SYRACUSE – A few of Ligonier’s finest as well as some new faces in the crowd emerged as champions at the 2015 Flotilla Road Race. While the old guard conquered, newcomers were right on their heels, and in some cases, landed on top as the Fourth of July kicked off right at Lakeside Park.
The 3.3-mile men’s race saw Elias Rojas of Ligonier sprint to his seventh championship, crossing the line at 16:41. Using the wealth of experience from almost a decade of races on the course, Rojas mastered the late series of hills on North Shore Drive to his advantage in cruising to his latest title. But right on his heels was a first-time Flotilla runner in Quintin Miles. The Clermont, Georgia, speedster kept pace with Rojas for much of the race before falling back for second place at 16:54.
The 3.3-mile women’s race also had a sprint to the finish, but from a pair of ladies whom have never won the race. Manchester University distance runner Rachel Weeber, who only started running distance after her sophomore year at Concord High School, looked like she could have ran two races after sprinting through the line at 21:07 and continued on down the street without slowing down.
University of Indianapolis runner and former Northern Lakes Conference mate Amy Walker was second at 21:38. The Wawasee High School graduate finished strong, only to take a quick seat at the finish as the rush set in.
“I only really started running distance about two years ago,” Weeber said, who was primarily a high jumper in high school. “My coach (at Concord) asked if I would try cross country, and I didn’t plan on running distance in college, but it worked out. I’ve never run this race before, but I’ve run the loop before. I forgot about the hills, but having run this course before helped.”
The eight-mile races also had a first-timer and a veteran claim titles.
Derek Miller of Shipshewana was on fire in the first half of the race, sprinting past the 3.3 mark as the fourth overall person to the line, and continued his pace without much slow-down. Noting he lost just a little steam out near Oakwood, Miller quickly picked up his mojo and came home uncontested with a blazing time of 44:55.
Having just raced the Flotilla one other time last July, Miller stated the course almost got him when he started to get comfortable.
“It was probably about the 6.5-mile mark, I started kicking it in a little bit, but then I started hurting close to the end,” Miller said. “I don’t know if that was a mistake, I might have gone a little early. Overall, I felt pretty good. I ran about a two-minute PR today so that was great for me.”
Ligonier’s Nichole Emmert, having won her first Flotilla race last year, came back and reclaimed her title. Sticking within her own limits, Emmert was easily the first women through the eight-mile gate at 53:31.
Repeating as Master’s and Grand Master’s champions were a pair of Flotilla and area running veterans in Brian Shepherd and Chuck Schlemmer. Shepherd, of Ligonier and the race coordinator, ran a 21:15 and Schlemmer, also of Ligonier, beat Shepherd to the line by six seconds at 21:09.
The Flotilla Road Race, which had over 520 runners and walkers this year, was also chip timed for the first time. Full results for the race will eventually be posted on the Fort Wayne Track Club website, as well as the Ligonier Track Club Facebook page.