Joshua Salinas (443) leads a pack of runners Saturday morning at the Run for the River 5K/10-mile races near Soldotna Creek Park. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)

Joshua Salinas (443) leads a pack of runners Saturday morning at the Run for the River 5K/10-mile races near Soldotna Creek Park. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)

Eskelin, Griffin, Walter, Hardie collect Run for River wins

One runner got to win his favorite race of the year, while another was enjoying a weekend girls trip to the peninsula. One was racing to stay in peak skiing shape, and another was finally running the race she had watched for years.

The four race winners in Saturday morning’s Run for the River entered for different reasons, but they all found their groove on the trails near Soldotna Creek Park. The five-kilometer and 10-mile races were held in conjunction with the ongoing Kenai River Festival, which ends today.

Soldotna runners Tony Eskelin and Ken Youngberg staged a tight duel for the win in the men’s 5K race, with Eskelin nipping Youngberg for the victory, while the women’s 5K was a much more comfortable win for Wasilla runner Kaci Griffin.

The 10-mile race wins went convincingly to Bradley Walters and Elizabeth Hardie of Soldotna, on a picture-perfect sunny day that had the robust field of 193 gushing over the weather.

Eskelin led the 5K field out onto the trails and dirt roads that parallel East Redoubt Avenue in Soldotna, while Youngberg stayed back and made a late charge.

“I didn’t quite start my kick early enough,” Youngberg explained.

Eskelin, on the other hand, was more prepared and knew when to time his finishing kick.

But it still didn’t keep him from having to deal with Youngberg, who reeled in Eskelin after the two made the turn back at the halfway point. Once Youngberg caught Eskelin with a little over a mile left, it was game on.

“I had a feeling he would catch me in the second half,” Eskelin said. “I started sprinting after that last telephone pole (approximately 150 meters to go) and got there first, even if it was by a foot or so.”

Eskelin crossed the finish a step ahead of Youngberg in a time of 19 minutes, 18 seconds, just one second faster. Connor Lynndan finished third, one minute behind.

Eskelin said that is likely the fastest 5K he’s run, and this year marked the “fifth or sixth” time he has run the race, but the first he has won it.

“This is my favorite race of the year,” he said. “It’s a good community race and it’s right along with the Kenai River Festival and a good turnout.”

The Soldotna runner said he is working toward a competitive run in the late-summer Lost Lake trail run, a 15-mile race just north of Seward, and that Saturday’s 10-miler was a good opportunity to gauge his fitness.

“Last year for Lost Lake, I think I ran four times before the race,” Eskelin said. “I thought, ‘I better do some running.’”

Griffin is down enjoying the weekend with six of her friends, and decided to enter her first race of the summer. It paid off with the fastest female time of the day, a 21:46 effort.

“We’re down on a girls trip to float the river,” Griffin said. “I thought this’ll be a good race.”

Griffin prevailed over runner-up Megan Anderson by 34 seconds, and said she heard the calls of supporters on the road cheering on Anderson, which only fueled her desire to catch and pass the local runner.

“I saw Megan and passed her, and from there on it’s never look back,” Griffin said.

The 10-mile race marked Hardie’s first time running in the annual event, even though she has watched the racers stream by her house in years past.

“I’ve lived here 30 years and haven’t ever run it,” Hardie said. “They go by on East Redoubt (Avenue) and I thought I’d join this year.”

Hardie said right before she took the halfway turnaround, she realized she was the women’s leader after seeing no one else go by the other way. That only fueled her desire to push for the win more.

“It definitely gave me a little more motivation,” she said.

Hardie finished in a time of 1:21:05, holding off second-place Madeleine Tucker by 1:27, while third-place Kristie Cotroneo finished 1:41 behind the winner.

Growing up in Oklahoma, Hardie said she found out how difficult it is to train for the running season in Alaska when winter holds on for so long, and this year has been no different. Hardie, a workforce development worker for Mining and Petroleum Services for UAF, said she often targets races in Anchorage and around Southcentral Alaska where the fields are larger, but is looking to go out of state soon more for an earlier training season.

“The last race I ran was a 12K last week in Anchorage, and before that was (the Kenai River) half marathon last fall,” Hardie said.

On the men’s side, the 10-mile race win went to a high school athlete. SoHi junior Bradley Walters won in a fast time of 1:04:57, beating runner-up Brody Wood by 2:07, while Wood’s older brother Logan finished third, 3:04 behind the leader.

Walters said it was crucial to get out front early and beat the rush of runners, a strategy that led to clean air and the ability to set his own pace.

“After that, it’s see how you feel and stick to that pace,” Walters said.

The Wood brothers noticed it too.

“He booked it from the start,” said Logan.

The Woods are visiting with family from near Omaha, Nebraska, and said Saturday’s race was part of the plan while they fished for a week near the Russian River campground.

While the family was proud of the strong sibling finish, both knew they weren’t catching Walters.

“I just wanted to keep pace with him,” said Brody. “We could just see him faintly at the end of the straights.”

Walters said he has been training hard in the early weeks of the summer on a training plan by former SoHi runner and skier Andy Liebner, head of the United States Ski Pole company, which manufacturers ski poles.

Walters said the combination of summer roller skiing and running has been tough, and Saturday’s event was just a warmup to a 10-kilometer roller ski time trial he had planned later in the day.

“I thought it was a really good time,” he said. “I haven’t had any long runs yet this year. Five miles was my longest so far.”

Run for the River

Saturday at Soldotna Creek Park

5K men — 1. Tony Eskelin, 19:18; 2. Ken Youngberg, 19:19; 3. Connor Lynndan, 20:18; 4. Chance Reynolds, 20:21; 5. Quinn Brown, 21:52; 6. Wyatt Dement, 22:16; 7. Ryan Kapp, 24:29; 8. Tom Seggerman, 25:06; 9. Ryan Rampton, 25:17; 10. Kristopher Wagoner, 25:48; 11. Maurizio Salinas, 26:02; 12. Wade VonHeeder, 26:09; 13. Matt Eberhardt, 26:16; 14. Luke Morse, 26:18; 15. Jim Krein, 26:20; 16. Alek McGarry, 26:46; 17. Ian McGarry, 27:29; 18. Pete Mauro, 27:39; 19. Jason Craig, 28:13; 20. Aidan Culver, 28:39; 21. Mike Pomplin, 29:13; 22. Fred Koski, 30:20; 23. Dohn Cho, 31:08; 24. Thaddeus Lingefetter, 31:13; 25. Jeff O’Bryant, 31:39; 26. Ethan Hogue, 31:51; 27. Jordan Reif, 32:47; 28. Bob Weathers, 33:04; 29. Edward McComb, 33:18; 30. Robert Carson, 34:37; 31. Nikita Monyahan, 38:49; 32. Robert Nelson, 38:50; 33. Josh Lewis, 39:30; 34. David Wagoner, 39:54; 35. Scott Anderson, 39:55; 36. Holden McGarry, 42:03; 37. Joshua Salinas, 42:57; 38. Noah McGarry, 44:10; 39. Mark McGarry, 44:12; 40. Declan Culver, 46:03; 41. Jareth Wilmoth, 46:03; 42. John Chapman, 47:57; 43. Vincent Palancia, 48:39; 44. Liam Culver, 48:51; 45. Dan Barkman, 48:51; 46. Sid Logan, 54:04; 47. David Morris, 1:10:39.

5K women — 1. Kaci Griffin, 21:46; 2. Megan Anderson, 22:20; 3. Sue Seggerman, 23:04; 4. Mallory Millay, 24:10; 5. Stephanie Bias, 25:22; 6. Melissa Wood, 25:58; 7. Sierra Hall, 26:33; 8. Amanda Millay, 26:33; 9. Sarah Hobart, 27:35; 10. Danielle Becker, 28:16; 11. Cynthia McMillin, 28:25; 12. Joy Ponder, 28:26; 13. Amy Anderson, 28:39; 14. Alana Stickney, 28:42; 15. Kristina Compelube, 28:42; 16. Denise Newbould, 28:54; 17. Karalyn Veigdeffer, 29:13; 18. Robbie Graham, 29:18; 19. Christina Hancey, 29:20; 20. Ayako McComb, 29:30; 21. Brie Dement, 30:08; 22. Joy Hobart, 30:19; 23. Amy Blackwell, 30:28; 24. Sara Erickson, 30:28; 25. Bobbi Lay, 31:03; 26. Jordan Ruffner, 31:06; 27. Carson Dement, 31:06; 28. Melissa Tafoya, 31:23; 29. Sonya Wagoner, 31:27; 30. Sara Bundy, 31:31; 31. Heather Rinke, 31:32; 32. Kyaran Matturo, 31:40; 33. Mahealan Hime, 31:42; 34. Julie Craig, 32:15; 35. Haley Earl, 32:47; 36. Rachel Beitter, 32:52; 37. Anna Reutor, 34:40; 38. Tara Ruffner, 35:29; 39. Amy Hogue, 35:29; 40. Mary Rhyner, 35:37; 41. Christine Morin, 35:53; 42. Sheryl Nelson, 36:05; 43. Lisa Chambers, 36:08; 44. Ava Heller, 36:37; 45. Yoshie Yamaoka, 36:41; 46. Marta Czarnezki, 36:56; 47. Payton Matturo, 36:56; 48. Koral Johnson, 37:02; 49. Maren Hodgman, 37:23; 50. Jennifer Hodgman, 37:38; 51. Teri Birchfield, 37:41; 52. Amiel Severson, 38:47; 53. Susan Elliot, 38:53; 54. Kristin Webber, 39:03; 55. Jessica Keith, 39:05; 56. Kylie Brown, 39:05; 57. Kristine Jensen, 39:05; 58. Amanda Griffin, 39:46; 59. Tara Clark, 39:59; 60. Hadley Kornelis, 40:50; 61. Emily Kornelis, 40:50; 62. Yvonne Oren, 40:55; 63. Paula Standefer, 41:08; 64. RaChelle Gruenberg, 41:25; 65. Penny Furnish, 41:41; 66. Mary Bodnar, 41:59; 67. Lori Wagoner, 42:03; 68. Laura West, 43:22; 69. Linda Loranger, 43:28; 70. Sara Moore, 43:28; 71. Elaine Woodburn, 43:35; 72. Kathy Hobart, 43:42; 73. Peggy McGarry, 44:11; 74. Mary Chapman, 44:22; 75. Doris Palancia, 44:25; 76. Marianne Dailey, 44:42; 77. Meredith Harber, 46:06; 78. Helen Woods, 46:43; 79. Ruby Hopkins, 46:44; 80. Gayle Koger, 46:56; 81. Robin Whiteside, 46:59; 82. Jennifer Tollackson, 47:07; 83. Sara Dennis, 47:07; 84. Anna Ring, 48:44; 85. Deborah Wilmoth, 49:27; 86. Rebekah Wilmoth, 49:27; 87. Yvonne Rhodes, 49:44; 88. Anastasia Monyahan, 49:45; 89. Nicole Egholm, 49:57; 90. Peggy Barkman, 50:06; 91. Taryn Lewis, 51:33; 92. Holly Lewis, 51:34; 93. Valerie Weathers, 51:34; 94. Betty Gilcrist, 52:20; 95. Sharon Isaak, 52:20; 96. Jacelle Zoubek, 52:30; 97. Taylor Ruffner, 52:35; 98. Taylor Stonecipher, 52:43; 99. Hailey Stonecipher, 52:43; 100. Sondra Stonecipher, 52:49; 101. Tamara Ramseth, 54:35; 102. Pamela Culver, 54:36; 103. Dana Ley, 55:30; 104. Diane Webb, 55:59; 105. Heather Lambert, 1:01:40; 106. Darnell Crosby-Schneider, 1:08:06; 107. Lorali Moore, 1:09:52; 108. Mary Kennedy, 1:09:53.

10-mile men — 1. Bradley Walters, 1:04:57; 2. Brody Wood, 1:07:04; 3. Logan Wood, 1:08:01; 4. Benjamin McGarry, 1:10:51; 5. Jode Sparks, 1:10:58; 6. Aaron Chapman, 1:14:17; 7. Sean Goff, 1:14:37; 8. Don Connelly, 1:18:05; 9. Dustin Henkin, 1:18:46; 10. David Lambert, 1:19:16; 11. Kent Peterson, 1:19:34; 12. Roy Stuckey, 1:30:18; 13. Thomas Heller, 1:31:09; 14. Jeff Perschbacher, 1:38:28; 15. Brian Endsley, 1:43:31; 16. Gregory Endsley, 1:43:32; 17. Jordan Chilson, 1:44:18.

10-mile women — 1. Elizabeth Hardie, 1:21:05; 2. Madeleine Tucker, 1:22:32; 3. Kristie Cotroneo, 1:22:46; 4. Susan Craig, 1:22:50; 5. Michelle Beigham, 1:25:54; 6. Shelby Wagoner, 1:29:01; 7. Jodi Hanson, 1:29:05; 8. Kellie Arthur, 1:30:22; 9. Allie Ladwig, 1:31:28; 10. Johnna DeGray, 1:33:27; 11. Lauren Pilatti, 1:33:53; 12. Dani Akana, 1:34:20; 13. Arianne Jasmin, 1:37:17; 14. Chisato Johnson, 1:38:53; 15. Molly Pate, 1:39:26; 16. Maggie Nelson, 1:39:27; 17. Kristy Craft, 1:44:14; 18. Elizabeth Earl, 1:44:16; 19. Cecilia Borries-Strigle, 1:47:15; 20. Sharon Oyao, 1:49:06; 21. Donna Endsley, 2:02:40.

David Lambert (background) chases Benjamin McGarry early Saturday morning at the Run for the River 5K/10-mile races near Soldotna Creek Park. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)

David Lambert (background) chases Benjamin McGarry early Saturday morning at the Run for the River 5K/10-mile races near Soldotna Creek Park. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)

Bradley Walters takes an early lead Saturday morning at the Run for the River 5K/10-mile races near Soldotna Creek Park. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)

Bradley Walters takes an early lead Saturday morning at the Run for the River 5K/10-mile races near Soldotna Creek Park. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)

Jodi Hanson sets a pace in the women’s 10-miler Saturday morning at the Run for the River 5K/10-mile races near Soldotna Creek Park. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)

Jodi Hanson sets a pace in the women’s 10-miler Saturday morning at the Run for the River 5K/10-mile races near Soldotna Creek Park. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)

Emily (left) and Hadley Kornelis approach the finish of the women’s 5K race Saturday morning at the Run for the River 5K/10-mile races near Soldotna Creek Park. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)

Emily (left) and Hadley Kornelis approach the finish of the women’s 5K race Saturday morning at the Run for the River 5K/10-mile races near Soldotna Creek Park. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)

Men’s 5K race winner Tony Eskelin (right) beats runner-up Ken Youngberg to the finish Saturday morning at the Run for the River 5K/10-mile races near Soldotna Creek Park. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)

Men’s 5K race winner Tony Eskelin (right) beats runner-up Ken Youngberg to the finish Saturday morning at the Run for the River 5K/10-mile races near Soldotna Creek Park. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)

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