Winning the women’s division of the annual Cloquet Sawdust 5K Walk/Run last Friday morning, Cloquet’s Anja Maijala admitted she was unaware she set a new course record.
The 15-year-old said other records were more noticeable.
According to co-race director and organizer Jeff Leno, a record 426 runners participated in the fourth-year event held around Cloquet’s Pinehurst Park each Fourth of July morning. He added that approximately 75 volunteers helped as well.
Maijala, a Cloquet sophomore cross country and track superstar, was one of those volunteers, assisting with race preparation before and after she set a best-ever women’s time of 19 minutes, 32 seconds over the extremely-hilly 3.2-mile course.
“I didn’t know it was a record until after I finished,” said Maijala, noting she was more aware of how many participants were involved with the ever-growing event. “I just loved seeing so many people out there running. And to get up and help on your Fourth of July morning, I just think that’s awesome.”
“Awesome” was the word Leno used to describe the service he and his wife, Alyson, co-race director, have gotten over their years in Cloquet.
Both 2002 graduates of Cloquet High School, Jeff played football, hockey and ran track for Cloquet, while Alyson was in volleyball, basketball and track. With a goal of supporting Cloquet athletics, Jeff said in the Sawdust’s previous three years, a total of roughly $15,000 has been raised for the athletics program.
Leno, who coaches track for the Lumberjacks, noted many current Cloquet athletes and coaches were dressed in attire to help organize, hand out water and cheer on the passing runners.
“We’ve had so many positive comments, it really is an awesome thing,” said Leno. “This is something for us to give back to an athletic program that gave us so many life skills.”
Showing his skills last week, Esko’s Jackson Lindquist, 20, again won the men’s division with a top time of 16:13, smashing the course record he set last year by 20 seconds.
Lindquist, a junior cross country and track runner at the University of Wisconsin-Superior, said his mindset was to repeat as champion, but he also appreciates an event that awards medals to the winners, gives T-shirts to all and opens the town pool
Lindquist even invited many of his buddies, who also ran.
“I think this is one of the biggest 5Ks in northern Minnesota,” guessed Lindquist, who later went to his friend’s cabin in Moose Lake before the Duluth fireworks. “I love it. I told Leno afterward that it’s awesome. He puts on a good show.”
Yet, it’s not for show, but for real, according to the records.
“This year, like in year’s past, it went off without a hitch,” Leno said. “I’ll tell you what, all 426 runners contributed to the race. And without all of those people helping, it couldn’t go on.”