Harriger, Wirfel claim first ‘Cracker crowns

By on July 6, 2016
Adam Harriger (front) begins to pull away from three-time champ Daryl Weaver as he makes the turn onto the Ephrata Rail Trail. Harriger went on to win his first Firecracker title Monday with a winning time of 27:00.1, Photo by Stan Hall.

Adam Harriger (front) begins to pull away from three-time champ Daryl Weaver as he makes the turn onto the Ephrata Rail Trail. Harriger went on to win his first Firecracker title Monday with a winning time of 27:00.1, Photo by Stan Hall.

Adam Harriger is an accomplished runner with Ephrata ties. However, until Monday, he had never competed in the Ephrata Firecracker Run.

Well, the 22-year-old Chambersburg native certainly made the most of his initial appearance in the race. He grabbed the lead from three-time champion Daryl Weaver in the second mile and never relinquished it as he cruised to his first Firecracker victory.

Harriger, whose mother Ginny is a 1982 graduate of Ephrata High School, covered the five-mile jaunt through the streets of Ephrata in a time of 27:00.1 to easily defeat Weaver, who was the runner-up with a time of 27:31. Cocalico High School graduate Andrew Friesema (27:53.3) was third while Ephrata teacher Ashley Sollenberger (28:09.4) was fourth and EHS graduate Brad Sweigart (28:41.4) took fifth. Rounding out the top 10 were: Michael Urban (29:06.7); Mickey Molchany (29:08.8); Alex Epler (29:11.5); Evan Sandt (29:13.6) and Caleb Sneller (29:19).

Leah Anne Wirfel turns a corner during her victory Monday. Photo by Steve Heydt

Leah Anne Wirfel turns a corner during her victory Monday. Photo by Steve Heydt

On the women’s side, another first-time champion was crowned as 23-year-old Leah Anne Wirfel (12th overall) of the Johnstown area turned in a time of 29:21.5 to nail down her first Firecracker title.

Manheim Central grad Danae Peters placed second with a time of 30:52.4, while Andrea Kramer (34:17.7), Abby Allgier (34:37.2) and Jess Gockley of Stevens (34:55.8) took third, fourth and fifth respectively.

Harriger, who recently graduated from Elizabethtown College where he competed on the school’s track team, said he was neck and neck with Weaver through the Ephrata square before taking the lead for good on the North State St. portion of the race, heading up to Pine St.

“I led after two miles and then kind of just hung on from there,” he said. “I was with Daryl for about a mile and a half and then I kind of took over a little bit.”

Harriger, who recently moved in with his grandmother in Ephrata and works in Lancaster, said he enjoyed the annual Fourth of July race, which was run in cooler than normal temperatures.

“This was the first year I’ve been here,” he said immediately following the race. “I heard it was competitive. I liked it. I’ve been running around here for about a month now. It’s definitely a lot hillier than where I’m from. I’m just kind of getting acclimated to the area, but I enjoyed it.”

So too did Wirfel, who was visiting her sister in Mt. Joy for the holiday and decided to do the Firecracker. A graduate of Highpoint University in North Carolina where she was a member of the women’s Division One track team, Wirfel recently completed her first year in the Slippery Rock Physical Therapy program.

Monday, she said she led from start to finish.

“I pretty much took it from the gun,” she said. “I didn’t really notice any other women around me throughout the whole thing so I think I was pretty much alone for the whole race.”

Like Harriger, Wirfel said she enjoyed her first Firecracker experience and loved the community support for the runners..

“The course was well blocked off which is always nice when you don’t have to worry about cars and that kind of thing,” Wirfel said. “And the course was kind of tough. There were some uphills and some grades so that made it a little tough. But there were a good amount of people cheering throughout the route so that always helps a lot. It was fun.”

A total of 539 runners completed the 39th edition of the race, which for the third-straight year, started and ended in Thomas Grater Park.

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