By Kevin Kelley
Less than seven seconds separated the top two male finishers in the 21st annual North Coast Challenge five-mile road race, held Saturday in Westlake.
Julius Koskei, of Hebron, Ky., beat out Abdelaziz Atmani, of Indianapolis, to win the $500 first-place prize in what the race’s organizers call Ohio’s premiere five-mile race. Koskei’s time was 23:32.50, better than Atmani’s 23:39.40.
Koskei, who participated in North Coast Challenge for the first time, said it was a great race but a bit humid. He said he plans to compete here again.
Construction work at St. John Medical Center, the race’s home base for the past 20 years, caused its start and finish lines to be moved to Crocker Park. St. John Medical Center remains a primary sponsor of the event, which raises money for local nonprofit organizations. New executive director Bud Tetzlaff said $50,000 was projected to be raised by the race this year.
“Our turnout was probably a little bit more than last year,” Tetzlaff said during the award ceremony.
The new course sent runners south on Crocker, southwest on Hilliard Road, east on Lincoln Road, north on Bradley Road, northeast on Hilliard Road, then north up Crocker to the finish line at near Market Street and Main Street in Crocker Park.
The overall grand master (ages 50-60) male winner, Bob Thomas, said he missed the former course that finished at St. John Medical Center.
The Westlake resident, who finished with a time of 31:10.50, said this course wasn’t as interesting.
“We didn’t have the little trail run through the park,” he said, referring to the fitness trail on the hospital’s grounds.
The new course was flatter, he said, perhaps too flat for someone who likes a running path to have some dips.
In addition to a new course, runners had to contend with the hot sun. According to data from the National Weather Service, the temperature at the 8 a.m. start of the race was 74 degrees and rising, with humidity at 85 percent.
Thomas, a previous grand master winner, said he sensed the temperature rising during the race.
“Even though the sun was low on the horizon, you could feel it.”
Another first-time North Coast Challenge participant, Jennie Kormanik, of Fairlawn, won the women’s overall division with a time of 29:38.50.
Kormanik said the heat did not bother her too much, especially since it’s been hot much of the summer.
“I started out conservative and tried to run the second half faster than the first,” she said. “So I think that was important to be in control the first part of the race.
“It’s a really nice course with not too many turns,” Kormanick told West Life. “You can just kind of get into a steady rhythm and carry it through. It was shaded most of the way, so today that was really important.”
A two-mile family walk and kids run were also part of the morning’s activities.
Mayor Dennis Clough, who has participated in the walk for all 21 years of the event’s existence, thanked residents and visitors for their participation.
“We do this for two reasons,” the mayor said during the award ceremony. “One is to raise money for important charities. And the other reason is to bring you all out to have fun – family fun.”