Kenyan student athlete missing in Alaska snowstorm

ANCHORAGE, Alaska Tue Nov 8, 2011 1:05am EST

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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (Reuters) - A search team with dogs scoured the woods around the University of Alaska at Anchorage on Monday for a Kenyan student athlete who went missing in a heavy snowstorm, police and school officials said.

Marko Cheseto, a star runner recruited by the university's cross-country team, was last seen on Sunday evening near the campus library, the school said in a statement. Snow was falling heavily at the time, and officials were concerned that he might have succumbed to exposure.

"He is likely not dressed for freezing temperatures," the university's statement said.

A search team was assembled and combed the wooded areas around the campus, including numerous cross-country trails, Lieutenant Dave Parker of the Anchorage Police Department said.

Authorities found no clues on Monday as to Cheseto's whereabouts and suspended the search at nightfall but planned to resume their efforts on Tuesday morning, Parker said.

Cheseto was a close friend of another Kenyan athlete on the University of Alaska team, William Ritekwiang, who committed suicide last February. Both runners were from the same Kenyan village, Kapenguria.

Cheseto's disappearance comes as a separate and more dangerous storm was bearing down on the western coast of Alaska.

The National Weather Service warned that the storm, currently in the North Pacific, "will intensify into one of the most severe Bering Sea storms on record as it moves northward across the Chukotsk Peninsula Tuesday night."

The "extremely dangerous and life-threatening" storm, which should affect Alaska from late Tuesday through Thursday, is expected to bring winds of up to 75 miles an hour, sea levels 9 feet above normal, high storm surges, coastal flooding, severe erosion and heavy snowfall, the Weather Service said.

(Editing by Steve Gorman and Cynthia Johnston)

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