Runners Enjoy 5K, Fun,
Festivities at Fire and Ice

BY GEORGE A. HANCOCK

Somerset, PA--And just like that, local runners and walkers began a new road-racing year. Saturday morning January 15, 2011 dawned with the 14th running of the annual Somerset, PA Fire & Ice 5K. One-hundred-thirteen runners and 28 walkers lined up to tour the chilly Somerset road course.

The Somerset Fire & Ice Festival is a unique three-day celebration. The festivities are aimed at filling the gap between the bright Christmas season and those distant Spring days. The events include a road race, music entertainment, ice sculptures, fireworks, numerous food booths, quilt and craft displays, and outside fire pits for the cold and weary. One food vendor is located just steps away from the finish line. His delicious aromas entice, perhaps tease, the finishing runners and walkers.

A mid-January road event in the Cambria Somerset County region features cold, snow, and sometimes ice. The January 15th Fire & Ice 5K was a typical race. The starting-line temperature was 21 degrees. A strong wind whipped snow from the rooftops. The race field gathered beneath cloudy skies. The first two blocks featured snowy roads. The rest of the-out and-back road course was in decent shape. However, those two snowy blocks at the start are faced again. This is the final segment right before the finish line.

Traffic control is always outstanding during this event. Volunteers staff the numerous intersections. Water was also available on the course. Many people cheer from their vehicles during the race. Of course, this is the warmest spot for those non-race participants. Many Somerset neighbors stop to watch the road parade. They stop their Saturday morning chores to watch, applaud, and cheer on the Fire & Ice competitors.

The Mapes family from Mapes Timing Service handles the registration, timing, and finish-line duties. Dave Mapes and his wife, Beth, were on hand insuring everything ran smoothly. Tim and Roxanne Mapes worked the finish-line area with superb expert care.

The Somerset Fire & Ice 5K always attracts a swift field. The 2011 race continued this fast tradition. Twenty-nine-year-old Levi Foust won the 2011 event in 17:18. Altoona resident and former Somerset native Chris Sheftic was second in 17:23. Former Forest Hills High School standout runner Jonathan Makoczy, 19, was third in 17:39.

Eighteen-year-old Forest Hills High School outstanding runner Lee Anne Wirfel was the first female 5K finisher in 18:23. Wirfel amazed the race field by running the windy cold course in shorts. Charlene Smith, 27, was second in 19:26. Somerset High School runner Jill Ledbetter, 19, was third in 19:54.

Kim Bennett, 58, from Berlin, PA won the 2011 5K walk in 29:57. Rodger Thomas, 47, was second in 33:41. Fifty-five-year-old Rich Santella finished third in 35:45.

Leanne Kurpiel, 42, was the first female 5K walk finisher in 30:09. Starla Snyder, 48, was second in 31:48. Sherry Obert, 55, was third in 33:49.

Special 2011 Fire & Ice awards were presented to the overall top finishers. The top finishers in numerous age-group divisions also received awards.
Fruit juice and cookies were available at the finish line. The 2011 local road race calendar along with numerous race entry forms lined a table. The 2011 road race season was now officially underway. The Somerset-Cambria County road-race calendar is available online at www.davidmapesfinishline.com

The race participants enjoyed the morning event despite the cold conditions. Good-natured banner, laughter, and numerous conversations flowed freely at the race site. One veteran runner, Ken Johnson, arrived wearing his new campaign shirt. Ken is running for justice. He is a Spring candidate for an open Somerset County District Justice position. Ken’s dog was even wearing a campaign shirt. Of course, many runners commented that the shirt looked better on the dog then on Ken.

The weather was a hot topic. Nearly everyone was eagerly looking forward to the warmer Spring racing season.