Daniel Romanchuk celebrates at the 2019 New York City Marathon on Nov. 3, 2019 in New York City.
NEW YORK – Daniel Romanchuk was never sure he was going to win the New York City Marathon on Sunday until he zoomed himself across the finish line in Central Park — in first place.
The 21-year-old Baltimore native captured his second consecutive race in the Big Apple, this one a sprint to the finish as he edged out rival racer Marcel Hug of Switzerland, finishing in 1:37:24, just 1.09 seconds ahead of Hug.
“I never say that a race is done before everyone is across the line,” an overjoyed Romanchuk said on ESPN following his triumph. “It’s such a competitive field and it can be anyone’s race on any given day.”
On this given day, however, it belonged to Romanchuk, who also has triumphs in London and Chicago this year, the latter where he confirmed his spot at a second Paralympic Games.
“I had to be more tactical than I was a year ago,” said Romanchuk, with a nod to how tight the top men’s group rodetoday. When they entered Central Park and the final miles of the race, Romanchuk led a pack of four by just a chair length, with Hug, Great Britain’s David Weir and fellow American Aaron Pike all close behind.
They had ridden for a pace of 3:43 per mile, and Romanchuk used his near-seven-foot wingspan to hold off a serious challenge from his foes, with Hug finishing just one second behind him, followed by Weir and then Pike.
“It was a very tight finish… that group of four,” Romanchuk told reporters. “It was very fast.”
Meanwhile, five-time New York champion Tatyana McFadden was looking for a sixth win here, but recently it’s been Hug’s Swiss countrywoman Manuela Schar who has dominated the women’s wheelchair world marathon majors scene.
That was no different on Sunday, as Schar won by nearly four minutes, with a 1:44:20, McFadden clocking in at 1:48:19.
In the men’s race, Romanchuk and Hug traded the lead for much of the first half of the race, with Pike and Weir joining as the quartet sped throw the Bronx and then the upper reaches of Manhattan.
After Romanchuk held off Hug at the uphill finish inside Central Park, the two embraced on a brisk, clear and sunny day in NYC.
It’s been an epic year for Romanchuk, who is a University of Illinois student but has taken on the school year with a much-less intense schedule as he makes his way to a second career Paralympic Games in Tokyo next summer.
Romanchuk helped secure Team USA a spot in Tokyo with his time in London, then penned his name into said spot with a victory just last month in Chicago.
Away from the marathon, he also broke the world record in the 5,000-meter in the last year.
Aaron Pike’s 1:37:33 was just five seconds off the podium, while American Josh Goerge was seventh.
The decorated Paralympian McFadden was queen of New York in 2010 and then for four years in a row, from 2013-15. Her 2015 finish of 1:43:04 still stands as the course record.
But Schar started strongly and never looked back – metaphorically or physically. It’s her third consecutive win in New York and her ninth consecutive marathon major gold medal.
Susannah Scaroni was third overall, while Amanda McGrory was fourth.
Along with Romanchuk, both McFadden and Scaroni are also Paralympics-bound for Tokyo this summer, following their finishes in Chicago last month. It will be a sixth Games for McFadden, who turned 30 earlier this year.
McFadden has medals across both Winter and Summer Games, including seven golds. Three years ago in Rio she won 400-, 800-, 1,500- and 5,000-meter races, while capturing silver in the 100 meter as well as the marathon.
Schar, the women’s winner, had kind words for Romanchuk as the winners talked to reporters. “It’s crazy what Daniel has done the last few months,” she said. “He’s so young and so talented, I don’t know where he’ll go, but there is so much for him to do.”
While many call Schar one of the greatest athletes in the sport with her recent dominance, Romanchuk was asked if he sees himself as part of that same conversation on the men’s side.
“This sport has such history,” Romanchuk said. “It’s hard to say because so much has changed over the years. There have been some amazing athletes who have pushed this sport to what it is today.”
With his victory again in New York, Romanchuk no doubt solidifies himself as a top competitor when the Paralympic Games come into view next summer. When he won here a year ago he was relatively unknown. Now he’s broken into its uppermost echelon.
His experience, he said, is now paying dividends out on the racecourse itself.
“Something I like to do before any race is get in early and survey the course,” he said. “I can get to know locations of landmarks that might have an impact on the race: hills, bridges, turns. It’s something I always do before a race. The first time [last year in New York] is always difficult.”
Though his second time here in New York wasn’t any easier, Romanchuk credited his training base in Illinois with his continued success. A Maryland native, he is training with coach Adam Bleakney, who has run a storied program at U of I for the last six years.
“One of the great things about being there is that I can get help with anything, equipment, support… I know I can ask them for whatever,” he said.
Romanchuk will go straight from New York to Dubai, where the 2019 World Para Athletics Championships will be held beginning this Thursday. He will go from there to the Oita International Wheelchair Marathon in Japan, set for two weeks from today on Nov. 17.
It’s a busy, full-on schedule, but one that is meant to crescendo just as it will for him come next summer, when he’ll undoubtedly race for the podium at the Paralympics in the marathon as well as other track and field events. New York is another strong building step for that.
Nick McCarvel is a video host and freelance reporter based in New York City. He has covered three Olympic Games, including Rio 2016 for TeamUSA.org. Read weekly features by him this figure skating season on TeamUSA.org.