Morgan Ekemo runs to victory in the 5-kilometer race at the Run for the River on Saturday, June 8, 2024, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Morgan Ekemo runs to victory in the 5-kilometer race at the Run for the River on Saturday, June 8, 2024, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Run for the River nears prepandemic participation levels

The Run for the River, put on Saturday by the Kenai Watershed Forum at Soldotna Creek Park, has nearly climbed back to prepandemic numbers.

There were 229 runners this year, with Elizabeth Hardie winning the women’s 10-mile race, Lee Frey winning the men’s 10-mile race, Morgan Ekemo winning the women’s 5-kilometer race and Mikey Stone winning the men’s 5-kilometer race.

In 2019, the race had 235 runners before going all virtual due to the pandemic. The race had 161 finish in 2022 and 172 finish in 2023.

Sara Aamodt, race organizer and development coordinator for the Kenai Watershed Forum, said she was surprised by how many signed up.

Aamodt said recovering from the pandemic is only part of the reason for the increasing popularity of the race, which raises money for all of the Kenai Watershed Forum’s programs.

“We also had a lot of new staff in the last two years,” Aamodt said. “So it’s also been a mix of us figuring out how to promote it.

“We had an awesome partnership with the hospital this year — with Central Peninsula Hospital — and their employees got to run for free. We’re really grateful for that.”

Aamodt said the Kenai Watershed Forum wants to keep the momentum going for the Salmon Run Series. That series is five 5-kilometer runs at Tsalteshi Trails, plus a kids race before each 5K race, that runs Wednesdays from July 10 to Aug. 7.

The proceeds from that series also go to Kenai Watershed Forum programs.

“This year, we’re trying a new tactic,” Aamodt said. “We’ve got a couple discount codes. If people sign up for the first race, they got 10% off. If they ran Run for the River, they get 15% off. We might try and work something out with the Tsalteshi Trails Association as well.

“We’re just trying to get the excitement back and have people in the community run around and enjoy the outdoors.”

Aamodt thanked the 30 volunteers that came out to help with the Kenai River Fair and the Run for the River, and the 30 members of the Peninsula Oilers baseball team who came out Friday to help with event setup.

Stone won the men’s 5-kilometer race in 20:57. He has a seasonal position with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as an invasive species technician.

The Kenai National Wildlife Refuge works closely with the Kenai Watershed Forum, so Stone said some friends asked him to do the Run for the River and he couldn’t refuse.

He said the win surprised him for several reasons. First, Stone was a sprinter in high school. Next, he grew up in California, where the competition in track and field is intense, especially at the state level.

“Those are the people I’m watching in the NFL these days,” Stone said.

He still remembers being at state for a relay race and marking his handoff zone with tape. He said Adoree’ Jackson, who played for the Tennessee Titans from 2017 to 2020 and the New York Giants from 2021 to 2023, was in the race.

“He stole my tape,” Stone said. “Whenever I see him on TV, I’m like, ‘Hey everyone. That guy stole my tape.’”

For the past two years, Stone has been taking seasonal positions in Hawaii and Alaska. Last summer, he was in Southeast Alaska.

As a conservationist, Stone said he’s lived in places like Australia, Maine and Hawaii.

“I love it,” he said of Alaska. “It’s hard. I can’t think of anywhere that can compete. I’ve been around Colorado. I’ve been around other places.

“Honestly, it’s even making it hard for me to go back home to California. I was in Tahoe last weekend, which is so beautiful, don’t get me wrong, but I don’t think it has anything compared to Alaska.”

Ekemo was right behind Stone at 21:03. Unlike Stone, Ekemo had a victory at the state track meet, winning the 3,200-meter run in 2003 for Chugiak.

She went on to run on scholarship for Virginia Tech and the University of Colorado.

“I didn’t want to give it up, so I just kept running and entering local races,” Ekemo said.

She lives in Eagle River, but decided she wanted to come down to the Kenai Peninsula just to do the race.

Ekemo added she has a thought from one Alaska 3,200 champ to another.

“I’m rooting for Allie Ostrander to make the Olympics,” Ekemo said of the 2015 Kenai Central grad, who founded the Salmon Run Series. “She has a really good chance.”

Ostrander has qualified for the Olympic trials in the 3,000-meter steeplechase.

Frey ran 1:08:10 to win the men’s 10-mile race, while Hardie’s time of 1:21:35 was tops among women.

“There was a guy that was hanging with me at the start for a couple of miles,” Frey said. “I pushed for a little while and he started to fall back. I just held my pace.”

Frey won the half marathon at the Kenai River Marathon in 2022, but his running life right now is being animated by the Boston Marathon.

In November, Frey, 40, hit a Boston Marathon qualifying time by running personal-best 3:02:38 at the Marshall University Marathon in West Virginia.

“My brother’s wedding was the week before back in Ohio, so it was on a vacation,” Frey said.

Running a qualifying time does not necessarily get Frey into the Boston Marathon. Now he must register in September and hope that too many qualifiers with a faster time in his age group also don’t register.

The race is April 21, 2025.

“I’ve got to wait until September and see how it goes,” Frey said. “If I get in, I’ll be training through the winter.”

Run for the River

Saturday in Soldotna

WOMEN

10-mile race — 1. Elizabeth Hardie, 1 hour, 21 minutes, 35 seconds; 2. Dani Schroeder, 1:25:02; 3. Jennifer McDougal, 1:26:52; 4. Kristen Lee, 1:33:16; 5. Rachel Neuendorf, 1:33:19; 6. Dani Akana, 1:33:27; 7. Haley Burns, 1:33:35; 8. Kathy Trinh, 1:37:05; 9. Marissa Lapinskas, 1:44:58; 10. Josephine Lloyd, 1:45:01; 11. Carey Quiring, 1:45:44; 12. April Erhardt, 1:53:52; 13. Brittany Andree, 1:57:07; 14. Joanne Kovach, 2:16:10; 15. Elizabeth Viens, 2:32:45.

5-kilometer race — 1. Morgan Ekemo, 21:03; 2. Sara Larsen, 23:40; 3. Sarah Pribbenow, 24:35; 4. Tamlyn Silva, 25:01; 5. Molly Copple, 25:25; 6. Alexis McDonald, 25:28; 7. Rachel Frederickson, 26:09; 8. Tatum Rozak, 26:13; 9. Chelsea Eisenberg, 26:18; 10. Nicole Warren, 26:24; 11. Deandra McLane, 26:36; 12. Viorica Thompson, 26:44; 13. Fiona Boze, 27:30; 14. Donica Nash, 27:32; 15. Dotty Brown, 27:44; 16. Chelsea Holsonbake, 27:53; 17. Erica Cowart, 28:03; 18. Shiloh Zichko, 28:13; 19. Teresa Rafferty, 28:50; 20. Jenna Jensen, 28:50; 21. Kimmie Sutton, 28:50; 22. Sarah Hobart, 29:00; 23. Joy Hobart, 29:21; 24. Trina McCandless, 29:34; 25. Kylie Smith, 29:46.

26. Gina Smith, 29:48; 27. Anya Lloyd, 29:58; 28. Naomi Frederickson, 29:59; 29. Greta Freeman, 30:06; 30. Cassie Wood, 30:21; 31. Kara Hawley, 30:46; 32. Ashlynn Moretti, 31:04; 33. Elizabeth Swaby, 32:20; 34. Destiny Booth, 32:53; 35. Julie Craig, 32:54; 36. Alicia Levinao, 32:56; 37. Row Dirks, 33:15; 38. Tracy Wagner, 33:22; 39. Jenna Fabian, 33:43; 40. Tiffany Twait, 34:33; 41. Amy Twait, 34:34; 42. Erica Nichols, 34:56; 43. Mahealani Neely, 35:00; 44. Christina Dambacher, 35:15; 45. Rosemarie Waters, 35:23; 46. Piper Bundy, 35:23; 47. Mary Chapman, 35:24; 48. Ruth Frederickson, 35:24; 49. Elaina Lloyd, 35:25; 50. Naomi Zichko, 35:25.

51. Felicity Smith, 35:27; 52. Kylie Morris, 36:01; 53. Delaine Richards, 36:17; 54. Andrea Boeshart, 36:25; 55. Mariah Ross, 36:26; 56. Danielle McElwain, 36:27; 57. Julie Cisco, 36:28; 58. Guangyuan Ding, 36:43; 59. Cassie Boehmler, 36:57; 60. Alyssa Wood, 37:26; 61. Ava Lloyd, 37:38; 62. Sienna Falk, 37:39; 63. Kristina Hamilton, 37:54; 64. Adela Papendieck, 38:01; 65. MJ Loveland, 38:28; 66. Remy Hough, 39:01; 67. Caileigh Wilson, 39:37; 68. Diana Honkola, 39:37; 69. Jane Adkins, 39:52; 70. Cindy Miller, 39:53; 71. Kerri Leavitt, 40:00; 72. Karen Scoggins, 40:51; 73. Virginia Orth, 40:51; 74. Alicia Mclelland, 41:13; 75. Amy Wilson, 41:35.

76. Briana Gonzalez, 41:36; 77. Maria Sweppy, 41:46; 78. Phyllis Erickson, 42:02; 79. Mary Parmentier, 42:18; 80. Naomi Chivers, 42:18; 81. Yoshie Yamaoka, 44:13; 82. Savannah Culbertson, 44:58; 83. Ashleigh Herr, 45:12; 84. Alyssa Herr, 45:14; 85. Kathy Hobart, 45:59; 86. Diana Grant, 46:06; 87. Stella Culbertson, 46:11; 88. River Ritz, 46:13; 89. Terri Cowart, 47:15; 90. Aimee Cassidy, 47:18; 91. Kayori Huston, 48:22; 92. Ava Russell, 48:23; 93. Faina Reutov, 48:38; 94. Lotus Booth, 48:39; 95. Jayme Huston, 48:39; 96. Sydney Krager, 49:12; 97. Alecia Bradford, 49:13; 98. Ariel Haakenson, 50:15; 99. Wendy Hansen-Newby, 50:18; 100. Sarah Douthit, 50:37.

101. Sara Bundy, 51:47; 102. Amy Frapp, 51:47; 103. Marianne Dailey, 51:50; 104. Sharon Isaak, 51:50; 105. Jacqueline Smith, 51:47; 106. Katrina Cannava, 52:10; 107. Heather Rinke, 52:10; 108. Sheri Boggs, 52:10; 109. JoVonna Schlosser, 52:51; 110. Natasha Reutov, 53:13; 111. Jenipher Young, 53:29; 112. Lizzie Duntley, 53:55; 113. Nickii Duntley, 53:55; 114. Courtney Matiaco, 53:55; 115. Serena Bowen, 54:09; 116. Miley Mau, 54:19; 117. Harper Bross, 54:20; 118. Jamie Auldridge, 54:34; 119. Shena Carroll, 54:34; 120. Lauren Carroll, 54:34; 121. Inger Deede, 54:34; 122. Mindy Lorring, 54:34; 123. Ruby Easley, 55:01; 124. Riza Keener, 55:01; 125. Maria Iverson, 55:13.

126. Haylee Morris, 55:43; 127. Emily Faerber, 55:53; 128. Mary Starrs Armstrong, 56:20; 129. Trena Richardson, 56:20; 130. Heather Bross, 56:20; 131. Cori Randall, 56:20; 132. Michelle Higuchi, 56:31; 133. Linda Loranger, 58:08; 134. Sara Moore, 58:08; 135. Amanda Sorrels, 58:39; 136. Paula Standefer, 58:39; 137. Heather Curtis, 1:00:58; 138. Jenelle Mau, 1:00:58; 139. Sophie Nedley, 1:00:58; 140. Mallory Pacheco, 1:01:00; 141. Andrea Kracke, 1:02:14; 142. Diana Myer, 1:02:12; 143. Mel Chapman, 1:03:44; 144. Connie Vann, 1:03:44; 145. Mylah Belluomini, 1:07:46; 146. Jessie Jamison, 1:08:09; 147. Noelle Belluomini, 1:08:09; 148. Peggy Dye, 1:11:52; 149. Connie Wheat, 1:12:50; 150. Nancy Courtright, 1:12:50; 151. Connie Goltz, 1:12:51.

MEN

10-mile race — 1. Lee Frey, 1:08:10; 2. Niko Zlotnik, 1:12:52; 3. Lyle Swallows, 1:13:42; 4. Paul Wertanen, 1:16:12; 5. Mark Barbee, 1:18:37; 6. Todd Murdoch, 1:20:07; 7. Don Connelly, 1:20:19; 8. Patrick Metzger, 1:20:54; 9. Paul Wagner, 1:22:37; 10. Eric Thomason, 1:23:41; 11. Austin Brafford, 1:24:34; 12. Andrew Fisher, 1:27:13; 13. Bradley Bible, 1:30:50; 14. Brennen Jackson, 1:34:02; 15. Beau Larson, 1:34:08; 16. Kevin Bross, 1:36:21; 17. Brent Johnson, 2:03:45; 18. John Viens, 2:32:45.

5-kilometer race — 1. Mikey Stone, 20:57; 2. Dwight Brown, 21:24; 3. Brenner Musgrave, 21:53; 4. Caleb Frederickson, 23:26; 5. Calvin DuMond, 23:32; 6. Scott Sumner, 24:51; 7. Jackson Douthit, 25:27; 8. Trent Dodson, 26:00; 9. Jeff O’Bryant (virtual), 26:17; 10. Tom Seggerman, 26:17; 11. Reese Ross, 27:24; 12. Ezra Falk, 28:28; 13. Ryan Culbertson, 28:29; 14. Joseph Bahr, 28:45; 15. Keegan Bross, 28:50; 16. Aaron McEwen, 29:10; 17. Jason Craig, 29:33; 18. Bill Wood, 30:20; 19. Hunter Morrison, 31:03; 20. Hans Schlegel, 31:43; 21. Mark Rowley, 31:44; 22. Dean Wewtzer, 31:47; 23. Victor Levinao, 32:56; 24. Alan Thye, 33:00; 25. Frank Alioto, 33:03.

26. Brian Krager, 34:32; 27. Gunner Duvall, 35:20; 28. Tyler Smith, 35:27; 29. David Lorring, 35:29; 30. Cooper Frapp, 35:38; 31. Wyatt Lorring, 36:10; 32. Richard Hallmark, 37:12; 33. Eric Wood, 37:25; 34. Jon Papendieck, 38:02; 35. Ben Wishnek, 43:59; 36. Sahvin Reutov, 48:38; 37. Conner Morris (virtual), 48:48; 38. Robert Schlosser, 52:51; 39. Jesse Duntley, 53:55; 40. Robert Grant, 54:17; 41. Brent Waldrop, 55:02; 42. William Wilson, 55:57; 43. Ralph Curtis, 56:31; 44. Landon Mau, 56:31; 45. Stephen Kendrick, 1:08:09.

Lee Frey and Niko Zlotnik (501) lead the pack at the start of the 10-mile race at the Run for the River on Saturday, June 8, 2024, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Lee Frey and Niko Zlotnik (501) lead the pack at the start of the 10-mile race at the Run for the River on Saturday, June 8, 2024, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Mikey Stone runs to victory in the 5-kilometer men’s race at the Run for the River on Saturday, June 8, 2024, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Mikey Stone runs to victory in the 5-kilometer men’s race at the Run for the River on Saturday, June 8, 2024, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

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