For Colonial Road Runners races with multiple events, the more interesting stories usually come from the longer event, since that is always the competitive Grand Prix race, while the shorter race is more for fun.
But at last Saturday’s fourth annual World Class Freedom Run 8K and 5K, the most interesting angles came from the shorter of the two races, the 5K.
Both races started at 9 a.m. at the Lois Hornsby Middle School and their sports complex on Jolly Pond Road. Runners entered the adjacent Freedom Park asphalt bike path after a half mile.
The 5K had a turnaround on the center trail of the park, while the 8K went around the Botanical Gardens loop, and to the end of the park entrance road and back to the school.
There were 122 finishers in the combined 8K/5K run/walk, and an additional 17 finishers in the one mile fun run.
The threat of rain kept many of the pre-registrants away, but race morning was overcast or with just a light refreshing rain, and the heavier stuff held off until later. The races were organized by and benefited the World Class Gymnastics Parents Association, with race director Karen Schenck, and the gymnastics organization operated by younger sister and former national-class gymnast Tami Harrison.
In its four years, the 5K has had faster winning times every year for both men and women. For the men, Conor Sokolowsky won in 2015 as a 14-year-old with a time of 19:59. He improved by two seconds to win the next year in 19:57.
Last year, Will Tikiob, 15, of Jarrettsville, Maryland, broke that race record by 1 ½ minutes with a time of 18:20. Last Saturday, Tikoib, now 16, demolished his own record with an eye-opening 16:32 on the hilly 5K course.
Tikiob is one of the faster high school cross country runners in Maryland for his 2A division and #1 man on his North Harford High team. He had a 16:56 cross country 5K best as a sophomore, and has already run 16:32 as a junior, the exact time he ran for the road course at Freedom Park.
Last year he finished 10th in the national AAU cross country championships.
On the track he ran 4:43 for the 1,600 meters his sophomore year. His father, David Tikiob, age 54, ran a fast 22:26 to win the 50+ group. The family visits Busch Gardens every year in mid-October, and that trip coincides with the Freedom Park race.
Second and third overall in the 5K were Tikiob’s teammate, Evan Alred, 16, of Jarrettsville, in 20:51, and Carter Cannon, 24, of Williamsburg in 21:47.
Similarly, the women’s 5K has improved every year. Tricia Levy, 50, of Williamsburg won the inaugural race in 2015 in 26:44, and gymnast Brynn Torry, 9, of Yorktown was more than a minute faster the next year with her 25:35.
Laura Nielsen, 39, of Yorktown smashed that record by three minutes with her 22:32 in 2017, and Svetlana Goncharova, 20, of Williamsburg improved that record another half minute with her 22:00 winning time last Saturday.
Tamara Pelletier, 44, of Yorktown was second in 22:29, and defending champion Nielsen, 40, was third in 23:18.
Goncharova, from Ukraine, is a senior at Williamsburg Christian Academy and involved in their running team. She burst upon the Williamsburg road racing season the previous Saturday with a second-place overall finish at the Run for the Hills 10K, and an adjusted 10K time of 46:49. She lives with the Pettus family in Williamsburg.
Benjamin Pettus, 42, won the 50-59 division of the 5K Saturday, and his son Nate, 9, won the 10-and-under division.
Ben Pettus, a medical doctor and radiologist for Riverside, explained Svetlana’s situation by email, “She grew up in Eastern Ukraine in the Luhansk region, currently war torn. My wife and I met her after several of the children were evacuated at the very beginning of the war. We were in Ukraine a few years ago to adopt another young lady, now our daughter Rebekah, in a similar situation. We also tried to adopt Svetlana but were denied on a technicality — she was too old by four days relative to our paperwork. We brought Rebekah home and set to work to secure a student visa for Lana. Two years later, against all odds, she secured a three-year student visa. Her hope is to learn athletic and coaching skills that she can someday take back to her home country in order to inspire and help the next generation.
“Both girls face and are gradually overcoming tremendous language barriers and educational obstacles. Running is Lana’s new passion. When she first arrived in America she was very interested in soccer, rollerblading and juggling. Because she is older than most of the high school students, she became discouraged that she could no longer participate in several leagues. Coach Gibbons encouraged her to try running. Running has become a great source of inspiration and encouragement to her. She does not have the security of adoption papers or a long-term visa, but she has the gift of a committed American family that is trying to help her achieve her dreams.”
In the 8K, Roger Hopper, 27, of Norfolk won in 27:09, followed by Jason Miller, 41, of Williamsburg (30:20) and Logan St. John, 24, of Newport News (30:40).
Emily Honeycutt, 27, of Newport News won for the women in a PR 34:09, followed by Williamsburg sisters Sorenna Jean, 16 (35:16) and Cannon Jean, 13 (40:41).
Breaking race age group records were Miller (men 40-44) and Cannon Jean (women 14-and-under), along with Isaac Lamprecht, 12, of New Kent (14-and-under, 32:49), Chris Novakoski, 36, of Chesapeake (35-39, 32:51), Robert Whitaker, 59, of Yorktown (55-59, 31:10), Patricia Travis, 67, of Williamsburg (women 65-69, 47:46), and Laura Liechti, 56, of Williamsburg (race walk, 59:24).
On an age-graded basis, a dozen were over the 70% regional-class level in the 8K, led by Whitaker (83.84%), Paul Pelletier, 53, of Williamsburg (31:24, 79.10%) and Hopper (78.08%). Tikiob excelled in the 5K with an 82.84% age grade.
Platt is president of Colonial Road Runners.