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Stough, Ritz Claim Half Marathon Walk

Stough, Ritz Claim Half Marathon Walk

Lauren Ritz

WHEELING — The walk winners at Saturday’s Ogden Newspapers Half Marathon Classic boasted varying degrees of experience on their road racing resumes.

All of them, however, had one thing in common — a recipe for success.

Lee Stough made the most of his sixth excursion to the Friendly City. The Glassport, Pennsylvania, resident used a strong start — and a wealth of experience — to his benefit in going wire-to-wire and claiming the male half marathon walk crown.

“This is my second time winning,” Stough explained as he cooled off under a tree a few steps from the entrance to WesBanco Arena. “The first was in 2013.”

And he was quick to point out the contrasts in weather conditions from that day to Saturday.

“It was 36 degrees at the start of that race,” he said regarding 2013. “That’s really nice. Your body can warm up and not overheat. (Saturday), it felt good for a while, but the sun eventually got to me.”

But not before he had built a sizable lead on the challenging and hilly course.

“I slowed down considerably during the last 4 miles or so,” he said. “Part of that was because I was just getting fatigued, and part of that was by design so I could save energy for the last mile to see if I could make it in under two hours, which I didn’t.

“I had to give it a strong effort because there are some very strong race walkers here.”

And having that top competition is part of the allure of visiting Wheeling each May, Stough said.

“I love the competition here,” he beamed. “I love the course. It’s the hardest half marathon of which I’m aware. I like the atmosphere. The race is always well done.

“Plus, I always take a little vacation. I spend all day Friday in West Virginia, do the race then spend all of Saturday here before heading home.”

Lauren Ritz, the female half marathon walk winner, is always at home when she traverses the course.

The Wheeling resident picked up another victory on familiar turf in 2:27.41 — her second consecutive triumph.

“Every year it’s a challenge,” Ritz said. “But, it’s always rewarding.”

Ritz jumped out in front not long after the starting horn blew and wasn’t really challenged. However, she didn’t think to herself that the victory was in hand until she crossed the finish line.

“You always kind of keep it in the back of your mind that someone might be right after you, so you have to push yourself.”

Ritz was pleased with her time, despite the nature of the course.

“It’s a really challenging course,” she said. “It makes you really proud to complete it.”

For Ritz, running in the Ogden has become a tradition.

“It just kind of makes you proud to live here,” she said. “It’s a great way to start off the summer.”

Summer will be filled with many a road race for Colliers resident Karen Highfield.

Highfield, who captured the female 5K walk crown with a time of 39:06, said the Ogden is the first of what will be many stops during the next few months.

“I like to stay active,” the 67-year-old smiled. “I’ll compete in Marland Heights, Wellsburg and, sometimes the (Debbie) Green 5K.”

Highfield didn’t know how many overall victories she’s posted at the Ogden, but she knew that in eight years she’s won her age division each year.

“It felt good,” she said of Saturday’s performance. “I love the weather. I’ve been here when it’s rain and cold, so this is good.”

Yorkville’s Michael Remenar was the male 5K walk winner, crossing the finish line in 37:10.

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