St. Barnabas run gets 1st international entrant

| Wednesday, July 30, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

A teenage girl from Sweden who is vacationing with family friends in Pine will make history by competing on Saturday in the St. Barnabas Charities 5K Run/Walk in Gibsonia.

Martina Mahl, 13, is the first international resident to enter the race, St. Barnabas Health System spokeswoman Shelli Sommariva said.

Mahl, a resident of Balinge, a village of about 2,500 in east/southeastern Sweden that is built around a historic 13th century church, will run in the female 10 to 14 age group.

The 5K Run/Walk, which is in its 23rd year, is open to everyone. More than 1,000 people are expected to compete in 18 age divisions on the St. Barnabas campus grounds, Sommariva said.

Proceeds will benefit the St. Barnabas Free Care Fund for nursing home patients.

Mahl is visiting Pine residents Sally and Don Horn for three weeks. Mahl's mother, Maria Mattsson Mahl, lived with the Horns while an exchange student in 1990-91 at Richland High School, now Pine-Richland.

The families have stayed in contact and visit each other.

This is the younger Mahl's second trip to the United States and her first alone. She, her mother and younger brother were guests in 2010.

As longtime participants in the St. Barnabas event, the Horns invited Martina to join them.

It will be her first competitive race. Martina Mahl said she normally runs to stay in shape for soccer competition at home.

“I want to finish the race and run in good time,” she said.

Sally Horn, 60, said she planned to take Mahl to inspect the course in advance. Training runs in North Park were planned, and Horn said she and Mahl ran four miles in Central Park while sightseeing recently in New York City.

“I want her to do well,” said Horn, remembering how proud her son once was to win a trophy as a top finisher in his age group.

Maria Mattsson Mahl, 40, said she likes that her daughter is keeping physically fit.

“Martina is really excited about the race,” said Mahl, who has a company that provides guidance and education to the unemployed. “Martina always has been an active child, and running is a natural thing to do.”

Martina Mahl said the run will be one of the highlights of her trip, and she's looking forward to mingling with her competitors during a post-race party.

She credits Sally Horn for her fluency in English.

Horn, a retired public school teacher, reviews her homework via weekly Internet voice and video calls.

“The Horns are nice and kind,” Mahl said.

Karen Kadilak is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

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