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Headland cruises to win in Eye of the Tiger 5K First-year race draws 500, benefits Naumanns
By: BRUCE MORGAN & TODD RUTH Review Staff, Staff Writer
Phil Headland didn’t sound like someone who was overly thrilled with his final time in the first annual Eye of the Tiger 5K race on Thanksgiving morning in Denver.
The results, though, could not have been any better.
Having built a 30-second lead on his next closest competitor, the 2012 Warwick High School grad easily ran away with top honors, crossing the finish line in 18:22. Peter Clark, 33, took home the runner-up spot in 18:52, followed closely by Darrell Rosenberger in 18:57.
The women’s winner wasn’t pushed either, as Steph Grimm, who placed sixth overall, opened up an an advantage of nearly two minutes on her way to winning the title in 19:34. Jess Gockley was second among the women’s runners in a time of 21:03.
It was Headland, however, who set the early pace and never looked back.
"I was OK with (my time)," said the 18-year-old Headland, whose fastest 8K time this fall with the Falcons’ cross country team was 28:23.52. "The first mile I took it out real hard and then just kinda looked around and saw there was no one with me, so I just kinda cruised it in from there."
Cruise control was still good enough to outleg a field of 488 finishers, a remarkable turnout for the first-year event. Proceeds benefited the family of Jim Naumann, who passed away suddenly in March.
"It was a really good turnout," Headland said. "I was really surprised at how many people showed up."
Headland showed up despite the fact that he hadn’t been running a whole lot since his freshman cross country season ended at Messiah College in early November. Many of his friends headed to Harrisburg to compete in the Tree for Hope 5K, but with Headland expected for an early Thanksgiving dinner with family, the Eye of the Tiger 5K was a perfect option for him. And with the indoor track and field season starting just a few days later at Messiah, it gave him an opportunity to stretch his legs.
"It was just kind of a race to do just for fun," said Headland, who also plans to run outdoor track and field in the spring for the Falcons. "I had been on my two-week break, so I hadn’t really run in awhile. (But) I went there believing I would probably win the race … just because of the way my cross country season had gone in college this year."
The 18-year-old Headland certainly took off from the starting line like his turkey dinner was getting cold, running a first-mile split of 5:25. It was never close again after that. And even despite his big lead, Headland didn’t feel like he was pushing his limit.
"Not at all," he said. "I thought that was a comfortable pace to go out at. That’s about what I’ve been going out in for my races at Messiah. (From there), I just went in the mode of looking back every so often and making sure I had a decent lead on everybody."
His lead, in fact, was never challenged as the runners covered the flat, fast course in pleasant fall conditions.
"(The course) was real nice – it had a mix of macadam trails and grass," Headland said. "At the time I ran, it was a little chilly, but I just dressed warmly."
The race was born out of love from Nauman’s friends, colleagues and teammates at BFit Now in Denver.
Prior to his death in March, Naumann lost 100 pounds as a participant in BFit’s Biggest Loser program.
It was a program that literally made him a changed man.
"He really blossomed," Anne Hess, BFit’s owner, said of Naumann’s transformation. "He became such an icon in the community. He was very big in his church, and a leader, so many people knew him."
And one of the final events during that program was a 5K on Thanksgiving held on the grounds of his beloved Cocalico High School, one which his teammates and friends decided to continue in his honor.
"It was a way to showcase that you can do this if you believe you can," Hess said. "The sense of accomplishment they’d feel, especially on Thanksgiving morning, to do an event like this… He did it with his family, and he just loved it."
"We wanted to do something to support his family and to honor him," Hess continued. "His favorite song was, ‘Eye of the Tiger,’ which we played non-stop. It was in repeat mode on the loud speakers of the stadium…It was awesome."
It was also quite successful. In fact, Hess said they had planned on a turnout of about 300 to 350 or so participants with all proceeds slated to go to Naumann’s family.
Hess was pleasantly surprised when the numbers exceeded 500 total runners on a cold Thanksgiving morning.
"We knew there would be a lot of interest because everybody knew Jim," Hess said. "We didn’t anticipate 500 but I was not surprised. Jim was so instrumental in BFit. He recruited so many people because he was a community icon. He talked to everybody…Everybody knew him. It was just a moving, moving day."
While Hess and the other race organizers are still figuring out the total monies to be donated from the Thanksgiving Day race, Hess said she anticipates it to exceed the $10,000 mark.
She said plans are already in the works to make this race a yearly tradition, helping to continue to support the Naumanns.
And there is still time to donate to this year’s total. Anyone who is interested in making a donation may send a check payable to: The Jim Naumann Memorial Fund, 22 Denver Road, Denver, Pa., 17517.
For complete race results, turn to pages B-6 and B-10. More RACE, page B-3