The 15th annual Rotary Unity Run had four first-time winners Saturday at Tsalteshi Trails.
The 5-kilometer winners were a pair who attended Kenai Central High School as freshmen. Samuel Roberts took the overall win at 20 minutes, 29 seconds, while Summer Foster was the first woman, and fourth overall, at 23:15.
The 10-kilometer race saw Kenai’s Sean Goff cross first at 46:37 and Sterling’s Sondra Stonecipher take the top women’s spot, and fifth overall, at 59:41.
The race is put on by the Kenai River Rotary of Soldotna, in conjunction with the Tsalteshi Trails Association. It features 10K, 5K and 1-mile courses, although nobody opted for the shortest option on a cool but bright day that was perfect for running. The 5K race had 38 runners, while 11 turned out for the 10K.
For Stonecipher, the run was part of the big summer that already included the Mount Marathon Race in Seward on July 4.
“I was using this as a training run for Resurrection Pass,” she said.
Unfortunately for Stonecipher and others who have trained hard for the 50- and 100-mile races on the Resurrection Pass trails, the event announced on its website Thursday that the races, scheduled for Aug. 9 and 10, have been canceled due to smoke from the Swan Lake Fire.
Stonecipher had done the Angel Creek 50 miler last year in the Interior and did back-to-back 20-mile training runs at Tsalteshi on Tuesday and Wednesday to get ready for the Res Pass Ultras, which said it will be back next year.
She has been doing the Unity Run for years, going back to when it was on the paved bike path between Kenai and Soldotna, and was happy to get a win.
“It feels great,” she said. “I wasn’t expecting it at all. Sometimes, it’s all about who shows up.”
Goff used his past experience at Tsalteshi to secure the men’s win. Tsalteshi is known for its rugged hills that can break a runner down, and Goff was running there for only the third time this summer.
“I’ve run here in the past, so I know when the hills are coming,” he said. “I just slowed down and caught by breath a bit.”
Goff even had enough energy to catch a group of 5-kilometer runners right at the finish line.
“It was just a challenge, a little trick I used, to keep me going,” he said. “I was close to Supermaning it (at the finish line), because my legs were pretty dead.”
Foster, who will be a sophomore at Kenai Central this year, was on Kenai’s state champion cross-country squad as a freshman. Her new coach suggested the race so she showed up.
“I just wanted to do a race, but this wasn’t my best,” she said. “This was just kind of a fun run.”
While Foster said she wasn’t going all out Saturday, she did mention she has trained a lot for the upcoming season.
Roberts won’t be joining her on the trails because he is moving with his family to California this week. He may or may not make the Salmon Run Series on Wednesday, but if Saturday was his swan song at Tsalteshi he goes out a winner.
“After the first lap, I wasn’t sure,” he said of his victory. “I took three steps down the wrong trail and had to backtrack.”
Rachel Nash, the past president of the Kenai River Rotary Club of Soldotna, said the event serves as the main fundraiser for the group, with Central Peninsula Hospital and State Farm Nancy Field serving as main sponsors. This is the third year Kenai River Rotary Club of Soldotna has held the event at Tsalteshi Trails.
Rotary is an international service-based organization, but does plenty of projects here in the community.
Kenai River Rotary Club of Soldotna has a bunch of projects, like maintaining ARC Lake, Books for Babies at Kenai Peninsula College, a Guatemalan literacy program, a reusable bag bin at Fred Meyer and the Soldotna Safeway, and mental health first-aid training at the Soldotna library.
Kathy Heindl, who took over as president July 1, said other projects are memorial benches for the Kasilof Historical Society and a tree-planting at Swiftwater Park.
The group meets Tuesdays at 6:30 p.m. at Siam Noodles, for those who are interested.
15th annual Rotary Unity Run
Saturday at Tsalteshi Trails
5 kilometers — 1. Samuel Roberts, 20 minutes, 29 seconds; 2. Joshua Foster, 22:44; 3. Sean Babitt, 23:09; 4. Summer Foster, 23:15 (1st woman); 5. Ryan Kapp, 26:28; 6. Carter Cannava, 27:17; 7. Tom Seggerman, 27:52; 8. Sara Lucas, 28:20; 9. Garrett Queen, 31:58; 10. Wyatt Queen, 52:01; 11. Ann Marie Rudstrom, 32:22; 12. Amanda Ritchie, 32:33; 13. Anna Cannava, 32:48; 14. Peter Cannava, 32:49; 15. Sheilah-Margaret Pothast, 33:15; 16. John Pothast, 33:16; 17. Terri Cowart, 37:06; 18. Parker Cannava, 37:20; 19. Harold Rudstrom, 38:25; 20. Katrina Cannava, 38:25; 21. Kandi Barrus, 40:13; 22. Denali Tucker, 40:17; 23. Elaine Larson, 40:18; 24. Whitney Hitchcock, 41:17; 25 (tie). Penny Queen, Ryan Queen, Larissa Arbelovsky, 46:38.
28 (tie). Connie Goltz, Nancy Courtwright, Connie Wheat, 47:30; 31. Sara Dennis, 48:05; 32. Mason McMillin, 48:24; 33. Kim McMillin, 48:25; 34. Jennifer Tollackson, 50:34; 35. Maria Calvert, 50:47; 36. Kristin Morrow, 50:48; 37. Amy Baxter, 50:48; 38. Lance Spindler, 53:57.
10 kilometers — 1. Sean Goff, 46:37; 2. Kevin Lauver, 51:51; 3. Rustin Hitchcock, 55:07; 4. Carl Kincaid, 59:25; 5. Sondra Stonecipher, 59:41; 6. Danny Anders, 1:01:18; 7. Sammy Anders, 1:01:19; 8. Rachel Babitt, 1:06:17; 9. Nadia Anders, 1:11:03; 10. Lanie Hughes, 1:11:42; 11. Maria Sweppy, 1:26:32.