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Tuesday, Jun. 19, 2018
The family appeal of the Firecracker Run
by Randy Pascal

Holiday long weekends are a time for family, a fact not lost on those who managed to squeeze in a little exercise on Saturday, partaking in the annual Firecracker Road Race in Lively.

Several of those on hand would first manage to see the kids off, kick-starting the festivities with a one kilometer run. Many of the slightly older youth, however, would take a crack at tackling the 5 km course, with some parents enjoying the calendar years where they can still finish ahead of their offspring.

Lo-Ellen Park track and field coach Colin Ward paced his son, Kaedan (11), en route to an impressive time of 21:30, the father and son team of Steve Matusch (age 54 - 20:42) and Brendan Matusch (age 13 - 24:41) were both in fine form, while septuagenrian couple Maureen and Louis Moustgaard provided a pair of very familiar faces to the mix.

Few, however, enjoyed the family aspect of the race quite as much as the De Vlugt clan. Completing his Masters in Physics while spending the summer working at Guelph University, Jeff De Vlugt made the trek home with girlfriend Valerie Hodgins, with the trio rounded out by the presence of Jeff's father, Paul De Vlugt.

"My girlfriend, Valerie, really loves running," suggested Jeff. "Her and her mom have really gotten into it, and my dad likes running as well. I was really excited to come home and do a race with my dad, this was our first race together."

In fact, the younger De Vlugt admitted that he was likely about 13 years old when he completed the five kilometer distance for the one and only previous time in his life, though he will now head out for casual lengthy jogs, taking a break from the demands of academia.

Not expecting a whole lot in Lively, De Vlugt was more than a little pleased to break through the line in 22:53, safely a new personal best for the well-spoken young researcher. "I knew that I kind of wanted to run it under 25 minutes, and it really helped me to have people in front of me that I could push towards and try and chase."

Unfortunately, given the nature of his studies, it's far more likely that dad will have to make the trek south in order to ensure another father and son outing is in the offing. "I like the field that I'm in, and I feel that there is lots of opportunity in Guelph, a decent amount of interest in the research that we do there. We study nuclear magnetic resonance, it's the more hard science portion of MRI."

Meanwhile, girlfriend Valerie Hodgins, a native of Toronto and fellow student at Guelph, has just over a year remaining to complete her Masters in Mathematics. (Seems like I had somehow walked into a local episode of the "Big Bang Theory").

Completing her five km in 24:08, Hodgins was more than happy to share the accolades with her beau on this evening. "I started as the runner, but he (Jeff) beat me, so I think he's the runner now," she said with a laugh.

A runner since the age of fourteen, the 23 year-old started with a five km, but quickly moved up, eventually completing a 10 km race and a pair of half marathons. "I am not a 5 km runner," Hodgins stated. "I like running further. I'm not a fast runner, so I really like running distance a lot more, because I feel a lot more accomplished. I seem to end up with better stats."

In the end, it was the atmosphere that garnered her prevailing thoughts, recapping the takeaway from this break to her holiday weekend. "It was an awesome course, it's nice how green it is," said Hodgins. "There's lots of nice people here, a good sense of community when you do something like this. Everybody is very much in the spirit."

Even those who have no immediate family on hand. Nineteen year old Little Current runner Romme Kabron moved to Canada some 18 months ago, leaving behind much of his family in the eastern African state of Eritrea, a smallish country which borders on the Red Sea Coast.

His entry to this race would be prompted by Manitoulin Island running coach Steve Fessenden, which children Sofia and Simon both taking part in the one kilometer event.

Edging out Andrew Hawkins for first place at the wire, with both men clocked at 17:39, Kabron is thankful for any opportunity he is given. "I appreciate having the chance to come out and run with these people," he said.

"Before I came to Canada, when I was back home, I just played soccer and trained a little bit for running. But when I came to Little Current, there's not much soccer. That's why I run."

Some final words from advice from Fessenden would be all that was needed to formulate a winning strategy. "When we started the run, I went behind the first few guys," said Kabron. "Finally, near the end, I started to sprint past them."

Following is a listing of some of the top finishers from both the 1 km and 5 km races:

1 km kids run
1. Devin Wierzbicki (11) - 3:57
2. Lucas Graham (8) - 4:07
3. Jacob Costello (9) - 4:10
4. Madeline Yates (9) - 5:06
5. Declan Yates (5) - 5:11
6. Quinn Sirkka (8) - 5:19
7. Dax Despot (5) - 5:24
8. Saren Ward (9) - 5:50
9. Ethan Robillard (8) - 6:00
10. Peyton Graham (5) - 6:22

5 kms open run
1. Romme Kabron (19) - 17:39
2. Andrew Hawkins (29) - 17:39
3. Jack Wierzbicki (15) - 18:00
4. Jordan Burkitt (41) - 18:16
5. Josh Tillson (17) - 18:39
6. Roberto Sgarbossa (41) - 19:31
7. Brent Walker (52) - 19:40
8. Pierre Dumont (52) - 20:14
9. Steve Matusch (54) - 20:42
10. Kelly Thompson (16) - 20:53
11. Emily Dodge (13) - 21:00
12. Chantal Dagostino (41) - 21:06
13. John Bolan (36) - 21:17
14. Sara McIlraith (45) - 21:24
15. Kaedan Ward (11) - 21:30
16. Colin Ward (42) - 21:59
17. Chantry Cargill (26) - 22:10
18. Kevin Despot (46) - 22:25
19. Jeff De Vlugt (22) - 22:53
20. Steven Townend (61) - 22:54
24. Lucia Salmaso (9) - 23:31

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