Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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April 22, 2013

Young Life courses through city park

BLUEFIELD — It’s not unusual to see walkers, and occasional runners, in Bluefield City Park on a spring weekend. On Sunday afternoon, though, there were approximately 63 of them in a bunch, taking part in the first Bluefield Young Life 5K Run/Walk.

The race was launched to benefit a relatively new Young Life group in the two Bluefields, directed by Justin Cason.

“We’re thrilled,” said Cason, hired as area director last August. “We were hoping for 50 (participants). To have 60, it’s great.”

He said Young Life is “a non-profit, non-denominational Christian outreach organization to (work with) high school and middle school students.”

The top finisher in the run, with a time of 20:46, was Graham High School student Forrest Yates, who was more than 2 minutes ahead of the second-place runner, Dewayne Belcher.

The fastest female runner was 13-year-old Laurel Romano, a student at Graham Middle School, clocking a time of 32:01.

Romano said she was surprised to be ahead of the rest of the girls. “I just thought, ‘I’ve got to keep doing this. We’re runing at a good pace. I’ve got to keep it up.’ ”

Yates left soon after the awards presentation and was not available for an interview.

It was a family affair for the Romanos. Laurel’s sister Layton, a sophomore at Graham High, was the first finisher in the 15-19 age group. Their parents, Debbie and Peter Romano, participated in the 5K walk.

Asked about her motivation to enter the race, Laurel Romano said, “I wanted to help and support Young Life. It’s a good program.”

Layton Romano, 16, said her response to the idea was, “Why not run it?”

She added, “The weather was perfect. It wasn’t too hot or too cold. We were just blessed to have this weather.”

One runner, Brad Schmitt, got in some extra legwork during the award ceremony. Cason read out the names of a couple of medal winners, and a person on the edge of the crowd reported that the medalists were already far across the park grounds.

Schmitt went into action, grabbing the medals and sprinting approximately 150 yards to catch up with them before they got to their vehicle.

When he returned, he said his extra running didn’t bother him. “It’s what I do,” he said.

Cason said he ran cross country in high school, “but I’m not an avid runner by any means.”

What was his impression of the runners on Sunday?

“They’re great,” he said. “They’re fun. It seems like they had a good time.”

Cason said the local Young Life Committee has had fall fundraising banquets for the last two years, but this was the first race they had undertaken. He gave credit to the 12 or so committee members who’ve been coordinating the group’s efforts.

“They pulled together and helped pull off the race,” he said. “We had many helping hands today.”

The race is “great for the community,” he said. “Sunday afternoon is a great time to go for a walk in the park.”

More information on the organization may be found online at bluefield. younglife. org.

— Contact Tom Bone at tbone@bdtonline.com

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