A blazing 5K

SEBRING - Who says Florida doesn't have seasons?

Nearly 150 runners braved chilly weather Saturday morning and kept warm by running the Highlands County YMCA's Fire 5K.

Presented by the MidFlorida Credit Union, participants draped in clothes better suited for the Iditarod wound their way through the county fairgrounds before finishing the race on the track at Firemen's Field.

Even with the frosty temperatures, though, Race Director Greg Harris couldn't have been more pleased with the turnout.

"It's a really awesome event," Harris said, who is also the Y's CEO. "A lot of groups do 5Ks, but this is pretty unique. We have our course go through the fairgrounds and around the sports complex. And we really wanted to increase exposure for the Pig Fest. So we partnered with Charlie Taylor and the Sebring Firemen to increase exposure and I think we've really raised awareness."

Harris added that he hopes the 5K becomes an annual event.

"We doubled our numbers from last year," Harris said. "We want to do this year after year, and from the response from today, I think we'll be able to do that."

Harris also issued a special thank you to the 5K's sponsors.

"We had a lot of great volunteers and sponsors that we couldn't have done this without," he said. "It was a great partnership." The sponsors included All About Lawns, Air & Electrical Services, Bevis Construction, Inc., The Blue Lagoon, Edward Jones-Alan Holmes, Heacock Insurance, Prescott Lawn & Pest Control, Sebring Custom Tanning, Taylor Oil, Inc., Wicks, Brown, Williams & Co., CPA, CrossFit Sebring, Highlands Independent Bank, the Alan Jay Automotive Network, Southwood Garage Doors & Screens, and the Highlands Regional Medical Center.

Meanwhile, out on the track, Leonel Ayala won the 5K with a blistering time of 15 minutes and 51 seconds. Sean Brown was the Male Masters winner, finishing with a time of 18:14, while Michael Stewart won the Male Grandmasters class in 23:11.

Other notable finishes on the men's side included Zachary Vanfleet, who captured the boys 10 and under group in 22:58. Zander Durastanti was second in 23:25 and Bud Cox finished third in 27:10.

Only two runners competed in the boys 11-14 age group. Zachary Durastanti finished ahead of Jordan Laurence, completing the course in 20:32 to Laurence's 28:00.

Sebring's Malcolm Holdman was the last runner to register for the race, signing in just as the runners were about to depart from the starting line. The last-minute arrival had little effect on his time, though, as Holdman easily won the 15-19 class in 17:22. Spencer Allen was second in 21:26 and Nathan Franklin finished third at 22:39.

Javarius Sanders captured the 20-24 age group in a sizzling 22:27. Brandon Gunn was second at 29:34 and Justin Chin placed third in 33:25.

Donnie Hart was the lone runner in the 25-29 class. He completed the course in 44:12.

Former Blue Streaks athlete Eric Zwayer won the 30-34 age group, edging Matt Griffin. Zwayer finished in 26:39 while Griffin came in at 26:42. Terry Owens was third at 34:55.

The 35-39 age group was one of the larger classes on the men's side. Jeremy Freeze bested nine runners for first place, finishing in 20:13. Bert Cox was second at 21:19 and Brian Vanfleet was third in 24:22.

Ken Bazzel won the 40-44 class at 20:47. Loel Reinhar was second in 25:33 and Paul Blackman was third in 26:06.

David Stewart, the sole competitor in the 45-49 group, finished the course in 28:10.

Charlie Taylor, president of the Sebring Firemen, Inc. won the 50-54 class, finishing in 26:06. Barry Jones was next in 31:32 and Mike Kirsch was third at 42:02.

In the 55-59 class, Bill Jarrett was first at 24:32. Richard Percy was second in 27:13 and Todd Foster was third at 32:08.

There were five male participants over 60 who competed. Derrick Bartlett (33:30) won the 60-64 class while Kenny Vincent (38:47) was third; Don Hattery (36:32), Cliff Ables (34:59), and Joe Bird (49:04), were the only runners in the 65-69, 70-74, and 80-plus classes, respectively.

On the women's side, Regan Davenport sprinted in at 20:21, finishing as the Overall Female Winner. Jennifer Rhynes was the Masters Winner at 21:08 and Joanne Merkle was the Grandmasters champion, finishing with a time of 36:01.

Junior speedster Zoe Wortinger won the 10 and under class, breezing through the course in 22:41. Shayla Cox was second in 24:49 and Hailey Bryant was third at 29:06.

In the 11-14 group, Savannah Oldfield finished first in 23:03. Tori Allen was second in 24:42 and Rachel Sharp finished third in 24:51.

Nicole Munoz trotted in at 32:45 to win the 15-19 class. Cassie Hare was next at 37:00 while Alex Hornick was just behind her at 37:14.

Only three runners competed in the 20-24 group. Rosa Martinez was first at 38:22, followed by Heather Hendrix in second at 42:42, while Danielle Worden was third in 44:12.

Julie Fells and Wendy Torres were the only two participants in the 25-29 class. Fells edged Torres for first place, finishing in 34:31 to Torres 34:42.

In the 30-34 group, Amy Zwayer matched her husband with a first place finish, capturing the class in 24:32. Bonny Revell was next at 27:26 while Kaylie Lindsey was third in 30:23.

Fatima LaGrow won the 35-39 class, coming in at 23:54. Laura Vanfleet was second in 25:34 and Theresa Juliano finished third in 26:41.

Lori Ashworth won the largest class of the day, capturing the 40-44 age group in 27:46. Lori Little was second in 28:08 while Brandi Rankin was third at 29:35.

In the 45-49 class, Lisa Celentano finished first in 24:07. Dana O'Rourke was second in 29:16 and Tammy Williams came in third at 30:40.

Maureen Spinler-Kracik won the 50-54 age group, finishing with an impressive time of 21:27. Lisa Foster followed her in second place at 25:41 and Jude Stewart was third in 28:48.

Brenda Rickert (27:19) captured the 55-59 age group, edging Debi Marine (30:33) by three minutes. Marcia Percy was third in 35:03.

Three female runners over 60 competed. They were the sole runner in each of their specific age groups. Marge Feduchka finished in 47:21 in the 60-64 class. Julie Creed galloped in at 46:20 in the 70-74 class. Carrie Bird completed the course in 51:42 for the 75-79 class.

Timing and results were provided by Doug and Arin Morton of Central Florida Striders.