Ten-kilometer race winner Bill Wood approaches the finish line Saturday at the Rotary Unity Run at Tsalteshi Trails.

Ten-kilometer race winner Bill Wood approaches the finish line Saturday at the Rotary Unity Run at Tsalteshi Trails.

Racers wind through trails at Rotary Unity run

The topsy-turvy events that marked Saturday’s Soldotna Rotary Unity Run began right from the opening gun.

Almost immediately after the field of 28 runners took off from the start line on the Skyview Middle School track, the five-mile and 10-kilometer, or 6.2-mile, runners diverged and took off for separate courses on the Tsalteshi Trails.

Competitors in the shorter race, however, mistakenly flowed onto the outgoing race trail, putting them into a reverse course that had them going the unintended direction.

“I didn’t even know it was backwards,” admitted five-mile winner Melanie Sexton. “It felt right.”

Sexton of Nikiski still came out on top to claim the overall victory in the five-miler in 50 minutes, 53 seconds, while Kenai’s Eric Trevino prevailed over Bud Sexton, Melanie’s father, by 54 seconds among the five-miler men’s field with a time of 53:01.

Sexton said she was racing with her father in preparation for a big end-of-summer race, the Kenai River Half Marathon, and Saturday’s result was a solid indication that she will be fast come September.

Bill Wood of Kenai reached the finish line first to win the 10-kilometer race in a time of 40 minutes, 13 seconds, beating runner-up Benjamin McGarry by 32 seconds. Kellie Arthur of Soldotna won the women’s 10K in 46:53.

Wood said he tailed a group of leaders for much of the race before making his move with less than two miles to go.

“That last mile and a half, I got (the leaders) on the hills,” he said. “I knew they would push it.”

Like the shorter race, the longer event had some racers questioning the course. The race, billed as a 10K distance, took runners up the Rabbit hill, usually taken as a downhill, along the Wolf Loop, down the Bear Loop, connected up with Wolverine before ascending the grueling Goat uphill.

However, instead of running down the Goat downhill and back up the Bear uphill, the course deviated along a shortcut and back onto the Wolf Loop before finishing along the grass soccer fields and to the finish line.

Wood’s smartphone had the distance measured at 5.63 miles, well short of the 6.2-mile distance.

“I tried to slow down to run my pace,” said third-place finisher Sean Goff. “That didn’t work.”

Wood said he was using Saturday’s race as a tune up for the Lost Lake race in August, a 16-mile trail run popular with Alaska runners, and added that he ran a 3:25 at the Mayor’s Marathon earlier in the month in Anchorage.

“I’ve averaged about 700 miles in the last year,” Wood said.

Rotary Unity Run

Tsalteshi Trails

5 mile race — 1. Melanie Sexton, 50:51; 2. Eric Trevino, 53:01; 3. Bud Sexton, 53:55; 4. Kelly McDeviitt, 55:58; 5. Kandi Barcus, 56:59; 6. Chris Morin, 1:03:27; 7. Terri Cowart, 1:03:39; 8. Stephanie Kobylarz, 1:07:58; 9. Karen Murray, 1:08:16; 10. Kelli Hicks, 1:14:19; 11. Stephen Hart, 1:33:20; 12. Yvonne Oren, 1:35:19; 13. Johna Beech, 1:35:21.

10 kilometer race — 1. Bill Wood, 40:13; 2. Benjamin McGarry, 40:45; 3. Sean Goff, 41:18; 4. Matti Silta, 42:42; 5. Kellie Arthur, 46:53; 6. Kevin Lauver, 47:38; 7. Sondra Stonecipher, 49:05; 8. Jay Merritt, 49:21; 9. Jeff Helminiak, 49:52; 10. Kelly Merritt, 56:22; 11. Chisato Johnson, 59:44; 12. Alyssa Frothingham, 1:01:39; 13. Bobbi Lay, 1:04:14; 14. Brys Twidwell, 1:10:01; 15. Maria Sweppy, 1:12:31.

Kelly McDevitt approaches a water station during the five-mile race Saturday at the Rotary Unity Run at Tsalteshi Trails.

Kelly McDevitt approaches a water station during the five-mile race Saturday at the Rotary Unity Run at Tsalteshi Trails.

Matti Silta (256) leads the pack out to the course Saturday at the Rotary Unity Run at Tsalteshi Trails.

Matti Silta (256) leads the pack out to the course Saturday at the Rotary Unity Run at Tsalteshi Trails.

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