GOODRICH — Now in its seventh year, the Annual Kayla O’Mara Road Race may have started out as a dedication to the memory of the then 16-year old Goodrich cross country and track and field standout, but what it’s become is so much more. That fact rang especially true last Saturday after event organizers announced they would be issuing $10,000 in college scholarships to qualified applicants, which, in turn, allowed 10 area students with the same values and interests that made Kayla such an inspiring individual to get $1,000 closer to their goal of higher education.
This includes Goodrich’s English Haught, Marc Hildebrand, Diedra Scarcia, Kacy Noorgaard and Danielle Dymond, Linden’s Connor Dietrich and Kirk Bennett, Brandon’s Marcee Wardell, Farmington’s Gabriella DeFlorio and Birmingham Groves’ Olivia Reader. Winners were given a plaque and recognized at the awards ceremony that took place just beyond the finish line immediately after the event concluded, as well.
With three different races open to participants based on ability and desire, 10k runners were the first to get going at 7:30 a.m. followed by the 5k at 9 a.m. and the 1-mile fun run/walk at 9:45 a.m., allowing the entire field to wrap up its day around 10 a.m. While this format also gave fans and runners a chance to at least partly avoid the most brutal part of the heat and humidity of the day, what it couldn’t compensate for is the changes to the course the construction at the Goodrich high school football field created. This meant the event started and finished at the middle school instead of the high school as in years past, a challenge made even greater by the fact that organizers had to re-route specific portions of the race while leaving the rest of the course as in-tact as possible.
As for the winners, on the women’s side it was 35-year old Leah Foley from Clarkston that grabbed the overall title in 37:45.2, 55-year old Wanda Handlin was the women’s master champion in 44:49.4 and the female grand masters crown was claimed by 50-year old Leslie Braun in 47:11.7. Because each race was then broken down by age and sex, that allowed Holly’s Alexa Kelser to grab the girls’ 12U title at 53:01.0, the female 15U honors went to Grand Blanc’s Eryn Scannell after she clocked in in 46:38.1 and the 19U gold medal went to Bloomfield Hills’ Alana O’Mara in 43:19.3. Waterford’s Kristen Bentley, Royal Oak’s Jennifer Hamilton and Fenton’s Suzanna Larsen were also able to hold their heads high after earning titles in the female 20-24, 25-29 and 30-34 age divisions, respectively.
The rest of the women’s champions included Clarkston’s Tammy Nowik, Goodrich’s Trina Jolley, Fenton’s Kathleen McGowan, Goodrich’s Kim Weber, Lewiston’s Ellen Thompson, Otisville’s Dona Derossett, Lapeer’s Mary Anne Moore and Flushing’s Janet Wallen.
In the men’s half of this race Linden’s Brett Smith crossed the finish line in 33:33.2 to become the overall winner, Mike Scannell was the male overall masters champ in 34:39.7 and Grand Blanc’s Roger Lara won the men’s grand master in 41:01.9. Burton’s Jonathan Buck also took the top 12U honors in 1:10.16, swiping the male 15U bragging rights was Burton’s Timmy Kimball in 43:17.8 and Brighton’s Johnpaul Zebrowski was the men’s 19U titlist in 37:05.7.
The men’s division had a host of other champions, as well, including Linden’s Kyle Smith, Flushing’s Neil Walker, Highland’s Leo Foley, Saginaw’s Joe Laceski, Fenton’s Kirk Walrath, Pieter Bauman, Goodrich’s David Nergenrender, Flushing’s Tony Handlin, Grand Blanc’s Michael Heiberling, White Lake’s James Carlson and Grand Blanc’s Glen Larsen.
One Kayla Run tradition that’s been in place since the event’s inception is that Kayla’s sister, Kaitlin O’Mara, and friends Janee Jones, Kelsey Meyers, Samantha Minkler, Kelsey Krych and Danielle Bila all enter and complete the race together. This year Krych was not part of the group’s hand-holding finish. Currently, Jones lives in Goodrich and works as a cosmetologist at the Affinty Day spa, Meyers lives in Royal Oak and is attending graduate school at Wayne Sate and Minkler works and lives in Minnesota. Bila, on the other hand, took a break from her studies at Central Michigan University to come down from Mt. Pleasant for this event, Krych now lives in Goodrich after attending Oakland University and Kaitlin O’Mara, 23, is wrapping up her degree in Physical Therapy from Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti.