WILKES-BARRE — Chris McCabe and Marina Martino, running for their first time in the Cherry Blossom 5-Mile Foot Race, ran to victories on Sunday in Kirby Park.
McCabe, 28, of Carlisle and formerly from Wyoming, ran away with the field, finishing in 25 minutes and 44 seconds, posting one of the better times in the race’s history.
“My goal going into the race was to finish under 26 minutes,” said McCabe, who ran track for Wyoming Area High School, specializing in the 400- and 800-meter runs. “I wanted to run at a 5:10 or 5:11 pace per mile. I was right on target for that. I didn’t seem to suffer any peaks and lows. I was able to run at a steady pace throughout. But I was running alone out there without anybody pushing me. When that happens, it becomes mentally challenging — but I was able to push myself.”
Martino, 27, of Dallas, won the female division with a third-place overall finish in 29:43.
Martino ran in third place over the first half mile of the race, trailing Jeff Bachak, 30, of Jermyn, who won the race last year. At that point she decided to pass Bachak, and moved into second place. Bachak was able to catch and pass Martino two miles later.
“I dropped back to third place — where I belonged,” Martino said.” I’m going to be running in the Vermont City Marathon, in Burlington, Vt. on the day before Memorial Day. So I’m training for that. This race actually served as miles 13-17 of my long-distance workout for today.”
Martino and her husband, John, are planning to return right after the Vermont Marathon in time to compete in the Old Fort 5-Miler in Forty Fort on Memorial Day.
Bachak, 30, of Jermyn, finished second overall in 29:24.
Tim Thomas Memorial Scholarships awarded
In 2004, race officials of the Wyoming Valley Striders running club added “Tim Thomas Memorial” to the Cherry Blossom 5-Mile Foot Race’s name in memory of Thomas.
Thomas, who was a standout runner from Plains Township, and ran for Bloomsburg University, died at age 31. His widow, Kim, started a scholarship in his memory.
Each year Kim contacts all Wyoming Valley Conference guidance counsellors with the criteria for entering a scholarship contest. The contest is for high school seniors who plan to run at the college level. Each contestant is asked to write Kim a letter explaining what running means to them. Kim then picks two winners (one girl and one boy) from the letters that impress her the most. Both winners receive a $750 scholarship.
This year’s winners, who were announced after the race, are Jude Fry of Lake-Lehman and Kevin Walker of Berwick Area.
Fry will be attending Shippensburg University.
In her letter, Fry wrote, “There is nothing more invigorating than trail running on a crisp autumn morning, taking in the beauty of the newly fallen leaves and the brilliant colors that nature has to offer. No matter how overwhelmed and stressed I feel, my mood could always be improved by a distance run.”
Walker, who will attend Penn State Hazleton and eventually at State College, wrote, “Most people can recall an event, a moment or a place in their life that has changed them monumentally. Something so impactful that they don’t know where they would be without it. That special ‘something’ to me has been the sport of running. Not only has running taught me how to be a respectable and understanding athlete, but it has also made me into a better, well-rounded human being. This sport has granted me the privilege of meeting my second family as well as my best friends.”
Note: Marina Martino — who has dominated the female divisions of area races for over five years under her maiden name, Orrson — is actually related to the late Tim Thomas. Donna Orrson, Marina’s aunt’s sister, Rita Thomas, is Tim’s mother.