SYRACUSE – For whatever reason, the running gods looked down upon Syracuse this morning with a smile. Only in the 50s as ‘Go!’ was shouted, the Flotilla Road Race was run under ideal conditions Friday in what is shaping up to be a fantastic holiday weekend.
The race was broken up into three parts beginning at Lakeside Park – the 3.3-mile trek around the square up and around Maxwelton Golf Club and back down Northshore Drive to the finish. The eight-milers continued into Syracuse toward Oakwood Park and back to Lakeside Park. There was also a fun walk portion of the event, which had walkers take the same 3.3-mile journey that the runners took.
The race saw a few new faces claim victories in the respective races. The overall 3.3-mile champion was Zack Snider of Carmel, whose 16:12 was a few steps faster than multiple defending champion Elias Rojas of Ligonier.
“I’ve run this race four or five times before, but I have never won it. Feels pretty good,” said Snider, who will be a senior this fall at Indianapolis Brebeuf Jesuit High School and aiming for cross country success. “My goal was to stick around (Rojas) and focus on building a lead on the group. I knew Elias was a good runner and knows where to kick, so I tried to keep with him. I really worked on those hills at the end, and that’s where I made up the ground.”
Joining Snider as a 3.3-mile champion was Kirstin Hegelein of Ligonier. The teacher from West Noble Primary has been running competitively all summer and has only lost one race, to which she noted as to illness. Hegelein would not be denied, timing 20:06, 19 seconds faster than runner-up Valeria Guzman, also of Ligonier.
“I warmed up running those last couple of hills, knowing that was coming up at the end,” Hegelein said. “I wanted to finish this race strong. I think I took advantage of the hills to get away from a few of the runners that were near me. The downhills felt good, and this is perfect weather for a race.”
About 20 minutes after Hegelein finished, the eight-milers were beginning to trickle in. Running as a duo, Alex Cushman of Ossian and Hunter Paris of Fort Wayne both were well ahead of everyone else at the 3.3-mile mark and continued to keep the pace on the home stretch. Around the final curve, Cushman held a slight edge and maintained that lead to the finish, winning the race at 41:08, a few steps faster than Paris.
“The race I usually run is no longer running, so this was an option I took,” Cushman said, a first-time Flotilla runner. “I just wanted to stay with Hunter, he is a great competitor, and did what I could. This is the first eight-mile race I’ve run, and not knowing this course, I knew Hunter did so I stuck with him. He’s an elite runner, I don’t know how I beat him.”[*** ERROR: Weaver X-Plus Shortcoder undefined id: 'spo-photo' *** ]
Another Ligonier runner, Nichole Emmert, was also aiming to keep pace, just with herself. Wanting to hit seven-minute splits, Emmert was really just keeping an eye on her watch rather than the field. As she crossed the finish line at 55:12, Emmert was the first female to come home in the race. Her shock at being first was one thing, then shifted gears when she saw she had beaten a certain competitor.
“I can’t believe I beat the guy with the stroller!” exclaimed Emmert, who was referring to longtime competitor Kevin Taylor of Syracuse, who pushes his two boys – Max and Titus – around the course during the race. “I always start too fast, so today I wanted to try to go out a little slower. I was at 7:15 then dropped to 7:00. I just started to find people to catch once I was comfortable with my pace.”
Emmert, who didn’t look the slightest bit winded at the end of the race, is the head girls track coach at West Noble and an assistant cross country coach as well. “I have run this race maybe four times before, and have advanced my time each year. I’m happy with that.”
The Flotilla Road Race once again set a record for total attendance, according to race organizer Brian Shepherd. There were 344 registered racers in the 3.3-mile race, 108 in the eight-mile race and well over 100 walkers, breaking the record set in 2013. The race is in its 37th year overall.
Race results were not chip timed but were compiled by a staff led by the Shepherd family. Awards were presented to the top three in each age division for all the racing categories.
Shepherd will have the race results posted on the runindiana.com Web site.