By GREG KEIM
THE GOSHEN NEWS
A pair of first-time winners highlighted the 32nd annual Parade 5,000 Sunday afternoon before the Elkhart County 4-H Fair Parade.
The event was started in 1982 by former Goshen High School and Goshen College track and field coach Rick Clark as a way to entertain people while they were waiting for the fair parade. A total of 163 runners completed the first race with Brian Brown of Elkhart winning the men’s race (16:06) and Mindy Snyder of Goshen the women’s (21:55).
On Sunday, Melissa Gillette was the overall women’s winner in a time of 19:05 while Elias Rojas took the men’s overall title in 15:32.
Gillette is a former Goshen College runner.
“This is my first win here and it feels pretty good,” she said. “It was warm, but I have been out here is worse weather conditions.”
Gillette has a three-month-old baby.
“I have not been doing much training since the birth,” she added. “I was pretty steady over the first two miles, but I slowed over the last one. I passed Petrana Petkova at that point and there was no one left to chase.”
Petkova, also a former GC runner, was the female champion in 2007, 2009, 2010 and 2012.
Rojas is a graduate of West Noble High School and Indiana Wesleyan University.
“I knew there was going to be some good competition today,” he said. “I just wanted to stay with my race strategy.”
Rojas is teaching in the West Noble system.
“My principal is Brian Shepherd and he is always there waiting for me in the morning to go running,” Rojas added. “He knows what it takes.”
Shepherd was the long-time West Noble cross country coach.
One tradition in the race is running in costume. While not all runners do it there are enough to make it entertaining.
One such competitor was Concord Township firefighter Lonnie Camp who ran in his complete gear including an oxygen mask. The 35-year-old crossed the finish line in a time of 47:50.
“I run ultra marathons and what I just did would probably equal running about 50 to 60 miles,” he explained. “I just did a 100-mile one and before that a 50-mile run. Prior to that were runs of 12 hours and 24 hours.”
A total of 420 competitors finished the race. The record is 474 set a year ago.
One change was announced for next. The registration for the Parade 5,000 will be done only on-line at the fair’s Web site. Registration will close on Saturday at noon before the Sunday race. Runners will no longer be able to register on race day.
“We are doing this to make it easier on our workers,” Graham Clark said.
Winford Jones of LaGrange won the male age 60-64 division with a time of 21:59.
He was also presented with the Dick Shank Lifetime Fitness Award that is presented in honor of the former state senator who was an avid runner.
Mark Furkis of Ligonier was the first winner in 2011. A year ago, Freeman Hershberger and Lawrence Scholl, both of Goshen, were co-winners.