WILKES-BARRE — Phil Celona and Marina Orrson jumped out to early leads in the Valley’s Fastest Man and Woman 3-race series with wins in the first of the three races, the Chase Mile, on the dirt track at Kirby Park Wednesday night.
Celona, 22, of Philadelphia, held off Chris Bodary, 23, of Downingtown, scoring a one-second win in 4 minutes, 28 seconds.
“We went over the first lap pretty slow,” said Celona, who runs for the Jenkintown-Fairmont Running Company. “We took it progressively down over the three remaining laps.”
Celona led throughout most of the race. But Bodary caught and passed Celona late in the race. But a determined Celona regained the lead and held on for the victory.
“I wanted to regain the lead before we went into the final turn so that I could run on the inside lane over the home stretch,” Celona said. “And that’s what I was able to do. Once I regained the lead, I gave it all I had over the home stretch. And I was able to hold him off.”
Orrson ran away with her competition, winning easily in 5:22. The 22-year-old from Shavertown’s win was in wire-to-wire fashion.
• Orrson ran track and cross country for Lake-Lehman High School and Misericordia University. Celona has been running since he was 4 years old and ran for Archbishop Ryan High School. His team won All-America honors in 2008 in the distance medley relay. Bodary ran for Bishop Shanahan High School and the University of Tennessee.
• The Chase Mile dirt track race is the first of three races that make up thr One Source Valley’s Fastest Man and Woman Series. The second race is the Giants Despair Challenge — a 1-mile uphill trek up the famous auto racing course in Laurel Run, set for 7 p.m. on Aug. 21.
The final leg of the series is the River Street Mile at 7 p.m. on Aug. 30 in Wilkes-Barre. Winners of the River Street Mile will receive $200. The male and female with the best combined-times for the three races in the series will win $500. There is also an additional $200 prize for anyone setting a course record.
• The race is named in honor of Rich Chase, a runner from Larksville, who is a fixture at nearly all area races and has been for many years. Chase has been battling cancer for nearly three years. But instead of giving in to the disease and its many complications, Chase continues to run almost every day.
In March, Chase was presented with a plaque from race officials from the Bear Creek 5K Run in recognition of his many contributions to the sport. George Dunbar, who presented Chase with the plaque, talked about how Chase often helped other runners with advice and training tips.
“Rich has taught many local runners the definition of the word ‘tenacity’,” Dunbar said.