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Sawdust winners finish in record time

Sawdust 5K runners, and the Sawdust 1-Miler, were greeted with perfect running conditions Tuesday morning in Cloquet. Temperatures were in the upper 50s and a slight breeze made for a great start to the July Fourth race which was run in and around Pinehurst Park in the heart of Cloquet. Those running conditions resulted in some fast times and some amazing performances as well as a lot of fun as music and color greeted the runners as they came into the finish line area.

"Between the 5K and the 1-miler (which was held prior to the parade), we had over 500 runners," said co-race director Jeff Leno, who puts on the race each year with his wife Alyson. "We are very pleased with those numbers which are on par with some of our larger numbers of runners over the years."

Things went off so smoothly it allowed Leno to actually jump in and run the race himself — the first time he has run the race that he and Alyson started.

"This year was my first time running the actual race," Leno said. "That is 100 percent attributable to the many volunteers who made the morning roll out very smoothly. I was able to actually breath, enjoy my coffee and soak up the atmosphere. It was very neat to be on the course with the other participants."

The men's race came down to a wild sprint between two 20-year-olds from Duluth. Isaac Overmyer and Luke Lahr were in a dead even dual as they flew towards the finish line in an all-out sprint that saw Overmyer nip Lahr on a lean at the finishing line. Both runners finished in 15:37 which are the second and third fastest times ever recorded in the seven years of holding the race.

Meanwhile Mackenzie Carlson, also of Duluth, set a course record for the women. Carlson finished in 18:59, nearly three minutes faster than second-place Kelly Pechous, also of Duluth.

"I had no idea the kind of impact the Cloquet High School student/athlete volunteers had on our atmosphere," Leno said of the race experience. "I was also very impressed how many fans were out on the course cheering on our runners.

The male 1-14 age group winner was Isaiah Manninen of Proctor who is 14 years old, while Cloquet's 12-year-old Araya Kiminski won in that age group for the girls. The 15-24 age group winners were Overmyer and Carlson, who were also the overall race winners. The female 25-34 age group winner was Kelly Pechous for the women and Eric Elmstrand for the men. Benjamin Trok of Duluth won the 35-44 age group for the men and the women's winner was Duluthian Sara Zimmer. Cloquet's Tom Anderson took the men's 45-54 age group title and Marilyn Nichols out of Alexandria, Minn., won for the women in that age group. Joe Davis, also of Cloquet, ran to victory in the 55-64 men's age group, with Patti Hallback of Duluth doing the same in the women's division. Former Cloquet Athletic Director Bob Carey won the men's 65-and-up age division and Sara Cherne of Duluth captured the women's title in that age group.

While Jeff Leno was coordinating much of the work at the finish line, Alyson Leno was handling the registration and the passing out of running bibs to the runners as they filtered in prior to the race. Alyson had a hugely busy day by doing double duty as the coordinator (along with the volunteer committee) for much of the Fourth of July festivities, including the parade downtown and all the festivities at Veterans Park, from the free family fun events during the day to the fireworks at night.

"The icing on the cake was seeing all of the young smiling faces run down the parade route during the 1-miler," Jeff Leno said. "I would also like to give Alyson a shout out for helping to organize our race and then quickly shifting gears to organize the Cloquet Fourth of July celebration!"