MARTINS FERRY - A plethora of area road racers took home awards Wednesday evening, but it was the Belmont County Relay for Life that was the big winner at the annual Betty Zane Days 5K Run/Walk.
Thunderstorms let up just in time as 156 participants made their way through the downtown layout to the delight of a large crowd of onlookers.
Among them was Barb Ballint, head of the Belmont County Relay for Life, who oversaw the event for the first time after being contacted by Betty Zane Days organizers last year.
ST. CLAIRSVILLE’S Bethany Schunn captured the title in the women’s 5K run in a time of 22:07. She won the women’s race for the first time. Additional images may be found at cu.timesleaderonline.com
''We did our first 5K last year in St. Clairsville last year, the Glow 4 Goal, and they asked if we'd be interested in putting together this 5K here here,'' Ballint, a Martins Ferry resident, said while in the midst of putting together last-minute preparations.
''(Organizing it) really hasn't been bad at all because I have a great committee. Unfortunately, mostly everyone on our committee has been affected, in some way or another, by cancer.
''I'm not the only one with this passion. I have committee members that are cancer survivors. I have committee members that are cancer caregivers, so I have a great committee behind me.
''Everything has really come together.''
Such was evident before the race. There were plenty of volunteers in bright, yellow shirts scurrying about Zane Highway making sure everything was ready to go.
The only thing organizers were unable to control was the weather. Thunderstorms, complete with vivid lightning, rolled in just after 5:30 p.m. Later, a downed tree limb, discovered on the race course on S. Zane Highway, pushed the start of the event back a half-hour to 7 p.m. Still, a majority of the participants stuck around to help the cause, which is a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society.
One of the walkers, Martins Ferry's Barbara Morris, sported a shirt that read ''First Presbyterian Martins Ferry - TEAM SHAWNA.''
Morris explained she is a member she is a member of Martins Ferry's First Presbyterian Church and Shawna is Shawna Warner, a 14-year-old Martins Ferry Schools student and church member currently undergoing treatment for leukemia at The Ohio State University's renowned cancer hospital in Columbus.
''I started doing 5K races about four years ago,'' Morris said. ''I started doing the Debbie Green race in Wheeling for Patricia Graham (The Times Leader's late Lifestyles Editor) and then I kept going. I'm retired now so I can do a few more races now than I used to.''
With her multi-colored race shoes Morris is starting to become a bit of a staple around area road races. She'll be at the Debbie Green again next week.
The fact this year's Zane race benefited the Relay for Life was an added bonus.
''It does for me,'' she said. ''We did the Buckeye local race for the Relay and the youth group at our church did the Light the Night walk at Wheeling Jesuit University.
''Anytime I walk I wear this shirt. I would be in this race anyway, but this is really special.''
A familiar face crossed the finish line first, Martins Ferry's Cedric Robinson, who claimed the male overall run title for the third straight year with a time of 16:12. He led from start to finish.
''I train on this course and Ferry is my training ground,'' Robinson, who will be competing in Saturday's Sam Mumley event in St. Clairsville, said. ''It has hills, it has flats. It has everything you'd want to work on and more.
''The ground was a little slippery, but when you have that sense of competition you can slip past that.''
St. Clairsville's Bethany Schunn, a 1999 Wheeling Central High School graduate, was a first-time overall female run winner, breaking the tape in 22:07.
''Maybe the rain helped me, I don't know,'' she said smiling. ''In the beginning, I was holding back. But, in the middle, I started to go.''
Jacob Bishop was second in the male run with a time of 18:00, while Kevin Simpson was third in 18:16.
Sami Suto was runner-up to Schunn with a time of 22:35, while Alyssa Kalinski was third in 22:42.
Laura Zurko was the top female walker with a time of 37:28. Renee Mikkis was second in 41:39, followed by Cheryl Bennett in 42:03.
David Workman claimed the male walking crown with a time of 34:55. Mike Carpenter was second in 35:00, while Drew Brown was third in 37:47.
Thorp can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org