Runners look to have a blast on new Firecracker course

By on July 1, 2014

It certainly isn’t your father’s Firecracker, but there is plenty of excitement heading into this year’s 37th annual race, which for the first time, will start and end in Thomas Grater Park.

The annual Fourth of July race kicks off Friday morning at 8 p.m.

A year ago, a solid field of more than 830 runners completed the now former course for the 36th edition of the Ephrata Firecracker Run.

Another huge field is expected as of presstime there were more than 500 runners already pre-registered.

“That’s a good number,” Race Director Merv Witmer said. “I know last year we had over 300 walk-ins, and that’s what we usually get. And if we get a couple hundred walk-ins, we’ll have a real good turnout again.”

A year ago in 90 degree heat, Conestoga Valley graduate and former Penn State track star Vince McNally captured his initial Firecracker crown, crossing the finish line first in a time of 26:54.1.

McNally finished nearly 16 seconds faster than runner-up Matt Marcini (27:10.0). Former champion Justin Krebs (27:53.6), Andrew Friesema (28:06.6) and Harrison Schettler (28:10.9) rounded out the top five.

On the women’s side, another first-time champion was crowned as Emily Shertzer of Jonestown finished in a winning time of 30:52.8. Jenn Cronin placed second with a time of 31:21.6, while Jen Galfano (32:14.6), Vicki Boyer (34:04.7) and Kristin Kopp (34:13.5) took third, fourth and fifth respectively.

While there have been several tweaks to the course throughout the years, never has the course looked so different as it will this year as Witmer and Co. were forced to get a little creative because of the turf field project that is about to begin at War Memorial Field, the usual start and finish to the race.

This year, and possibly from now on, depending on the feedback, runners will start and finish near the Ephrata Playhouse in Thomas Grater Park.

“I think it’s not quite as challenging as before but it is still going to be a challenge,” Witmer said. “We are anxious to see how it goes, and then we’ll evaluate from there. There are some other challenges with moving down to the park, but it will work out.”

The other big change to this year’s race is the starting time, which has been moved up a half an hour to 8 a.m. to accommodate weekend traffic.

One feature that was added for last year was “chip timing,” and they will utilize that system for the second-straight year.

Registration for this year’s Firecracker can be done prior to Friday online at: pretzelcitysports.com or printed race forms can be obtained at the Ephrata Rec Center. Race day registration will be held from 6 to 7:30 a.m. at War Memorial Field. A two-mile fun run will be held at 9:15 a.m. while awards for the five-mile run are being held.

Complete race results will be published in the July 9 edition of The Ephrata Review.

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