Former Olympian among those competing in Winter Flight 5K
By David Freeze
For the Salisbury Post
Organizers of the 29th Annual Rowan Regional Medical Center Winter Flight 8K expected rain later in the day, but early morning showers didn’t dampen the mood of participants and volunteers.
Approximately 400 runners and walkers registered for one of the three races, with some traveling to Salisbury from great distances. The fourth oldest race in North Carolina drew runners from as far away as Mexico, Ecuador and Illinois.
Making the event special this year was the presence of Joan Nesbit Mabe, former Olympian and current female course record holder for Winter Flight. Mabe set the course record in 1992. After recently turning 50, she set a North Carolina age group record on Saturday by running 31 minutes and 26 seconds on the 4.97 mile course, more than a minute less than the previous record that had stood for 17 years. Winter Flight also was on the Running Journal Grand Prix race circuit for the first time, joining many other established races throughout the Southeast. The Road Runners Club of America designated Winter Flight as the North Carolina 8K Championship.
Winners of the event were John Compton of Charlotte and Molly Nunn of Winston-Salem.
Compton led all runners with a time of 26 minutes and 1 second, while Nunn finished first for the women in 30 minutes and 6 seconds.
The Road Runners Club of America also crowned them North Carolina 8K Champions by virtue of their performances. Nunn is a previous winner, and made her fourth trip to Salisbury.
“This is a good race for me,” she said. “I love coming here, and this year I wanted to test my level of fitness. My recent races have been marathons, so I took a month off and came back to Salisbury. My run was strong, but not as quick as I had hoped.”
Nunn was followed by Mabe who finished a strong second saying, “I remembered the course, and it does have some hills, but overall I think it runs really fast.”
Compton paced a fast field of runners, edging out Aaron Saft in 26:23 and Frankie Adkins in 26:46. Local female masters runners set a sizzling pace with Ester Marsh leading the over-age-40 runners with a time of 38:05, followed by Dr. Acquawon Stallworth in 38:39 and Trudy Gale, who finished as the third-place master in 39:32.
Juan Villegas, an engineer from Chihuahua, Mexico, knew that he would be spending three weeks in Charlotte on training and saw the race listed. He loved the loop course and the reason for the race and decided to register for the event.
“I love to travel and look for races,” Villegas said. “It is best way to get to know people and the scenery. It was a real honor to race here. You have a great community. I hope to come back.”
Villegas drove to Salisbury last weekend to sign up for the event and see the city.
Angel Jordan of Salisbury ran her first race after training for about eight weeks. She had run/walked the course last Saturday in anticipation of race day.
“I feel fantastic,” Jordan said. “I took almost 10 minutes off my time from last week, and now I can’t wait to start my half marathon training. I am so excited.”
Salisbury’s Sonny Ali had also spent weeks planning to run in Salisbury’s most prestigious running event.
“I had been sick all week, and really didn’t expect to do well,” Ali said. But he beat his predicted time of 40 minutes by more than 3 minutes.
Noah Julian paced the half-mile fun run finishers with a time of 3 minutes and 4 seconds.
All proceeds for the event will go to Rowan Helping Ministries of Salisbury. Executive Director Kyna Foster thanked the runners and walkers for braving the cool and rainy day to help those who might have no other choice than to be outside on Saturday.
Joining Rowan Regional Medical Center as major sponsors for the event were Catawba College, Fowler Physical Therapy, Walgreen’s, The Forum, the City of Salisbury, the Salisbury Civitans, Cheerwine, Edward and Susan Norvell, Super 8 Motels, Earle Koontz, Attorney at Law and DL Cleaning.
Complete results can be found at www.salisburyrowanrunners.org