Homer Alaska - Sports

Story last updated at 3:49 PM on Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Community, youth win with 2011 Spit Run

By Lindsay Johnson
Staff Writer


Photo by Michael Armstrong

Runners start the Homer Spit Run.

A 20-year-old runner from Michigan won the 2011 Spit Run last Saturday, edging out Lars Arneson, winner of the event in 2009 and 2010, by 15 seconds. Nick Petro ran the 10-kilometer race from Homer High School to Land's End Resort in 33 minutes, 47 seconds.

Petro just completed his first year representing Eastern Michigan University after redshirting his freshman year.

"Nick is a hard-working athlete who is training hard this summer in an effort to make the EMU Varsity Cross Country Top Seven," wrote EMU Head Cross-country Coach, John Goodridge in an email.

Arneson, a 21-year-old Soldotna resident who runs for University of Alaska Fairbanks, finished in 34:03. Andrew Peters, 27, of Homer, took third in 37:08.

Heather Gaines, 32, of Kenai, was the first female to finish the race, placing 11th overall in 42:08. Jenny Neyman, 31, of Soldotna and Sara Falconer, 17, of Anchorage took second and third in the women's division, respectively.

A handful of Homer High School athletes ran the race, but more were stationed along the route passing out water, "giving back," so to speak, to the participants who donated to Mariner running programs.

Donations from run entrants totaled more than $2,300, which will be split between the Homer High School cross-country running and track and field teams.

Head Running Coach Bill Steyer said the money will help fund travel for the teams, which is especially important for track and field because Homer High cannot hold a meet on its run-down track.

"It was a real success. I couldn't be happier. That helps take the pressure off of us," Steyer said.

Steyer and Assistant Cross-country Coach Saundra Hudson set a quick pace to reinstate the run after the Homer News, long-time sponsor of the Spit Run, announced it would step down earlier this year.

Part of the inspiration for the high school involvement came from the Columbia Gorge Marathon Hudson ran last October in Oregon. That event was a fundraiser for the local cross-country running team, which Hudson said was a great motivator.

"At all the water stations the kids were cheering us on. When you get to mile 22 those things carry a lot of weight," she said.

South Peninsula Hospital, the City of Homer Community Recreation program and the Homer News helped the high school running programs pull off the event in a very short planning window. A myriad of community volunteers turned out for race-day support.

The last-minute rearrangement in management turned into a win-win situation for all involved, supporting high school runners and keeping up the community event.

"It's a classic case of a little Homer magic going a really long way," Hudson said.

The Homer magic was evident in runners, who numbered more than 215 and hailed from 17 Alaska towns and 13 other states. Registered entrants ranged from age 3 to 80, though those both older and younger traveled the course.

"This is such a wonderful recreational event for participants of all ages and abilities. From walkers to elite college runners, the event creates a great sense of accomplishment, camaraderie and excitement between friends and strangers alike. The course is especially unique with the finish at the end of the Homer Spit," wrote community recreation director Mike Illg in an email.

The run has been a start-of-summer Homer tradition since 1976, when it began as part of a bicentennial celebration.

"It's got a lot of potential. It's a great race," Steyer said. "And we're jazzed up to make it an even better race next year."

So it looks like this 10K to the bay is here to stay.

"I think this will always be the Spit Run. It just is part of what we do," Hudson said.

Homer will host two cross-country running meets this year, an invitational on Aug. 20. and the borough championships on Sept. 17.

Lindsay Johnson may be reached at lindsay.johnson@homernews.com.

The first documented spit run was held July 3, 1976, where "festivities commenced with a pistol shot and a race to the end of the spit from the corner of the Kachemak food cache," according to an article in the July 8, 1976 edition of the Homer News.

Shaun Marshall Pryde took first overall in the footrace with a time of 35:31.5 and Patsy Wheeler finished first of the women in 38:32.

Also, "Judge James Hornaday ran a respectable race for the over the hill gang, 35 and up," the article stated.

Where did all those runners come from? Anchor Point, Anchorage, Bethel, Eagle River, Fairbanks, Fritz Creek, Homer, Kasilof, Kenai, Ninilchik, Palmer, Seldovia, Seward, Soldotna, Sterling, Wasilla and White Mountain, Alaska. Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Maryland, Michigan, Ohio, Oregon, Utah, Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

Next-greatest participation from city other than Homer (125, not including 6 from Fritz Creek and 8 from Anchor Point): 16 Soldotna, 12 Anchorage

From farthest away: Nathan and Catherine Mutter (Oviedo, Fla.)