Annual race hits eight years in Kayla O’Mara’s memory

Jeremy Phan, Janee Jones, Kelsey Meyers, Danielle Bila, Kaitlin O’Mara and Sam Minkler.

Jeremy Phan, Janee Jones, Kelsey Meyers, Danielle Bila, Kaitlin O’Mara and Sam Minkler.

GOODRICH — You’ll want to bring an extra pair of running shoes to the annual Kayla O’Mara Road Race in Goodrich, now entering it’s eighth year as a staple in the community.

That’s because a shoe donation has been added to the festivities. The popular race began as a memorial for the late Kayla O’Mara, then 16 years old, who passed away after a car accident that critically injured her twin sister Kaitlin and their best friend Danielle Bila. The now-23-year olds headline the race each year with a close circle of friends all wearing hand-painted matching running tops adorned with messages of love for Kayla.

The event has become extremely meaningful to the Goodrich community, and in recent years a handcycle race and other fresh pieces of the race have been added.

It’s also always been a fundraiser for scholarships for local high school students. This year’s scholarship recipients include Alana O’Mara of Bloomfield Hills Lahser, Brooke Kovacic of Oxford, Grand Blanc’s Carson Truesdell, Ryan Scannell and Graceson Kerr, Linden’s Karrah Varner, Flint Powers Catholic’s Matthew LeDuc, Goodrich’s Nathan Hagerman and Emily Tippen and Swartz Creek’s Tyler McPherson.

Goodrich grad Taylor Pogue picks up her medal at last year’s race.

Goodrich grad Taylor Pogue picks up her medal at last year’s race.

Event organizers have connected yet another giving-back donation opportunity to the race, as a box will be set up at Goodrich High School, where the registration takes place, so that participants and other locals can donate used, yet still wearable running shoes for those less fortunate. The shoes will be given to inner-city track programs.

Kayla, the race’s namesake, was a standout runner in 2003 when she and Kaitlin, burst onto the scene as freshmen for the Martians. Kayla would place second in the cross country state championship, which catapulted her squad to its firstever team state title. In total, Kayla helped lead the Martians to three cross country state titles and two track championships.

The annual race in her honor got underway for the first time just months after her passing and has been one of the highest attended events in Goodrich each year, which also includes heavy participation from her sister, Kaitlin, as well as several of their friends from Goodrich, several who went on to successful collegiate running careers.

Most notable was Janee Jones, who ran for Harding University. Kaitlin, along with her close circle of friends Kelsey Meyers, Jones, Jeremy Phan, Sam Minkler and in past years, Kelsey Krych and others always join hands and cross the finish line in unison in honor of Kayla.

This year, the races take place on August 3 and begins with a packet pick-up and late registration at 6:30 a.m. in the high school auditorium. The 10K handcycle will start at 7:15 a.m. in front of the high school, followed by a the 10K run at 7:30 a.m. in the same location.

The post-race party, which will include pizza, fruit, water, gatorade and giveaways, will commence at 8 a.m. near the track with the 5K run/walk beginning at 9 a.m. and the fun run/walk follows at 9:45 a.m., both of which take place in front of the high school. The awards ceremony will occur following all events at 10 a.m. near the food tent.

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