Miller, Smith capture first Firecracker crowns

By on July 6, 2011

By: TODD RUTH Review Sports Editor, Staff Writer

His lack of familiarity with the course didn’t seem to slow down Brad Miller.

The 23-year-old former Manheim Township and Syracuse University star, competing in his first Ephrata Firecracker Run, blew up the course as well as the competition Monday on his way to the overall 2011 title.

Miller crossed the finish line in a blistering 26:29.55, well ahead of last year’s champion and Clay resident Daryl Weaver, who took second with a time of 27:02.83. Cocalico grad John Wallace (27:18.24) was third while Adam Webber (27:49.90) took fourth and Cocalico alum Andrew Friesma (28:05.45) placed fifth. Ephrata grad Brad Sweigart (28:13.30), Brad Slaughter, Evan Sandt, Steve Owens and John Martin rounded out the top 10.

"It was a good course," Miller said of his initial Firecracker jaunt held in muggy 90-degree temperatures. "It was a lot hillier than I thought it was going to be but overall it was good."

Miller, who recently graduated from Syracuse but still lives in upstate New York, was home for a short visit over the holiday and decided to run the race. He said he made his move to distance himself from the field about a mile into the race.

"I went out with a couple other guys for the first mile or so," Miller said. "Then I decided to pick it up a little bit and ran first the rest of the way."

Miller, who estimated he runs between 95 to 100 miles per week, said he plans to return to the New York area this week and will enter some higher stakes races over the rest of the summer.

"I’m actually going back to Syracuse this week and then over the next month and a half, I would say there are several more highly competitive races up in the Buffalo, Rochester areas. I’ll do them over the summer and hopefully I can do well and win some prize money. That would be really nice."

While Miller was running away with the overall crown, 30-year-old Elizabeth Smith of Hershey was also in cruise control on her way to her first Firecracker women’s title.

A native of Hershey, Smith, who first competed in the Firecracker back in her high school days, seemed quite at home on the course, finishing in a winning time of 31:36.77 that placed her 18th overall. Smith finished almost two minutes ahead of Ephrata High School graduate Vanessa Andes, who finished second in 33:22.14. Katherine Harvey was third (34:30.11) while Mimi Newcomer (35:01.42) placed fourth and Ronda Seymour (35:12.13) fifth.

"(The race) was great," said Smith, who is studying to become a doctor at the Hershey Medical Center’s School of Medicine. "It was nice because it’s definitely a tradition in Ephrata. Everyone is out on the streets watching and cheering you on, hosing you down… It was really nice."

Smith, who finished second a year ago, said she wasn’t aware of any challengers and just focused on running her race.

"As a woman it’s kind of nice because you are not really aware (of the challengers)," she said. "I had men nearby, and there was one guy who was kind of going back and forth with me which was fun. I wasn’t really sure how far back they were. I just tried to keep pushing."

An unofficial total of 601 runners– one of the bigger fields in recent history– completed the five-mile trek during the 34th annual race, which included the Ephrata Linear Trail as part of the course for the third-straight year.

For a complete list of finishers from the 34th annual Ephrata Firecracker Run, turn to page B-3.

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