WHEELING - For many, the Ogden Newspapers 20K Classic Run and Walk is about more than setting personal records.
It's about triumph, sacrifice, doing your best and friendships.
Everywhere you looked Saturday morning near the start/finish line at the corner of 14th and Main streets, there were handshakes, smiles and old friendships rekindled.
Photo by Scott McCloskey
Hundreds of runners make their way down Main Street in downtown Wheeling Saturday morning as they participate in the 33rd annual Ogden 20K Classic.
In the middle of it all were two people who know each other very well - Mohammed Awol and Alemtsehay Misganaw - the big stars of the 33rd annual event.
Awol blistered the competition in capturing the Men's Open Division Crown.
The Ethiopian broke the tape in 1:06:43, more than 5 minutes faster that runner-up Rikki Hacker (1:11:45).
Awol and Hacker, who similarly took second place in the Ogden Mile on Friday night, were first and second during most of the 12.4-mile race. But when Awol crossed the finish line, the gap between one and two was the biggest in race history.
"I could barely see him in front of me," Hacker, the top American finisher, said.
John Brockenbrough, 50, of Murraysville, Pa. was third overall in 1:14:45, while Akron, Ohio's Mike Seymour was fifth in 1:15:14. Brockenbrough was also tops in the Masters and Grand Masters divisions.
Another Ethiopian, Rahab Ndungu, was sixth in 1:15:33, while Al Casagranda, of Lower Burrell, Pa., was seventh in 1:16:29.
Wheeling Central Catholic High School graduate Ryan Gundling was the top local finisher, taking 12th overall in 1:18:58. Valley Grove's Sean Flanagan was one spot back, clocked at 1:20:13.
The road to victory wasn't as easy for Misganaw, who claimed the Women's Open Division crown in 1:14:53. Maria Busienei was the second women to cross the finish line finishing eighth in 1:16:52.
"It's special," Misganaw said. "I work so hard and this was a good day."
Misganaw had finished second and fourth in her last two races and she said a victory in Wheeling will do much to help her confidence as the season goes on.
Awol and Misganaw train and travel to many races together.
Last November, Awol won the Richmond (Va.) Marathon, while Misganaw captured the half-marathon at the same event.
Sarah Flament, of Poland, Ohio was the top American female finisher, crossing the tape 10th in 1:17:40.
Bridgeport's Christine Lewis was the top local female finisher, finishing 40th overall in 1:30:15.
Saturday was also a good day for the Ironmen, a group of 15 runners who have competed in every race since its inception.
Steve Habursky, who underwent hip replacement last year, said everything went well for him in his return to the fabled course.
Thirty-three years ago some of us didn't know each other," he said of his Ironmen counterparts. "We might only see each other once a year, but we all try to connect with each other. It's pretty neat."
Tammy Slusser, of Monroeville, Pa. was the female Masters winner with a time of 1:23:23.
Wheeling's own Becky Droginske was the female Grand Masters champ, crossing the finish line in 1:34:36.
Don Slusser, also of Monroeville, pa., was the male 20K Walk winner in a time of 1:58:12. The women's 20K Walk winner was Kathy Ervin of Quaker City, Ohio in 2:11:38.
Sixteen-year-old Matt Riffle, a St. Clairsville resident and Bellaire St. John Central student, finished first in the 5K Run with a time of 17:33. Sheila Natho, of Dallas, Texas, was the female 5K Run champ in 20:17.
Chris Perun and Dale Landefeld, both of Barnesville, teamed up to win the 20K Relay in 1:28:59. The duo of Diane Basich and Wayne McCracken, of Bridgeport was second in 1:29:12, while the husband and wife team of Rebecca and Bill Ihlenfeld, of Wheeling, was third in 1:30:26.