HURRICANE – While few runners wore pioneer garb as race organizers encouraged, the fifth annual Hurricane Valley Pioneer Day 5k, which started Hurricane’s Pioneer Day festivities, recorded the most participants in its history Wednesday morning.
A total of 158 local runners decided not to sleep in on the state holiday honoring their ancestors; instead, they laced up their sneakers and ran 3.1 miles, donating two cans of food to Dixie Care and Share to earn entrance.
Hurricane High School cross country and track athlete Nephi Eschler, 16, finished first overall with an impressive time of 16 minutes 35 seconds, while his teammate, 16-year-old Kamryn Watts, was the first woman to cross the finish line at 20 minutes 30 seconds and was eighth overall. The two have been running together since seventh grade.
Asked by many if he expected to win, Eschler said yes, though he did not want any runners to think they would not challenge him. He attributed his success to his current training regimen, running 10 miles a day with his training partner Jesse Barraclough, who finished just after him.
A perfectionist, Eschler noted something he could improve upon even after winning the race. “That second mile I fell asleep,” he said. “I need to keep pushing the pace.”
Watts said she wasn’t expecting to be the top women’s finisher, and both she and Eschler enjoy competing in warm-up races during the off season.
Race Director Elizabeth Dansie said she was delighted by the large turnout.
“There were about 50 the first three years,” she said. “Last year we had 149. Facebook has helped the last two years.”
An avid runner herself, Dansie said she enjoys seeing so many people get into running.
“I am obsessed and want to share my obsession,” she said.
The race, sponsored by the two Hurricane stakes of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, attracts runners who might be reluctant to sign up for other events because the atmosphere is low-key and gives parents a chance to run with their children. Dansie’s husband, who helps with the race, pointed out to her that approximately 40 race participants were children age 12 and under, almost a third of all runners. Five runners were age 60 or over.
Following the race, Hurricane residents gathered along Main Street for the parade, featuring children from Hurricane LDS wards, many dressed as pioneers, riding in trailers throwing candy at the audience. Mayor Tom Hirschi went against the grain, bringing three bags of saltwater taffy to throw at parade participants instead.
After the parade, residents gathered on the lawn next to the Hurricane Community Center for children’s games and treats, everything from popcorn to cotton candy.
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