Running: Local athletes beat heat in Arts Fest races

A.J. Kelly of Altoona was happy to see the return of the Arts Fest 10-mile race on Sunday.

“I’m more of a long-distance runner, so it played to my strengths,” said Kelly, a past winner of the Nittany Valley Half Marathon.

Despite taking a wrong turn near the beginning of the course, Kelly’s winning time of 58 minutes, 22 seconds gave him a comfortable 4-minute margin over the next runner.

A high school runner from St. Marys won the women’s race. Kennedy Weisner, 17 and a rising senior at Elk County Catholic, finished in 1:05:52, also with a comfortable lead.

It was Weisner’s first time running at Arts Fest.

“It was challenging,” Weisner, the 800- and 1,600-meter winner at the PIAA Track and Field Championships in May, said of the course. “But I liked it.”

Andy Cunningham of Port Matilda was second in 1:02:33 and Thomas Santangelo of Stony Brook, N.Y., was third in 1:02:41. In the women’s race, Liz Novack took second in 1:11:27 followed by Allison Machnicki of State College in 1:11:41.

The 10-miler was a new addition to the Arts Fest races for 2013, but as race director Dave Eggler told runners at the start, “This used to be the only race.”

When the first race held in conjunction with the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts was run in 1975, it was a 10-miler starting at the bottom of Seibert Road outside of Bellefonte and finishing in front of Old Main. Retired Penn State coach Harry Groves, who designed that original course, was on hand to witness the first Arts Fest 10-miler in three decades.

Groves said the race was born during a meeting of the Nittany Valley Track Club, now the Nittany Valley Running Club. The club held a marathon, now the Nittany Valley Half Marathon, in the winter and wanted to put on a summer race. It was subsequently shortened to a 10K in the 1980s, and a 5K was added in 2005.

In 2006, the race was named in memory of Sue Crowe, a local runner and five-time Arts Fest race winner. Crowe’s husband Bob instigated the return of the 10-miler to the race, and he and several other family members ran.

It was a good day for the Crowe family. Bob Crowe ran the 10-miler, taking second place in his age group. His sons, both of whom run at Susquehanna University, took the top two spots in the 10K, with Paul, 21, finishing in 34:28 to edge out John, 19, just a few seconds back in 34:36.

Michael Garraway of Mechanicsburg was third in 35:33. In the women’s 10K, previous Arts Fest 5K winner Maria Snyder of Woodbury was first in 44:26, followed by Marissa Fritz of Blue Bell in 46:19 and 15-year-old Brier Youngfleish of Grand Junction, Colo., in 46:49.

Troy Fraley of Kalispell, Mont., won the 5K in 16:23. Though his time was dominating Sunday, Fraley, a recent high school graduate who will run for Gonzaga next year, said it was far from his personal best 14:45. “We don’t have humidity like this in Montana,” Fraley explained.

Penn State grad student and previous Arts Fest 10K winner Lauren Philbrook clocked 18:37 to win the women’s 5K and take fourth overall.

Constantin Schreiber was second in the 5K in 17:57, followed by Costas Maranas, 45, of State College in 18:14. The next three 5K finishers were all women, with Philbrook followed by Kady Weisner of Saint Marys in 18:43 and Troy Fraley’s older sister Heather in 19:10.

The Fraleys were visiting the Williamsport area for a family reunion, and several family members came to State College to run the races.

The 5K was the most popular distance, with more than 350 finishers ranging in age from 6 to 83, but the 10-miler proved to be a popular distance, with 170 registered runners and 144 finishers despite hot and humid conditions.

Tom Cali, who won the men’s 50-59 age group in the 10-miler, had one word at the finish line: “Hot.”

Bob Crowe had more words: “That was the longest 10 miles I’ve ever run.”

Gina Ikenberry of State College didn’t let the heat bother her, though. “It was great,” she said after finishing the 10-miler and taking second in the women’s 40-49 age group. “I love that distance.”