By Rick Palsgrove
The first thing one noticed when attending the 12th annual Dr. John Bender 5K Classic on July 20 was the large number of physically fit people present. The second was the searing heat and humidity.
But the hot weather did not deter 262 runners from tackling the race course, which started and finished at Canal Winchester High School.
“This is our highest participation rate to date,” said Race Director Karla McKeon.
The men’s division winner was Jacob Thompson, of the Otterbein University cross country team, with a time of 15:34.
The women’s division winner was Sarah Biehl of the Columbus Running Club, who shattered the Dr. John Bender 5K Classic women’s division course record of 17:47 with her time of 17:01.
When told she broke the record, Biehl smiled and said, “Really? I like the course. It’s flat with no long straight aways. The race felt like it went by pretty quick.”
She said she was OK with her performance considering the heat.
“I gave myself pep talks during the race,” said Biehl. “I run marathons and half marathons so I kept telling myself this race is just three miles.”
Thompson said he was happy with his time, which was one second longer than the 15:33 he ran in winning the race last year.
“It’s a good course,” said Thompson. “It rolls a little and you can get a rhythm.”
Asked how he dealt with the heat, Thompson said, “I kept my form strong. The heat can take energy out of you, so I broke the race up in my head.”
Other runners in the race included members of the Canal Winchester High School and Middle School cross country teams as well as runners of various ages from around the area.
One of those runners was Jamie Bliven, 59, of Canal Winchester, who finished with a time of 25:25.
“It’s a mental thing,” said Bliven of running. “Race day always brings out the desire.”
Following the race Bliven said, “The heat was tough,” but he still finished strong.
Proceeds from the race benefit the Canal Winchester high school and middle school cross country programs. McKeon said the race raised about $4,000 this year. The money will be used by the Canal Winchester Cross Country Boosters for things such as warm up suits, meals, and awards for the cross country athletes.
“Cross country offers both physical and mental challenges and benefits for student athletes,” said McKeon. “It’s a life time sport.”
Canal Winchester Indians cross country head Coach Michelle Klamorick said the Dr. John Bender 5K Classic is good experience for the school’s cross county team members.
“It gives our runners a taste of competition and helps them to learn how to battle and handle the heat and weather,” said Klamorick.
Klamorick said she feels the Indians’ boys cross country will “do well this season.”
“Our depth on the boys team is strong,” said Klamorick. “Our top two runners are seniors Drew Kotwicz and Reece Klamorick. We have a lot of good juniors, too, such as Michael McKeon.”
Klamorick said the Indians’ girls cross country team this year is “a work in progress” with much potential.
“Our top girl runners are juniors Allena Klamorick and Bonnie Butler,” said Klamorick. “The season will depend on how well our freshman runners perform. It’ll be a fun season and the team has been working hard all summer.”
About Dr. John Bender
The Dr. John Bender 5K Classic honors the memory of Dr. John Bender, who passed away in 2013, at age 71 after a battle with leukemia
Bender was a member of Canal Winchester City Council for 17 years and also served as coach for the Canal Winchester High School boys track team and girls and boys cross country teams for more than 20 years where he earned several coach of the year awards.
His Canal Winchester cross country and girls track teams collected 12 Mid-State League titles, 8 district titles, and 3 regional championships. The boys cross country team finished as state runner-up in 2006 and in 2007 finished third in the state.
A 1960 graduate of Canal Winchester High School who earned earn a doctorate degree from Ohio State University, Bender is also a member of the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame
Visit www.drbender5k.com information.