Assistant Sports Editor
BENNINGTON - The Bennington Battle Monument serves as a reminder to the sacrifices that soldiers made to keep our fledgling country free.
But on Saturday, the Friends of the Monument put on its ninth iteration of the Battle Day 5K to help keep the Monument's legacy going.
91 runners took part in the race, and Bennington native Tim Van Orden walked away as the overall winner with a time of 17 minutes, 2.77 seconds.
The race, which featured light hills as runners made their way down Walloomsac Road towards the airport and back, was started with a firing of a light three-pounder cannon by the Second Continental Artillery of New York and featured some fast racing out of the gate.
"The first runners went too fast," said Victor Velazquez, a runner on the Southern Vermont College cross country team. "The course was kind of hilly on the way back, but it was a nice run." Velazquez was the second runner across the line in 17:28.93.
The first woman across was Mount Anthony Union High School cross country runner Molly O'Callaghan, who finished with a time of 21:54.01. The time would be a solid finish for any cross country runner at the school.
But it was O'Callaghan's first-ever 5K race.
"I've never done a 5K before," O'Callaghan admitted in between some deep breaths. "It feels good to get the first one out of the way."
Another MAU runner also picked up an award during the race.
Jazmine Hollister, received the Firefighter's Award for being the first firefighter across the finish line. In the nine-year history of the race, Hollister has been the only firefighter to finish and receive the trophy. Hollister came across in 24:57.09.
Hollister, who has been on the cross country team for five seasons now, said that it was "a nice course, with some nice hills and some flat sections."
"It is a great course to learn how to run cross country on," Hollister added.
But besides the runner who took home the big prizes, the field was made up of locals and out-of-towners alike that were in search of a competitive race.
One of those runners was Tracey Schwarz, who was running in her first-ever 5K. Schwarz was one of the last runners across the finish line in a time of 49:08.36, but it was less about the time and more about the feat.
"It was a phenomenal experience to cross that line," Schwarz said. "But I couldn't have done it without my family and friends."
Then, there was the father-daughter duo of Ben and Brynn Lackey. Ben pushed his daughter in a running stroller for the race.
"It is some nice father-daughter time," Lackey said. "Whenever I do a 5K, it is usually with her."
And while the racers all had an individual story to tell, the larger story still centered around the Monument.
The race, which was put on by the Friends of the Monument and headed by Jim Dulin, raised some valuable funds that go towards the preservation and upkeep of the monument. Dulin said after the race that the day went well.
"The weather was beautiful and we had a pretty high number of racers," Dulin said. "Everything went pretty well for the day.
The race also served to bring the Bennington community a little closer. Van Orden said he loves these types of events.
"I live in the community and I like to support local events," Van Orden said. "I think that we should have more running events. So for every race we have here I come out and support."
The following list highlights the winners for each age division in the race.
For the men: Jordan Gardner won the 12-and-under group (25:26.93), Andrew Companion took the 13-15 group (19:53.11), and Devon Hoard took the 16-19 group (17:35.24). In the 20-29 group, Velazquez was first and Seth Coulter was second (19:58.37). In the 30-39 group, John Guzzi was the first across (20:52.25). In the 40-49 group, Van Orden was first followed by Jeff Johnson (19:08.91). Scott Printz was first across in the 50-59 group (21:15.76), while Mike Chovonec (23:37.14) was first across for the 60-69 group. In the 70-79 group, Ronal Ratliff finished in 48:32.61, and Ed Doucette took the 80+ group in 33:24.77.
For the women: Sarah Umphley took the 12-and-under group (22:26.39), Katie Lynch took the 13-15 group (27:08.97). O'Callaghan was first in the 16-19 group followed by teammate Shelby Whitman (23:06.26). Rebecca Beagle was first in the 20-29 group (24:29.94). Alicia Britton was first in the 30-39 range (26:34.53), while Julie Hoar took the 40-49 group (23:10.13). Laurie George took the 50-59 group (28:26.48) and Patty Surdam won the 60-69 group in 49:08.01.