Nolan Blalock dominated the men's division and Abby Kendall the women's, but the real winners of the Wild Flower 5K held Saturday morning at Green Valley Park were the 50 entrants in the three-mile-plus event.
Billed more as a recreational outing for in-line skaters, walkers and joggers than an all-out race, Wild Flower participants milled around the finish line proclaiming the event well worth the $10 registration fee.
"A lot of fun," panted one runner. "A little cold, but a good race," said another.
Vicki West, with her pet dog in tow, wasn't there to win, but obviously enjoyed the experience, proclaiming jovially, "Somebody has to finish last."
Pushing a three-wheel baby stroller, daughter and mother-in-law Linda and Beverly Gibson sauntered through the course that took the field from the starting line in GVP along Country Club Drive to a turnaround point at the dead-end of Juniper Street, just west of the Payson Pioneer Cemetery.
The course was slightly different than in previous 5Ks that had a turnaround point at the end of the pavement on Country Club near the sanitary plant.
Sponsored by the Town Parks and Recreation Department, the event got off to an on-time 9 a.m. start under cloudy, cold skies. But the less than desirable weather conditions didn't deter the enthusiasm of the two race champions.
Competing in the 60-year-plus class, Arlen Draper -- a long-time recreational runner in the Rim country -- was having fun while turning in a running time of 24 minutes.
The first to cross the finish line was a group of six in-line skaters who sped along the course at speeds more befitting motorcycles and race-carts.
Blalock, a 16-year-old Payson High School track team member, was running second as he approached the race midway point. On the return leg, Blalock ensured himself of a victory with a late burst of speed only a prep trackster could muster.
"(Blalock) wasn't even breathing hard," a race official said as the teenager cruised through the finish tape.
Among the women, Kendall --a Rim country running guru -- finished first in 22:35. Trailing her was a contingent of 11 runners -- young and old alike -- who are members of Kendall's local fitness club.
In keeping with the Wild Flower race theme, age group champions were awarded plants, shrubs and flowers at a brief ceremony held at the conclusion of the event.
Town Recreation Coordinator Beth Kreider said she was hoping for a larger turnout -- at least 75 entrants -- but the weather probably kept some away.
One entrant who opted out, but not because of the cold, was Payson High School's premier 800-meter and cross country runner, Heath Boyle. The youngster withdrew, choosing instead to spend the morning recovering from his participation in the Winslow Invitational Track and Field meet held the previous day.
Kreider stressed that the Wild Flower and other town-sponsored 5K events are not limited to serious long-distance runners. The runs, she said, are open to residents of all ages and abilities.
Call Kreider at 474-5242, ext. 272 for information on upcoming P&R sponsored events.
The Top Ten
Abby Kendall - 22:35
Linda Sheehan - 24:55
Linda Otten - 25:52
Nina Ray - 26:58
Abby Murphy - 27:24
Mindy Dorris - 28:36
Martha Seaman, Shelly Jamison - 29:18
Danielle Yoacum - 30:32
Liz Simpson - 31:20
Lacy Myers - 32:33
Nolan Blalock - 18:28
Mike Behrens - 18:43
Jesse Clark - 21:22
Joe Behrens - 23:04
Tanner Morgan - 23:32
Arlen Draper - 24:13
Jim Spencer - 25:53
Robert MacGregor - 26:04
Cory Thomas - 26:09
Nelson Beck - 26:40