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Deena Kastor (1973–)

Deena Kastor is a long-distance runner who was named All-American at the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County). She is an Olympic medalist for the marathon, holds American records in both the marathon and half-marathon, and is an eight-time national cross-country champion. She was named the top women’s marathoner in the world by Track and Field News magazine in 2006. Kastor is renowned for her courage after a freak mishap during the World Cross-Country Championships in 2000.

Deena Michelle Drossin was born on February 14, 1973, in Waltham, Massachusetts, later moving to Agoura Hills, California. She began long-distance running at age thirteen, breaking the 3,000-meter national record and reigning as the two-time National Cross Country Champion in the Youth Division. She attended Agoura High School, and in the high school division, became the five-time California State Champion, also winning three California state cross-country titles and two California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) California State Meet titles. She competed in the Foot Locker Cross Country Championships all four years of her high school career and ran in both the North American Youth Maccabi Games and the Pan-American Maccabiah while in high school.

In 1992, she enrolled as an English major at the University of Arkansas, which had a renowned track and field program. There, she trained with Lance Harter, called the most successful coach in Southeastern Conference (SEC) women’s track and field history.

At UA, Deena Drossin ran about fifty-five miles per week. The work culminated in her becoming a four-time SEC champion and repeated All-American. She would go on to be elected to the Arkansas Sports Hall of Honor, where she was lauded as “one of the most decorated athletes in Arkansas history” who “was the first Razorback woman in University of Arkansas history to make the U.S. Olympic team as a competitor in 2000, then in the 2004 games she was the first American medalist in twenty years and the first former Razorback to medal.”

Drossin graduated from UA in 1996 and moved to Colorado to train. In 2003, she married Andrew Kastor, who also served as her trainer and coach. Their daughter Piper was born in 2011. The family subsequently moved to Mammoth Lakes, California.

Among Deena Kastor’s career highlights are winning the 2004 Olympic bronze medal in the marathon in Athens, Greece; she was the first U.S. woman to medal in the event in twenty years. She clinched the American record in the marathon and half marathon and has held American records in distances from 5,000 meters to the full marathon.

Kastor made nineteen U.S. teams, won eighteen U.S. titles, and earned two silver medals at the World Cross-Country Championships. She won iconic marathons in most of the world’s major cities as well as the most prestigious cross-country meets. Her win at the 2005 Chicago Marathon was highlighted in the documentary Spirit of the Marathon. She followed that win by taking first place in the 2006 London marathon. That victory ranked her number one in the world that year. In 2014, Kastor set five world masters records in one race during the Philadelphia Half-Marathon.

She accrued numerous medals and championship titles while being occasionally plagued by injuries. She suffered a broken foot at the five-kilometer mark in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. But many people especially remember her tenacity after a freak occurrence at the 2000 World Cross-Country Championships in Portugal. Soon after the start of the 8,000-meter race, a bee flew into Kastor’s mouth and stung the back of her throat. She stayed with the leaders, but her throat started to swell and close up, blocking her air. She blacked out, but she continued the race after regaining consciousness and still managed to finish in twelfth place.

Among her honors are the Jesse Owens Award as the top female U.S. track and field athlete, four-time Runner of the Year, and induction into the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame. She serves as president of the ASICS Mammoth Track Club, is a motivational speaker, and was executive producer of the marathon documentary BOSTON.

For additional information:
Deena Kastor. http://deenakastor.com (accessed May 11, 2017).

“Deena Kastor.” Internet Movie Database. http://www.imdb.com/name/nm2548210 (accessed May 11, 2017).

Urwin, Dave. Why Don't We All Run Spartathlons? Marathon Memories Featuring Stephen Kiprotich, Deena Kastor, Sage Canaday, Kamiel Maase, Carlos Grisales, Mehmet Terzi, Adam Holland and Many More. Kindle Edition, Amazon Digital Services, 2015.

Nancy Hendricks
Garland County Historical Society

Last Updated 5/11/2017

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