Aubrey Curl finishes first in the women’s 5K race at the Kenai Watershed Forum’s Run for the River in Soldotna Creek Park on Saturday, June 12, 2021. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)

Aubrey Curl finishes first in the women’s 5K race at the Kenai Watershed Forum’s Run for the River in Soldotna Creek Park on Saturday, June 12, 2021. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)

‘How can you not love this?’

More than 100 runners return for in-person Run for the River

Racers from across the country ran in the Kenai Watershed Forum’s Run for the River under the Soldotna sun on Saturday morning.

The race, which was a virtual format last year because of the coronavirus pandemic, saw 105 runners at Soldotna Creek Park and had 23 online participants.

It started as the Kenai River Festival, a small fun run, but has since grown into a multi-division race for locals and visitors alike.

The race coordinator, Rhonda McCormick, said it feels good to come back again for an in-person race this year.

“I think people are happy to get out again,” she said.

Runners raced in either the 10-mile or the 5-kilometer female or male divisions on Saturday.

Crossing the finish line first in the male 5K race at 19 minutes and 21 seconds was incoming Soldotna High senior Tytus Gilbert.

He runs cross country for SoHi, but said he hadn’t yet done a 5K race outside the regular season.

Sweeping the women’s 10-mile division was Kenai-raised Cheyanne Eisenmann (1:18:27).

She said she enjoys running for fun, and was glad to make it out for the race on Saturday.

“I feel pretty good,” Eisenmann said after she crossed the finish line.

She has experience with these types of races. She said last year she ran the Kenai River Marathon.

“It was a nice run — it was beautiful, the sun was out, Eisenmann said. “Everyone did well.”

The first-place runner in the male 10-mile division was another peninsula local — Pedro Ochoa (1:02:00) of Homer.

“This is the best part because, you know, it’s right after COVID and it’s nice to see everybody running together,” he said.

Ochoa participated in the virtual race last year.

Also running in Soldotna on Saturday were visitors from the Lower 48 states.

Susie Pline from North Carolina and Julie Powell from Tennessee each finished the 5K race on Saturday, Alaska marking the 50th state they’ve each done runs in.

Pline (30:47), who only started running in her 50s, said she has participated in all kinds of races: 5 and 10 kilometers, as well as half and full marathons.

For her, she said, running a race in every state was a good goal to set.

“Running is great exercise, you’re outside, how can you not love this?” Pline said.

Powell (41:58), who also completed her 50 runs in 50 states on Saturday, has been working toward that goal for over a decade.

“2007 was my first 5K and 2009 was my first one in a different state,” she said.

Before Powell started entering races in the early 2000s, she said she didn’t really run recreationally.

She has always enjoyed fitness and the outdoors, especially with her background as a physical education teacher. One of Powell’s friends actually suggested she enter a run.

“She encouraged me to and that led to this journey,” she said. “I just want to encourage everybody to do it — to get out and race in all 50 states. It’s worth it. You end up going to places you never thought you’d go.”

Powell races again next Saturday in Anchorage.

The Giles and Smith families from Florida finished the 5K race on Saturday, and are already halfway to their 50-50 goal after starting in 2018. The run in Soldotna marked their 25th run in 25 states.

They came to Alaska specifically to race in this event, they said, and couldn’t have hoped for better.

“Every area we visit, this is kind of our center focal piece — running in the state,” Terry Giles, who ran the 5K race in 24 minutes, said. “It’s just been a beautiful environment and beautiful engagement.”

He ran with his wife Marilee (30:34) and son Marcus (30:31). With them were Nora (31:40) and Tom Smith (31:52). The oldest of the group was 60 years old and the youngest was 11.

“This is a beautiful state,” Tom said. “We want to try and see as much as we can in the six days that we’re here.”

Aubrey Curl (20:29) and Abby Minnick (21:42), a cousin duo from North Carolina and Michigan, said they were traveling through Alaska and decided to register for Saturday’s race.

They finished first and second for the women’s 5K division.

McCormick said her No. 1 priority as the race coordinator is the safety of the runners, and promoting fitness in the outdoors.

“Our whole thing is supporting healthy lifestyles in our community,” she said.

Women 5K results:

1. (20:29) Aubrey Curl; 2. (21:42) Abby Minnick; 3. (23:39) Savannah Larsen; 4. (24:21) Rebecca Slone; 5. (24:40) Shyne Hood; 6. (24:46) Ashlea Riley; 7. (25:20) Erica Cowart; 8. (25:49) Summer Minnick; 9. (27:51) Jenna Buchanan; 10. (27:53) Denise Titus; 11. (28:08) Joy Hobart; 12. (28:11) Amanda Ritchie; 13. (28:18) Shelby Wagoner; 14. (28:23) Sabrina Dement; 15. (28:40) Maria Higgins; 16. (29:17) Lauren Barthle; 17. (29:18) Abigail Brown, 18. (29:30) Chantal Reese; 19. (29:45) Helena Jagielski; 20. (30:23) Heather Bardarson; 21. (30:34) Marilee Giles; 22. (30:45) Kylie Lorms; 23. (30:47) Susie Pline; 24. (30:52) Jordan Ruffner; 25. (30:53) Carson Dement; 26 (31:00) Marina Sears; 27. (31:24) Jane Eveland; 28. (31:25) Kassandra Hendricks; 29. (31:25) Ann Walls; 30. (31:40) Nora Smith; 31. (31:43) Halee Jordan; 32. (31:46) Leah Simpson; 33. (32:00) Ayake McComb; 34. (32:18) Marissa Lapinskas; 35. (32:48) Lana Perry; 36. (34:06) Julie Craig; 37. (35:07) Jamie Beever; 38. (37:46) Terri Cowart; 39. (37:53) Mary Chapman; 40. (38:11) Sonya Wagoner; 41. (38:48) Theresa Dendy; 42. (39:40) Kathryn DiPanfilo; 43. (40:57) Elijah Hood; 44. (41:58) Julie Powell; 45. (42:05) Kodie Mace; 46. (42:28) Morey Garnet; 47. (42:37) Kathy Hobart; 48. (42:38) Sarah Douthit; 49. (42:53) Sara Bundy; 50. (43:01) Piper Bundy; 51. (43:01) Becky Hart; 52. (44:30) Dotty Brown; 53. (44:31) Doris Palancia; 54. (44:45) Carolina Brooks; 55. (44:53) Becky Whaley; 56. (44:58) Jaclyn Bergamino; 57. (45:06) Irma Peterson; 58. (46:31) Taryn Lewis; 59. (46:42) Valerie Weathers; 60. (47:31) Sara Moore; 61. (47:32) Linda Loranger; 62. (48:02) Maria Gacel; 63. (48:37) Penny Furnish; 64. (51:03) Vincent Palancia; 65. (53:16) Kerri Leavitt; 66. (55:20) Angie Brown; 67. (55:29) Tammy Kincaid; 68. (55:31) Trena Richardson; 69. (55:58) Connie Vann; 70. (56:01) Mel Chapman; 71. (56:40) Kyra Helin; 72. (56:44) Sarah Hansen; 73. (56:46) Mary Graham; 74. (58:38) Connie Wheat; 75. (58:39) Connie Goltz.

Men 5K results:

1. (19:21) Tytus Gilbert; 2. (19:27) Ben McPhail; 3. (20:18) Sean Babitt; 4. (24:00) Terry Giles; 5. (24:05) Carl Kincaid; 6. (24:05) Blake Gaylord; 7. (25:40) Wyatt Dement; 8. (27:52) Jon Buchanan; 9. (28:22) Kristopher Buchanan; 10. (29:16) Stan Brown; 11. (29:21) Richard Bartolowits; 12. (29:26) Jason Craig; 13. (30:31) Marcus Giles; 14. (31:37) Sam Spencer; 15. (31:41) Ben Hanson; 16. (31:41) Elliot Hanson; 17. (31:52) Tom Smith; 18. (32:41) Jeff Smith; 19. (34:36) Joshua Lewis; 20. (35:05) Rob Weathers; 21. (38:11) Scott Anderson; 22. (42:52) Sullivan Bundy; 23. (44:04) Stephen Hart; 24. (44:22) Ken Brooks; 25. (44:26) Dwight Brown.

Women 10 mile results:

1. (1:18:27) Cheyanne Eisenmann; 2. (1:22:07) Mia Ridlon; 3. (1:22:07) Elaine Ridlon; 4. (1:25:55) Ashley Lang; 5. (1:29:12) Monica Dupree; 6. (1:30:49) Kate McGuckin; 7. (1:31:08) Carey Quiring; 8. (1:33:30) Rachel Allmendinger; 9. (1:33:45) Lindsay Hallam; 10. (1:34:18) M. Christine Dindia; 11. (1:35:23) Chisato Johnson; 12. (1:39:42) Kathy Trinh; 13. (1:43:59) Maggie Nelson; 14. (1:45:43) Janelle Hames; 15. (1:47:51) June Stuckey; 16. (1:49:39) Tamara Hibberd; 17. (1:50:52) Nicole Clark; 18. (1:54:54) Kristen Downum; 19. (1:58:29) Dani Akana.

Men 10 mile results:

1. (1:02:00) Pedro Ochoa; 2. (1:07:46) Dan McIntosh; 3. (1:12:43) Tyler Hippchen; 4. (1:14:28) Daniel Griffin; 5. (1:19:03) Sorin Sorensen; 6. (1:25:03) George Wright; 7. (1:31:26) Cory Nounnan; 8. (1:31:27) Kenai Dindia; 9. (1:33:43) Roy Stuckey; 10. (1:33:46) Steve Hallam; 11. (1:34:33) Giuseppe Forni; 12. (1:35:56) Nathan Nelson; 13. (2:01:03) Hans Schlegel.

Reach reporter Camille Botello at camille.botello@peninsulaclarion.com.

Ben McPhail finishes second in the men’s 5K race at the Kenai Watershed Forum’s Run for the River in Soldotna Creek Park on Saturday, June 12, 2021. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)

Ben McPhail finishes second in the men’s 5K race at the Kenai Watershed Forum’s Run for the River in Soldotna Creek Park on Saturday, June 12, 2021. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)

Susie Pline finishes her 50th run in her 50th state at the Kenai Watershed Forum’s Run for the River in Soldotna Creek Park on Saturday, June 12, 2021. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)

Susie Pline finishes her 50th run in her 50th state at the Kenai Watershed Forum’s Run for the River in Soldotna Creek Park on Saturday, June 12, 2021. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)

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