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Winter Flight draws crowd despite chilly weather, ice

SALISBURY — Mother Nature could not deter about 260 runners and walkers who showed up for the 30th annual Winter Flight races Saturday at Catawba College.

For the first time, the state’s oldest 8K was delayed by two hours to allow ice to melt on neighborhood streets that made up the course.

While the event has never had a weather delay before, it has been postponed twice for several weeks — once during a measles epidemic and again for a big snowfall, race director David Freeze said.

“I was very impressed with how they got it cleaned off,” said Molly Nunn of Winston-Salem, the fastest woman on the course with a time of 31 minutes and three seconds. “That shows me that as race organizers, they rolled their sleeves up so we could have a race.”

Freeze said volunteers with Salisbury Rowan Runners and Catawba College spent hours with shovels and a tractor with a blade to clear as much ice off the roads as possible.

Participation was down by about 100 people this year, but Freeze said he was thrilled with the turnout considering conditions. The two-hour delay proved a wise decision, many runners said. The only ice they encountered came near the start of the race in the first turn.

“The course wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be,” said Justin Pfruender of Winston-Salem, the overall winner with a time of 26 minutes and 37 seconds. “I was very pleased.”

Freeze said he started receiving emails at 5:30 a.m. Saturday from people begging him not to cancel the race.

Even so, some runners decided to sit this one out.

Bob Nelson of Charlotte said he and rival Richard Hefner of Gastonia, who are neck-and-neck for first place in the Running Journal Grand Prix, agreed not to race after they arrived in Salisbury for fear of injury. The Winter Flight 8K is one of 10 races in the Southeast included in the grand prix.

But other runners said course conditions surprised them.

Jill Brenner traveled to Salisbury from St. Charles, Ill., to run with her sisters from Statesville and Winston-Salem. New to running, Brenner said she could not jog for more than 30 seconds five months ago when she started training.

She ran her first 5K in December with her daughter and granddaughter and said it was hard to train for the notoriously hilly Winter Flight in Illinois, where the terrain is flat.

Timothy Kaginov and Adam Cornelius of Rockwell took second and third place overall. Betsy Armentrout was the second-place women’s finisher, and Salisbury’s Meredith Abramson came in third.

A fundraiser, Winter Flight raised between $4,000 and $5,000 for Rowan Helping Ministries, Freeze said. Events also included the Fun Run and 5K Health Walk.

Nunn had the privilege of wearing bib No. 1, which Freeze set aside for her.

“I always reserve it for someone special,” Freeze said. “Someone who really deserves it.”

The 29-year-old said she’s run the Winter Flight so many times, she’s lost count. She has won the women’s overall title twice.

“The biggest honor was that he made me number one,” Nunn said after the race. “That means more than you’ll ever know.”

See a complete list of results at www.salisburyrowanrunners.org.

Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.

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