ANCHORAGE, Alaska — An All-American distance runner who spent more than two days in freezing winter temperatures without winter gear has had his legs amputated just above the ankles.
Marko Cheseto, 28, is one of several Kenyan runners who competed for the University of Alaska Anchorage in cross-country and track. The amputations were reported Monday on the UAA Athletic Department website.
Cheseto was seen at about 7 p.m. in a UAA building on Nov. 6, a Sunday night, as two snow storms started to blanket the city. His roommates reported him missing the next morning. The disappearance prompted a citywide search.
Cheseto was found early the following Wednesday outside a hotel near the campus. He was wearing athletic shoes, a jacket and blue jeans but no hat or gloves. He was suffering from hypothermia and severe frostbite on his feet and hands.
The hotel manager told the Anchorage Daily News when Cheseto was found, paramedics could not remove the runner’s shoes because they were frozen to his feet.
UAA officials said Cheseto’s hands are expected to make a full recovery but his lower extremities were severely injured and required amputation. He is expected to remain hospitalized for recovery and rehabilitation, UAA officials said.
University of Alaska Anchorage police interviewed Cheseto after he was found and reported he had suffered a “personal crisis” when he disappeared. Authorities concluded he had spent the entire time outside.
In a statement on the athletic department website, Cheseto thanked volunteers and professionals who searched for him.
“As some may know, I’ve been going through a lot of personal issues,” he said. “While I am still recovering — both physically and emotionally — I will do my very best to give back to the community that has helped me so much and to my home country, Kenya. I sincerely apologize for any problems that I may have caused.”
Cheseto left the campus one day after accompanying the UAA cross-country team to the NCAA Division II West Region championships in Spokane, Wash.
Cheseto had won the West Region championship the two previous seasons. Cheseto had used his final season of cross-country eligibility but was expected to compete in spring track. He took last season off following the suicide of teammate William Ritekwiang, who also was from Kenya.
Cheseto was studying for a nursing degree at the school.
Athletic Director Steve Cobb said the university will continue to support Cheseto.
“We take our responsibility and commitment to the student-athletes entrusted to our care very seriously,” he said on the athletic department website. “It was meaningful that our community was there for us in our time of need and we are sincerely appreciative of everyone’s efforts.”