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River Run breaks attendance record

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Kortney Hjerpe, 18, runs across the St. Louis River pedestrian bridge during Saturday's Cloquet River Run 5K race. Hjerpe took fifth place among women running the 5K, finishing with a time of 24 minutes, 49 seconds. Nicole Sandman/Race photographer2 / 3
Third-grader Hannah Sandman and her dad, Nate Sandman, give the Cloquet River Run a thumbs up.3 / 3

Practice makes perfect.

Cloquet River Run race director Yvette Maijala credits a practice one-mile run/walk at Churchill School last Tuesday for spurring a greater number of children to run in Saturday's one-mile and 5K races.

"I think that run/walk earlier in the week really stoked the kids," Maijala said. "A lot of them realized, 'Hey, I can do this.' We had an amazing turnout of younger kids."

And that's really what the Cloquet River Run is all about -- the kids. Getting kids excited about running, getting kids involved in a community event, getting kids active and getting kids a better educational experience (70 percent of proceeds from the race go toward health-related equipment and programs and 30 percent goes toward technology purchases, such as mobile iPads).

Moms, dads and grandparents ran with each other and/or their children, friends ran together and coworkers raced on a morning that kept the rain at bay until every race was run, from the one-mile to the 5K to the children's races.

"We lucked out," Maijala said, noting the sky opened up just as they moved indoors for the awards ceremony. "It was a great turnout, even with the threat of bad weather."

While a couple of last year's winners set course records, this year the annual Cloquet River Run broke the record for number of registrations, finally breaking the 500 mark at 552 total, compared to last year's 425 total registered for both races.

Maijala estimated there were between 600 and 700 people in attendance Saturday morning, counting racers, spectators and volunteers. It was a good time, she said, noting that two of the cross country runners from Cloquet High School crossed the one-mile finish line first while holding hands.

"They're characters," Maijala said with a chuckle of first place winner John Waljer (5:56) and second place winner Conner Denman (5:57), both age 14. The mile race must be a good distance for 14-year-old boys, because Max Marciniak came in third (6:08) and another 14-year-old, Gabe Lah, took fourth place with a time of 6:29.

The top finishers in the women's one-mile were 9-year-old Alexa Snesrud (6:54), followed by 13-year-old Lily Schubitzke (7:21). Allie Wojtysiak, 13, came in third (7:23) and 8-year-old Charlotte Ripp took fourth place (7:35).

The top two women finishers in the 5K race were Cloquet's Leah Hammond coming in first with a time of 23 minutes, 42 seconds, followed by Annika Bogucki at 24:22. Megan Goplin of Pine River took third place; her time was 24:35. The next three female finishers all hail from Duluth: Kristine Baird (24:47), Kortney Hjerpe (24:49) and Erin Potratz (24:51).

Adam Doe, a 25-year-old from Fridley, Minn., took first in the men's 5K race, running the hilly combined course in a time of 17 minutes, 48 seconds. Duluth's Nathan Gieske came in second (18:41) and Nathan Wisehart took third (19:34). In fourth and fifth place were two Cloquet runners: Ken Ripp (19:57) and Andrew Hayes (20:25). Cloquet High School track coach and Esko resident Tim Prosen took sixth place with a time of 20:38. Churchill Principal David Wangen finished with a personal record time of 22:54.

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The main sponsor of the Cloquet River Run is Gordy's Hi-Hat and Warming House, which had a combined group of about 30 employees (called the "G-team") run and walk the race. Maijala -- who co-directed the race with Jason Sickmann -- said the Friday night Health and Fitness Expo and Pasta and Salad Feed were also very successful.

"I think our community is really getting into this run," Maijala said. "Huge thanks to all our volunteers and sponsors for making this event a success!"