Ephrata’s Lefever claims first Firecracker title

By on July 5, 2017
Ephrata’s Zach Lefever (right) battles with Duncan Hopkins of Lancaster for the lead heading down Main St. Tuesday morning in the 40th annual Ephrata Firecracker Run. In the end, Lefever won his first overall title while Hopkins was runner-up in the race. Photo by Missi Mortimer

Ephrata’s Zach Lefever (right) battles with Duncan Hopkins of Lancaster for the lead heading down Main St. Tuesday morning in the 40th annual Ephrata Firecracker Run. In the end, Lefever won his first overall title while Hopkins was runner-up in the race. Photo by Missi Mortimer

Alyssa Kennedy of Lancaster wins women’s crown

Growing up in Ephrata, Zach Lefever has dreamed of winning the Ephrata Firecracker Run.

And Tuesday, with about a 10-second lead on Lancaster’s Duncan Hopkins and about 600 meters to go, Lefever could taste it.

All he had to do was finish it off, but that turned out to be easier said than done.

“I don’t know what happened… I just started to black out and my legs were just giving out on me,” he said of the finish.

Fortunately, the recent EHS grad and soon-to-be Pitt freshman was able to gather enough air and strength to carry him to the finish line. Lefever broke the tape first in a time of 26:50.2, and his dream officially became a reality.

“My freshman year was the last time I ran this, and I really don’t remember how I did,” Lefever said after receiving some medical attention following his win. “Ever since then I’ve been getting better and better and better. I think the town has been following me with my running, so it’s always been my dream to be able to win this in front of the Ephrata crowd.”

Hopkins took second place, finishing some nine seconds behind Lefever with a time of 26:59.9. Adam Harriger, the 2016 champion, placed third (27:24.2) while the rest of the top 10 included: 4. Harrison Schettler (27:31.5); 5. Daryl Weaver (27:34.5); 6. John Wallace (27:40.6); 7. Alex Smith (27:57.6); 8. Mike Monaghan (28:23.8); 9. Andrew Friesema (28:27.1); and 10. Christopher Myers (28:31.2).

Alyssa Kennedy of Lancaster bypasses a water station during Tuesday’s Firecracker. Kennedy went on to win the women’s title. Photo by Missi Mortimer

Alyssa Kennedy of Lancaster bypasses a water station during Tuesday’s Firecracker. Kennedy went on to win the women’s title. Photo by Missi Mortimer

On the women’s side, another first-time champion was crowned as 24-year-old Alyssa Kennedy of Lancaster held off Donna Hodge of York to win in her race debut. The former University of Delaware runner turned in a winning time of 32:12.6 to finish almost 25 seconds ahead of Hodge, who took second with a time of 32:37.2).

“I thought Brenda was going to catch up to me.,” Kennedy said. “She’s a strong runner. But this feels really good. I really liked the course, especially the people handing out the water. It was nice.”

Rounding out the top 10 on the women’s side were: 3. Abby Allgyer (35:00.0); 4. Haley Schaller (35:31.7); 5. Shirah Graybill (36:09.1); 6. Elizabeth Doherty (36:09.5); 7. Rebecca Shertzer (36:12.9); 8. Mary Campbell (36:15.3); 9. Andrea Kramer (36:27.2); and Alyssa Fedorshak (36:38.0).

Lefever, at 18, is believed to the youngest winner in the 40-year history of the race and one of the few Ephrata natives who have won it.

He said he gained his advantage on Hopkins in the latter portion of the race.

“It was me and about four or five other guys in the early lead…for the first two miles I’d say,” he remembered. “Then when we got on top of Pine St., me and Duncan started to pull away. It was the both of us for about two-and-a-half (miles) and then when we hit State St., I started to pull away.”

While Lefever was one of the top high school distance runners in the state this past year, earning PIAA medals in both cross country and track, he said the distance was more than he was accustomed to doing.

“This is the furthest distance I’ve ever raced,” he said. “I’ve only raced 5Ks. I’m going to Pitt, and I’ve been doing my training for Pitt, and it’s just been miles, not speed, so this is the fastest I’ve gone since states in track and field like a month and a half ago. Our first mile was like a five-flat, so it was definitely quick, and a lot quicker than I’m use to and a lot further than I’m used to. But I’ll take it. It’s definitely a dream come true for me.”

Kennedy said she took the lead early but never felt comfortable with Hodge in her rear view mirror. In the end, the 24-year-old was able to hold on to capture her first title.

The winner of the one-mile Fun Run was Nicholas Keller (6:43.6), who edged Parker Loose.

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