July fun may translate into September success
Baseball has its Midsummer Classic in the form of the all-star game set for July 15 at Citi Field, home of the New York Mets.
And, while less than three weeks into the season, so too, does Brentwood, in the guise of the Firecracker 5K run. Contested on the Fourth of July for the past 30 years, the 3.1-mile race is a gathering of athletes, all ages and all abilities. It’s an opportunity to set new standards as Josh Simpson, 29, of Morgantown, W.Va., did in winning the race in 14:52, to prepare for next autumn’s athletic adventures or to rekindle friendships.
From Hawaii, Alaska and 24 states in between, runners of all walks of life, including a Catholic priest, Father Bonner, the pastor at St. Bernard Church in Mt. Lebanon, gathered. Some 2,026 would cross the finish line.
Among the area’s top finishers had ties to the South Hills region. Tim Wu, 32, finished ninth overall with a 16:46 time. The new Peters Township men’s cross country coach placed one spot behind Ryan Sheehan, 29. The Baldwin product is the husband of former Canon-McMillan standout Taryn Gibson. The 2003 Almanac Female Athlete of the Year finished third in her age group with a 19:35 time. An assistant at the University of Kentucky, the 28-year-old harrier said “It’s hard to stay in peak condition” when you coach.
Yet, Gibson and other area mentors set solid examples for their charges.
In addition to Wu, there was Eric Shafer, 44. The Bishop Canevin cross country coach placed second in his age bracket with a 17:35 time.
Jonna Burke and her husband, Kevin, who placed fifth in his age group with an 18:51 time, competed as well. Better known for her achievements on the hard courts, Burke coached Bethel Park to its first WPIAL women’s basketball title this winter.
Although the men’s basketball coach at Upper St. Clair, Dan Holzer played a different role in this athletic endeavor. Instead of playing the part of the tenacious competitor, he represented devoted dads everywhere in the event, keeping step with his 11-year-old son, Riley, who favors ice hockey over hoops currently.
There, indeed, were a number of Pittsburgh dads, including the authentic one, entered in the race. David Myron, 53, of Bridgeville ran with two of his sons, Alex, 11, and Roman, 12. Both aspiring divers, the South Fayette students hope to follow in the footsteps of WPIAL Class AA champion Stephen Zombek, who hails from that same school district. The Brentwood 5K Run indeed is a family affair for many.
In addition to the Myron clan, which had three additional uncles and several cousins, former Almanac standouts competed as family units.
Home on leave from his studies and his wrestling career at the United States Military Academy, Austin Wilding ran with his father and two sisters. Austin, who won the Waldie/Shaeffer Scholarship Award last year, ran with 15-year-old Hannah, and both finished with times of 23:23. Wilding’s father, Jim, 51, and his other sister, Mary, 13, clocked in a few steps quicker at 22:49.
Tim Glock, an Almanac MVP for hockey, Christ Futrick, who played on Bethel Park’s state championship baseball club, Carianna Doyle, a former BP swimmer, and Megan O’Keefe, a former Almanac female athlete of the year, were among the many familiar faces also participating in the run for fun.
Many, like O’Keefe, 24, continue to be success stories long after their competitive sporting careers have been completed. For example, O’Keefe, who clocked a respectable 22:45 time, graduated from Notre Dame and is now an engineer working for Westinghouse.
Yet, the upcoming school year promises a fresh start for many. And, some like Bryce Sigg of Bethel Park pounded the pavement in preparation. The rising freshman at Seton-La Salle plans to run cross-country and play volleyball as he did while attending St. Thomas More.
Yes, in the heat of the summer, champions are created. Perhaps, that makes watching the future in progress exciting, even on a sticky, steamy Fourth of July in Brentwood, Pa.
Visit runhigh.com for complete race results.