Reason to Celebrate

Wheeling’s Ricky Moore, a four-time winner of the Debbie Green Memorial 5K Run/Walk for Leukemia, says when you’re running in the lead pack and you can see the start/finish line, all bets are off

”A lot of people have that very competitive spirit where they’d rather fall down and die than finish second, and that’s usually the guy the comes across the line first,” Moore said.

That guy, Saturday night, proved to be 30-year-old Julius Kiptoo, who broke away from second-place Nicholas Kurgat and third-place Daniel Kipkoech during the last 300 meters to win the 11th running of the ”Race for a Reason.”

The trio pulled away at the halfway point, where they were all three on pace to break the course record, and turned the event which had nearly 700 finishers – more than 830 registered – into a three-man show.

They stayed together all the way until they made the right turn onto Water Street and could see the finish line in the distance.

”I was only trying to stay in touch because I know my kick is very good,” Kiptoo said. ”I was very tired. Those guys are very tough.”

Kiptoo’s winning time was 14:09, followed by Kurgat (14:10) and Kipkoech (14:28).

Trailing in fourth was Westerville, Ohio’s Brian Ollinger, an Ohio State graduate who spent last month trying to qualify for the U.S. Olympic steeplechase team. Ollinger’s time was 14:23.

”I fully expected to be up in the mix of it,” said Ollinger, normally someone who runs exclusively on the track. ”Those guys were probably falling apart like I was in the last mile, but I didn’t put myself in good enough position to be in contact with them.”

The first female to cross was 21-year-old Meskerem Legesse, who finished 22nd overall at 16:50. Bridgeport’s Christine Lewis was the top local female finisher.

Former Wheeling Park standout and Tennessee recruit Ryan Beabout was the first local finisher, 14th overall, at 15:50. Two spots behind him was Wheeling’s Matt Abel at 16:10. Moore, who said he’d just began training and entered mainly to have fun, finished at 16:26, 18th overall.

”I wasn’t even trying to go out with those guys,” Moore said.

Wheeling’s George Krupica won the men’s walk in a time of 24:12, while Wheeling’s Tammy Paull was the first female walker to cross the tape in a time of 33:15, seventh overall.

Of course, in a race run in memory of a young girl who was taken far too early because of leukemia, there are no losers.

”Everybody ran and walked their hardest and everybody raced as hard as they could for my sister and little Anna,” Race Director Ron Green said, speaking of Weirton’s Anna Byers, the primary beneficiary of the proceeds from this year’s race. ”It was just a great weekend in Wheeling. What a race. It made my day.”

Ron Green will take very little time off before preparations for next year’s race begin.

”I’ve got 24 hours to take a break and get ready for 2009,” Ron Green said. ”You’ve got to keep working on it. I’m not going to take anything for granted. I’m not going to rest on the success we had (Saturday) night, I want to build on it. I want to be able to provide more people next year and help another little child out here in the valley who is suffering from the same disease that my little sister Debbie suffered from.”