FARGO -- Eric Loeffler thought his chances to win the men’s half-marathon at the Sanford Fargo Marathon on Saturday were slipping away early in the race.

Those thoughts were wrong.

“I wasn’t actually feeling good early in the race,” said Loeffler, who also won the Fargo half-marathon in 2013 and 2015. “I thought it was going to be a long day.”

Tessa Stoltenburg, 23, earned victory in her first competitive half-marathon, winning the women’s race in 1:20:20. Stoltenburg is a former South Dakota State runner.

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“That was my first time breaking the tape and I do not think there is any better feeling than that to know that everything paid off,” said Stoltenburg, who lives in Sioux Falls, S.D.

Loeffler, a North Dakota State graduate from Fergus Falls, Minn., hadn’t competed in a Fargo Marathon event since 2015. Saturday marked somewhat of a homecoming for Loeffler, who now lives in Minneapolis.

“It’s fun to see people on the course that I know,” Loeffler said. “I heard my name a lot.”

Loeffler said he fell behind Dan Greeno, 30, early in the men’s half-marathon before he started to rally.

“He had a pretty good gap,” Loeffler said.

Loeffler said he started to feel better around eight miles into the race and started closing the gap on Greeno, who finished second in a time of 1:08:55. Loeffler estimates he made his move into the lead around the 10-mile mark.

“Once I was able to get close, I pounced pretty hard when I went,” Loeffler said. “Once you start closing gaps, you get a little bit of a second wind.”

Stoltenburg said the Fargo half-marathon served as good training session for Grandma’s Marathon, which is scheduled for June in Duluth, Minn. That will be her first competitive full marathon.

“I had high goals,” Stoltenburg said. “I knew that there would be some good competition.”

Running in a Fargo Marathon event for the first time, Stoltenburg enjoyed the atmosphere on the 13.1-mile course

“I loved the music,” Stoltenburg said. “I think it helped to have that free energy.”