SYRACUSE — Wednesday’s 41st annual Flotilla Road Race was a hot one. The temperatures were already in the 80s at the start of the race at 8 a.m. at Lakeside Park, but the heat index made it feel considerably hotter.
Runners had to adjust their paces accordingly, but one runner in particular didn’t let the hot and humid conditions phase him. Overall men’s 3.3-mile winner Elias Rojas was on a mission.
“You have to know what you’re going up against. I’ve run the course. I’ve trained on it,” explained Rojas. “I know today was humid, but I recently just got engaged so I had to deliver the ‘W’. I wanted to do that for her so the heat didn’t bother me. My mission was completely different.”
Rojas gave his fiancé the win in style, clocking a blazing 16:51 time over the 3.3-mile tract around Syracuse Lake, more than a minute and a half better than his closest competitor, men’s 16-19 age division winner Spencer Hare and his 18:27 stop. Rojas celebrated not only his recent engagement at Wednesday’s Independence Day run, but also his eight straight overall championship in the 3.3 miles. A former West Noble High School runner for longtime race director Brian Shepherd, the Flotilla run is a race that has long been near and dear to Rojas’ heart.
“Coach does a great job putting on this race. It’s a tradition, not only for the area but for me personally,” Rojas said. “Going from back to high school days, being a high school runner for him and working it to being post-collegiate and racing it to being able to be healthy and ready to go and competitive year after year, it’s a race that I circle in the calendar and make sure that I am as mentally and physically ready for as possible.”
While Rojas claimed the men’s 3.3-mile win, Matthew Blume collected the men’s 8-mile championship in a time of 42:29. Amy Stookey set the pace in the women’s 8-mile race in a time of 64:04, while Brooke Keudell won the women’s 3.3-mile race in 20:40. Also Wednesday, Jenny Isenbarger clocked 70:53 to win the women’s 8-mile grand masters division, Angela Price won the women’s 3.3-mile masters division in 26:49, and Michele Carey was the women’s 3.3-mile grand masters winner in 25:27. Todd Hoffer won the men’s 8-mile masters division in 54:41, Steve Leffers was the men’s 8-mile grand masters winner in a time of 51:58, and Frank Pizana topped the men’s 3.3-mile masters division in 18:37.
Between 300 and 350 total runners turned out to Wednesday’s 41st annual running of the race, a good turnout considering the plethora of July 4th races that have cropped up throughout the area in recent years.
“We think it’s really good because you have so many other races you’re competing against on the 4th. So for so many people to come here and run our race, it’s very humbling. We appreciate them coming here,” explained Shepherd.
Not to mention the heat. Shepherd has been involved with the Flotilla Road Race in one form or another for more than a quarter-century, and Wednesday’s run was the hottest he could remember. Times mostly reflected the conditions, but all in all the 41st annual running of the race was a successful one.
“This is the 27th year in a row that we’ve been here, and this is the hottest I’ve ever felt,” Shepherd said. “It’s something where you got to say ‘I’m not running as hard as I can.’ You don’t want to be ill so everybody backed off, and no one passed out. Everybody had a good time.”