Blossom Festival activities began early Saturday morning for 446 runners and walkers at the 18th annual runBlossom 5K. Under blue skies and perfect temperatures, event attendees enjoyed a fun run along the Arkansas Riverwalk.
“We had 144 competitive runners – and they were FAST – and 302 kids and joggers,” said Brian VanIwarden, race director for Fremont Adventure Recreation.
About 175 of the runners were participating in the Youth Exercise Training Initiative (YETI) program, offered to school-aged children in the Fremont Re-1 and RE-2 districts. Volunteer coaches from each participating school led students to practice twice a week throughout April. In addition to running, students also learn about nutrition, stretching, and healthy lifestyle choices.
“I can’t believe it’s been 10 years since YETI was founded,” said program coordinator Marcy Epperson. “I remember Brian VanIwarden suggesting it to our CCHS health and wellness team, and being the cross country coach I thought it was a ‘must’ for our children. YETI not only encourages our children to be physically healthy, but also provides an outlet for their emotional well-being.
Each “team” from 10 different schools in the area participated in the 5 km race on Saturday morning. Teams from the Boys & Girls Club of Fremont County, CCHS, Canon City Middle School, Cañon Exploratory School, McKinley Elementary, Lincoln School of Science and Technology, Mountain View Core Knowledge School, Washington Elementary and Penrose Elementary all participated.
“I think YETI has done extremely well this year, given our two-year hiatus,” said Epperson, who is also the head coach of ESCC Cross Country. “I was expecting it to be a ‘building year’ after COVID-19, and I was pleasantly surprised at how much the schools wanted it back.”
FAR’s mission is to promote health and wellness in the community. This event is a cornerstone of their annual calendar.
“We see so many parents and families coming for the event. It’s not even just about the kids, it’s about getting families out on Saturday mornings to make memories and participate in the Blossom Festival,” said VanIwarden, who has served as the event director for the past 14 last years.
The event was first held downtown in 2004, beginning and ending at the Clock Tower on 3rd and Main. Eighteen years later, this year has been particularly special for Brian and the other members of the FAR Board of Directors, as many of their children have participated in the event – both as volunteers and runners.
“After more than a decade of organizing this race,” said VanIwarden, “presenting a medal to my son, Lincoln, was truly a highlight.”
While the event has offered a 5-mile and a half-marathon in the past, this year organizers have narrowed the offerings to just one course – the 5K.
“YETI has become one of the highlights of this event,” said Race Director Brian VanIwarden, “and we really want kids and families to have a top-notch experience when they step out to enjoy runBlossom. It was amazing to be “normal” again.
Competitive runners started at 8am which allowed them to enjoy a clear, flat and fast course. Then, at 8:45 a.m., YETI participants and families returned to class and walked, ran, and rolled for 3.2 miles.
The first place winners in the women’s competitive division were Nichole Reynolds (19:40), Emily Eitemiller (23:26) and Sydney Baxter (23:48). The winners of the men’s competition were Hyrum Pontious (18:22), Phillip Pontious (20:51) and Russel Shaw (20:58).
In the YETI wave, the young female winners were Berkli Elliott (28:46), Heidi Numsen (28:52), and Birdie Anderson (29:47). The young male winners were Tucker Anderson (22:41), Broxton Elliott (22:43) and Jesse Robbins (24:05).
Event sponsors make runBlossom possible: Bank of the San Juans, Florence Family Dentistry, Royal Gorge Rafting and Zipline Tours, and Whitewater Bar and Grill. FAR would also like to thank Big Cat Plumbing, Natural Grocers and HomeSmart Preferred Realty for their assistance with aid stations and pricing. Race results are available at runblossom.org.
For more information on upcoming events, visit joinFAR.org.