler had a bib and number on her leg and covered by a shirt. Schler later admitted she removed the timing strip from the bib each of the past two years to explain why her seven interval times were not registered, Lieberman said. U.S. Track and Field officials on the course also never saw Schler among competitors, and certainly not among the leaders.
Schler finished third in last year's race with a time that qualified her to run in Monday's Boston Marathon. Lieberman said that time has been voided and her spot in the Boston race has been vacated. She has been barred from GO! St. Louis events.
Schler, who stood to receive $1,500 for winning the race, could not be reached for comment Friday. A Jefferson City telephone listing for her is no longer in service, and there is no listed number for her in Columbia.
Schler's deception Sunday was reminiscent of Rosie Ruiz, who pretended to win the 1980 Boston Marathon by coming out of the crowd about one mile before the finish line. She wrongly took the winner's wreath but immediately drew suspicion because she was unknown and didn't appear sweaty or fatigued.
Photographs and video taken Sunday show Schler appearing to look solemn or at times forcing a smile, including during a staged victory picture with former Olympian Jackie Joyner-Kersee.
Lieberman said she spoke Wednesday with Schler and asked for photographs of her running the 2014 race. She said Schler never responded.
"It was kind of a nondescript conversation," Lieberman said. "Most people, quite frankly, would be defensive, but say, 'Yes, I really did (run the race).' I explained I would have to contact Boston and let them know (about the questioned qualifying time), and she wanted to know how she could find out if she can run Boston. That was pretty much the end of the conversation."
Lieberman said she was disappointed Schler stole the thunder from Karl, who did not know until about a half hour after the race that she had won with a time of 2:54.29.
Lieberman said plans are afoot to make good with Karl, perhaps by recreating an event with her and various sponsors "so she does get her day."
"Imagine thinking you're in the lead and have the crowd support — all 26.2 miles, the crowd is cheering you on — and there's no finish line tape when she get to the end," Lieberman said.