FREDERICKTOWN — Runners of all ages and experience levels gave their best effort Saturday morning at the Fredericktown Five Mile Run during the Fredericktown Tomato Show.
“This is just perfect runners’ weather,” said Richard Brenneman, the director in charge of the race.
One hundred sixty-eight runners finished the race, which remains popular with runners from throughout central Ohio because it is one of the few five-mile races left, according to Brenneman, and because of the challenge of the course.
“This is a great course, because it is well-marked, and it has water stops,” said Diana Ready of Mount Vernon.
Denny Stevens and Bob Geiger, who coach cross country at Fredericktown High School and who both ran in Saturday’s race, agreed.
“Coming up that hill at the Foote Foundry gets me the most, because it’s two miles into the race,” Geiger said.
While these two were among the veteran runners who come back to do the Tomato Show run each year, several runners were doing the Fredericktown Five Mile for the first time, including this year’s overall female winner, 14-year-old Emily Roberts of Fredericktown.
Roberts, who handily finished ahead of all other women in the race, ran back to finish the race with her friend Ben Stutz, 15, of Mansfield, who was running in his first long-distance race.
Once she had crossed the finish line with Stutz, Roberts ran back and joined her coach, Gregory Davidson, to cross the finish line a third time, while many runners were still running towards the finish line for the first time.
“It felt really good,” Roberts said of the race, as she stood smiling with the many friends and family members who came to cheer her on.
Roberts credited her training with the FHS cross country team, which she joined as a freshman this year, with her excellent performance.
“I think all the cross country runners did really good because of all our training,” she said.
“I’m so excited and proud,” Emily’s mother, Jennifer Roberts, said as Emily crossed the finish line. “I’m so happy for her.”
While Emily congratulated Stutz for finishing, he said with a smile that he had a lot more respect for all of the training he knows she has invested in cross country running.
“It was hard,” he said after taking his first drink of water at the finish line, pondering whether he would run a five-mile race again. “I’ll stick with the short races.”
Families gathered at the finish to root for their loved ones as they ran up College Street to South Main where the finish line waited.
Gene Radel of Fredericktown cheered for his two grown grandsons, Dusty Mowry of Columbus and Damian Phillips of Mount Vernon, who finished the race within a few minutes of each other.
Phillips’ 14-month-old daughter, Emma, waited with mom, Brooke, while her dad ran towards the family gathered to greet him at the finish.
“She’s been to every one of his races,” Brooke said, holding Emma. “He has a big crowd here today,” she said of her husband.
“That’s the best,” Damian said of his cheering section. “That’s what makes you push a little harder and run a little faster. If my family wasn’t here I’d probably still be running.”
Not all of the family connections at Saturday’s race were from the sidelines. Married couples, siblings and parents with their children all ran in the race together.
Wyatt Denney, age 11, of Baltimore, Ohio, was running his first five-mile run with his father, Steve Denney, a veteran long distance runner.
“He wanted to do it,” Wyatt said pointing at his dad. “So I thought, ‘heck, I might as well try it.’”
“I’m very proud of him for finishing,” Steve said. “It’s awesome — he did great.”
Some of the runners Saturday have been running for decades. Sixty-one-year-old John Pyle of Apple Valley said he has been running off an on for years.
“It’s very different than when I was 20,” he said after Saturday’s race. “I used to start in back and pass a lot of people, and now you start in back and hope people don’t pass you.”
Laughing as he walked to cool off, Pyle quoted a joke from a friend.
“I’ve never been this slow, but I’ve never been this old,” he said grinning. Finishing with a good time, Pyle finished third in his age group.
The best time of the race, of 26:21, was achieved by overall winner Paul Webb, 24, of Mansfield.
Webb said he has been distance running since he was 15, but was competing for the first time in the Fredericktown Five Mile.
“I really enjoyed it,” Webb said of the course. “It’s a good mix of hills and turns and I liked the good scenery.”