It started off as a fog and quickly became crystal clear in Syracuse. A perfect morning for a run, and a perfect setting for the 2013 Flotilla Road Race held at Lakeside Park.
In the largest contingent of walkers and runners in the 36 years of the Flotilla Road Race, more than 570 participants started the course, which had the 5K runners square away from the park out to County Line Road and down and around Maxwelton Golf Club, wrapping up with a hilly stretch along North Shore Drive and back to the park. The eight-milers continued on into downtown Syracuse and back to the park.
Taking honors in the 3.3-mile race was Elias Rojas of Ligonier, who won the 2012 race and bested his championship time (17:12) with a run of 16:32 Thursday morning. Rojas has run the race for six years, and was more than happy with how his near-sprint came together despite missing his desired mark by seven seconds.
“Knowing the course definitely helps since I have run this a few times before,” Rojas said. “Just knowing that I put in the work between Saturdays, that is when races are won. I have the confidence to go out and do the best that I can. I just put in the work it takes.”
Joining Rojas as champion of the 3.3-mile race was soon-to-be Homestead High School freshman Madison Distelrath, who sped through the course with a time of 20:48. Unfamiliar with the course having never run the race, Distelrath still managed to outrun the female competition, including veteran runner-up Corinne Cominator of Middlebury, by more than a minute.
“I’m really good on the uphills, so I surge on the downhills and try to do those as fast as I can. Create a good pace,” Distelrath said, who admitted to having never ran the circuit before Saturday. “I started feeling it more in the middle of the race. When we got to the uphill parts, I could tell others were getting tired so I picked up each mile.”
Ryan Smith of Albion, an incoming freshman at Goshen College this fall, took the eight-mile race in a time of 42:10, but didn’t sit on his laurels after zipping through the first three miles as the second runner through after Rojas. Pacing off Rojas’ lead, Smith then set his own tone, working to achieve goals his coach set for him to achieve.
“I think the biggest thing for me was sticking with (Rojas) because he was way up there,” began Smith. “I knew I was leading the eight-milers and when I came to the starting point of the race and took a look to my left, I couldn’t see anyone. Right there I separated and didn’t want anyone else to catch up. My first mile was my slowest, but from there I never slowed down. 5:07 was my slowest mile, I averaged 5:16.”
Earning the first place honors in the eight-mile race for the women was Fort Wayne speedster Crystina Ridenour, who was also a newbie to the race course but finished at 49:26. Hanging with some of the front running men for a good portion of the first half of the race, Ridenour never felt uncomfortable with the road race. In fact, Ridenour felt downright confident throughout the course.
“Once I got settled into about four or five miles, I felt pretty good,” Ridenour said. “I went out kind of easy and paced. Since its an eight-mile race, I just tried to catch the person in front of me and stay focused. There were two guys in front of me and not a lot of others around. So I locked in on them and just kept up and tried to stay close to them.”
Taking master’s champion honors Thursday were Reisa Rinker and Brian Shepherd in the 3.3-mile and Jenny Isenbarger and Dave Bussard in the eight-mile.
The Flotilla Road Race, put together by the family and friends of Shepherd, also had a 5K fun walk that was not timed. Complete results from the race are available on runindiana.com.