Running: Craighead defends Nittany Valley Half Marathon crown

Last year, the Nittany Valley Half Marathon was a target race for kinesiology grad student Dan Craighead, and he nearly broke the six year old course record in his win.

This year, he wasn’t sure what kind of shape he was in going into the race, but still came away with a win on Sunday. His time of 1 hour, 12 minutes, 52 seconds over the 13.1-mile course was more than a minute slower than his 2012 time, but put him comfortably ahead of second-place finisher Tommy Rudowsky in the 30th running of the half marathon.

Craighead said he didn’t think his race was affected by frigid temperatures.

“I didn’t really notice the cold once I got racing,” he said.

Women’s winner Meira Minard, of State College, said the cold didn’t bother her, either.

“It was actually really nice for this particular event,” she said. “There was hardly any breeze.”

Minard finished in 1:28:55, 30 seconds off of her 2012 winning time. She was a minute and a half ahead of Jaimie Wright of State College (1:30:24). Just behind Wright was Jo Ohm of State College in 1:30:43.

Rudowsky, who runs club cross country at Penn State, took more than two minutes off his fourth place time from last year to place second in 1:16:05. Previous overall winner Jacob Loverich of State College took third in 1:16:52.

Chris Sheftic, 52, of Hollidaysburg won the men’s masters and placed sixth overall in 1:19:29. Kathryn Koetje-Simin, 42, of State College took the women’s masters title in 1:37:01.

Despite the cold temperatures and the icicles hanging from the faces of bearded runners, few participants were complaining of being cold after climbing the notorious hill that makes up the last mile of the course. Runners climb from Houserville up Orchard Road, Park Avenue, and Porter Road to finish at the Centre County Visitor Center.

Craighead said the difficult course suited him. “I really like uphills,” he said. “I pulled away when it turned uphill.”

New race director John Wilcock said that aside from a theft of cups and t-shirts from one of the aid stations, things went smoothly for his first year.