Anchorage's Jake Moe (184) leads a pack of runners at the start of the Bear Paw 5K run on Saturday, July 9 in downtown Eagle River. Moe, who finished second last year, cruised to victory in this year's race, which featured nearly 600 participants. The victory was Moe's fifth career Bear Paw championship.
STAR PHOTO by MATT TUNSETH
Jake Moe looked like he'd done this before. He has.
Moe, 27, cruised across the finish line all alone to win his fifth Bear Paw 5K title on Saturday, July 9 in Eagle River.
"It's my favorite 5K," said Moe, who finished in 15 minutes, 25 seconds to beat second-place Grant Stevenson by 48 seconds. "It's flat, fast and there's so many people ... just a fun race."
Moe was the fastest among a field that included 594 runners ranging from serious competitors Moe is one of Alaska's top distance runners to walkers pushing baby strollers.
One group of locals that stood out from the pack were the "Hillbilly's Heroes" team, a team of about 20 runners who turned out in matching red t-shirts to remember local Air Force pilot Jeff Hill, who died last summer in a C-17 crash on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.
Hill's widow, Rachael, said her husband (who was affectionately known as "Hillbilly") ran in his first Bear Paw race last year, so the group of friends, coworkers and neighbors decided to use the occasion to honor the fallen airman.
"What was really great about it is it's nice to see all these people getting together and remembering him," she said.
Hill said she's hoping to make the remembrance run an annual event.
"We'd like to," she said.
She also wants to use the race as a way to help promote a scholarship fund set up in her husband's name at UAA. She said Jeff was the first UAA ROTC cadet to get his wings, and was actively involved in the program.
Anyone wishing to donate to the Jeff Hill Legacy Fund can contribute to a fund sat up at Northrim Bank, account number 7101620776.
Chugiak's Jacob Bera finished 13th in the men's race. The Eagle River High cross country running coach said he tries to run the race every year because of its ties to the Bear Paw Festival and the community as a whole.
"It celebrates Eagle River," Bera said after finishing third in the 30-39 year old age group.
Unalaska native Hallidie Wilt won the women's race in 17:57. Like Moe, Wilt is a top-tier Alaska runner who is no stranger to the front of the pack. But unlike Moe, she had some competition, as Leslie Varys nearly tracked her down, finishing 12 seconds back.
After the race, Wilt said she knew Varys was on her heels, but didn't want to look back for fear of seeing her.
"I was too scared to," Wilt joked.
Local runners were well represented in the final standings. Eagle River's Levi Younger was fifth overall, Eagle River's Tim Sorensen was seventh, Chugiak's Gregory Schroll was eighth and Eagle River's Jesse Peterson was 10th.
Local male age group winners included Eagle River's Kurt Labonte, who was 12th in the men's race and first in the 40-49 age group; Eagle River's Benjamin Hall, who was 14th and won the 12-14 age group, and Chugiak's Bob Davis, who was 15th among the men and first in the 50-59 age group and young Colter Coombs of Eagle River, who finished in 27:53 to win the boys' 8-and-under category.
Anchorage's Kaitlyn Mondl, who just completed her freshman year at Eagle River High, finished fifth, while Eagle River's Verena Gill was 11th. Gill was one spot ahead of fellow Eagle River runner Hannah Stevens.
Eagle River's Emma Nelson was 49th among women with a time of 24:49 to win the 9-11 age group, Elaine Pfeiffer ran the course in 25 minutes flat to win the 50-59 age group, Eagle River's Carol Hepler finished in 26 minutes to win the 60-64 group, Eagle River's Mary Marsolais was the top 70-74 age group woman in the race, Eagle River's Donna Asher won the 65-69 age group and Eagle River's Shirl Mauldin was the top 80-84 year old woman in the race.
Local youngsters swept the 8-and-under category, as Eagle River's Alyssa Hargis turned in a 27:03 to win among the youngest girls.
It was Wilt's first time running in the race, and she said she enjoyed the laid back atmosphere in Eagle River, where competitors seemed more interested in finishing in time to make the Bear Paw fair than beating the field.
"It's a very fun race," Wilt said.
Jacob Bera said the community feel of the race is why he continues showing up for the event, and why he encourages members of his cross country team to do the same.
"Everyone is giving each other high fives at the finish line. It's just a real positive thing," Bera said.
Contact Matt Tunseth at 694-2727 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Bear Paw 5K
Saturday, July 9, 2011
Men (Top 15) 1. Jake Moe, 15 minutes, 25 seconds; 2. Grant Stevenson, 16:13; 3. Ryan Davis, 16:20; 4. Aaron Wheatall, 16:26; 5. Levi Younger, 16:54; 6. Ben Wheatall, 17:08; 7. Tim Sorensen, 17:18; 8. Gregory Schroll, 17:38; 9. Keith Thompson, 17:46; 10. Jesse Peterson, 17:47; 11. Jacob Bera, 18:21; 12. Kurt Labonte, 18:26; 13. Dare Hedum, 18:27; 14. Benjamin Hall, 18:30; 15. Bob Davis, 18:37.