WHEELING - Having spent the first 18 years of her life in Wheeling, you would think Kelly Mortakis would have had a good handle on what to expect out of Saturday's Ogden Newspapers 5K Run and Walk for Health.
"Really, I had no idea," said Mortakis, a Wheeling Central graduate and a member of the Marshall University track and cross country teams. "I actually looked at who entered and there weren't many girls in my age group, so I thought maybe I would win that."
That she did. And then some.
Crossing the finish line in 19:45.02, Mortakis took home the women's 5K Run title, finishing less than a minute ahead of West Alexandria, Pa., resident Sherri Martin, 49, who clocked in at 20:25.24.
"I had no idea if there was a girl ahead of me or not," said Mortakis, 20, who while with the Maroon Knights finished eighth in the state in cross country as a senior, helping lead her club to OVAC and regional titles. "I run with my former cross country coach at Wheeling Central, and she told me to go. So I went for it.
"I had no idea that I would be the first girl."
The cross country coach she speaks of is renowned local runner Dr. Heather Wayt, 37, who finished third in a time of 20:30.89.
Lowell, Ohio, resident Donna Graham, 61, was the first female 5K walker - and the second walker overall - to cross the line, coming in with a time of 31:40.69. Dunfries, Va., walker Eva Mlyenkova, 20, and Wheeling's Julianne Szymialis, 35, finished second and third, respectively.
Rounding out the top 5 were locals Diana Tucker, 38, of Wheeling, and Mary Morris, 56, of Martins Ferry.
On the men's side, it was a repeat performance for Bridgeport, W.Va., native David McCollam, 32, who clocked in at 15:29.56. That's 13 seconds faster than last year.
"I didn't have the greatest winter training - I didn't put in as many miles as I wanted to, and let life get in the way a little bit," McCollam said. "I felt pretty good out there.
"It was a nice race and we had a little pack."
That pack got scarce, McCollam said, when it hit the trails. He had an idea that was where he wanted to make his move on Kansas native Aaron Yoder, who a night earlier took home the Ogden Mile crown. Saturday, though, he had to settle for second in a time of 15:54.71.
"The miles weren't marked so I'm not sure exactly, but I would say for at least a mile and a half I was running with (Yoder)," McCollam said. "We were running together, but basically when we got on the trail I kind of separated from him.
"I knew it wasn't very windy, obviously. But there was still a little bit of a headwind, and I knew that wind wouldn't be there - it would be at your back.
"It's not a huge factor, but it does make a little bit of a difference.
"On the trail I felt pretty good, so I decided to throw a surge in and try to separate from him a little bit."
McCollam, who runs for Team Run Free, an ode to John 8:36, which reads: "So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed," didn't look back from there.
"My heart is to just spread the message that true freedom comes with a relationship with Christ. Jesus loves you and has a plan for your life no matter where you've been or what you've done," McCollam said.
Wheeling's Logan Wojcik (17:00.41) was third, followed by St. Clairsville's Matt Riffle, 18, a former winner, at 17:34.56, and 17-year-old Wheeling resident Michael Mauck (17:38.07).
Barnesville's Carl Kondrach, 39, was the top walker at 26:02.36. He was followed in the men's category by Wheeling's Terry Whitecotton, 57, at 33:21.41, and Anthony Purpura, 61, with a time of 33:33.50. Rounding out the top 5 were Bob Morris, 56, of Martins Ferry (34:07.33), and St. Clairsville's Don Zalenski, 65, at 34:24.15.