For the second straight Saturday, Aaron Stevens found himself as the top finisher at a local 5K race.
After winning the Run By the River in Russell last week, the 19-year old Grayson native picked up a victory at the 17th annual Super Quik 5K in Flatwoods on Saturday with a time of 16:53.
It’s the third time Stevens ran the race, and with third- and second-place finishes under his belt, he was happy to finally reach the top.
“It feels awesome,” Stevens said. “I have them lined up in my room. Third, second and I can finally put the first place one up there.”
The former Elliott County standout will be running at Western Kentucky next season in cross country and track events.
Stephens finished ahead of Bradley Cherry, who was last year’s winner and finished with a time of 17:21.
After picking up two wins in consecutive events, Stephens said it’s good to finally see all the training he’s putting in for college paying off.
“I’ve put in 50 miles a week the past few weeks,” Stephens said. “I’m going to try and bump that up over the next couple of weeks. It just feels good to see that my training is working.”
While Stephens was one of many who came from a high school cross country background, Missy Taylor’s background was a little less conventional.
The 45-year old from Ashland was the top women’s finisher, and said she’d only been running for a few years.
She only ran her first 5K five years ago when she turned 40.
“I never ran track in high school,” Taylor said. “I guess I’ve run for years, but I decided to run my first 5K when I turned 40. That was the first one and that’s when I really started running more.”
As with Stephens, Taylor also won the women’s division 5K at last week’s Run by the River.
Taylor, who finished 22nd overall with a 20:40 time, said that after running to stay in shape she wanted to get more active in racing.
“It was just natural for me,” she said. “When I got on the treadmill it just got to the point where I enjoyed it. It just relieves a lot of stress for me.”
Mandy Musick was behind Taylor with a time of 21 minutes and Russell junior Kara Coldiron finished with a time of 21:05.
One of the best aspects of the Super Quik 5K is people from all ages and backgrounds sharing the roads of Russell. Officials said around 315 runners took part in the event.
That included Randall Watts, who at 58 was the oldest top-20 finisher Saturday. Watts took 17th overall with a time of 20:26.
The Hindman native said he’s finished in the top five before and hasn’t missed a Super Quik 5K since its inception.
“I just love to run,” Watts said. “I’ve met a lot of good friends this way ... I’m just blessed I guess. I still work at it, I work as hard as I ever did.
“It doesn’t come as easy as it used to when you were in your 20s and 30s.”
Riding along with Watts, 74-year old Bill Francis makes the trek down to Flatwoods from Mousie — about a 100-mile drive.
As he grows older, Francis said making the trip with buddy Watts, and seeing friends made from years of running, keeps him coming back.
“I think a lot of it is the comradery,” Francis said. “We enjoy the trip down here. That’s why we wake up at four and leave by 5:30 — we just enjoy seeing the friends we’ve made from other races.”
Another thing that keeps bringing Francis, Watts and many of the others back is the race itself.
“The folks that put it on are just fabulous,” Francis said. “They go out of their way to break their neck and help you.”
That’s what keeps bringing back 81-year old Richard Balmer. Balmer, from German Hollow outside Ironton, said the Super Quik 5K is the only race he’s run every year since its start.
And he credits the people who coordinate the event.
“And the goodie bag,” Balmer laughed. “But the people are great, I love the people who run it.”
More impressive is that Balmer is not only coming off open-heart surgery in 2010, but he’s had a battle with liver stones.
He credits still being here to all the running he’s done over the past 30 years with his wife.
“The doctor told me if I hadn’t been in as good of shape as I was, I wouldn’t be here today,” Balmer said.
While he now has to run/walk, he still likes getting out there on the road. He credits his daughter, Velda, for getting him into to running.
“I started when my daughter wanted to run track when she was in eighth-grade,” Balmer said. “She’s even won this event twice, she even won it last year.”
KYLE HOBSTETTER can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2658