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Organizers prepare for Plum's annual Stampede in the Park

| Monday, July 17, 2017, 11:00 p.m.
Michael Love | Tribune-Review
Plum High School graduate Sierra Lilac, at left, with past marshal and Plum resident Ella Depew, returns as a marshal for Saturday's Stampede in the Park race at Boyce Park in Plum.
Photo courtesy of Lisa DiLorenzo
Russ Maxwell, an assistant coach with the Plum cross country and track and field programs, will serve as a grand marshal for Saturday's Stampede in the Park race at Boyce Park in Plum.

Russ Maxwell has served as an assistant running coach at Plum for many years. His dedication is honored with the Russ Maxwell Forever Young Two-Mile Run for area elementary school students each spring.

On Saturday, he will serve in a special capacity for the first time.

He will be one of two grand marshals for the annual Stampede in the Park 5K and one-mile fun run, which raises funds for leukemia and lymphoma research at the UPMC Hillman Cancer Center.

The event, first run in 2007, will be headquartered at the Boyce Park Ski Lodge in Plum.

“(Russ) is such an outstanding person, and we're grateful he is a marshal this year,” Stampede co-founder and Plum cross country coach Joe Ionta said.

Maxwell's marshal duties will be shared by returning marshal Sierra Lilac, a Plum graduate and leukemia survivor.

“Sierra is in remission and now is working for the McDonald House in West Virginia,” said Ionta, himself a leukemia survivor.

“She is a tremendous asset to the Stampede as well as to those who benefit from her work down there.”

The Stampede in the Park also is known as the Rachel Twigg Memorial Race, a dedication to the 2005 Plum graduate and Mustangs running standout who died in February 2013 after a nearly five-year battle with osteosarcoma.

She participated in the first series of Stampede races and also served as a race marshal.

The proceeds of the Stampede again will be donated to the Hillman Cancer Center in Rachel's memory.

Ionta expects several hundred racers from Plum, the surrounding communities, the Pittsburgh region and beyond to descend on Boyce Park for the Stampede.

With so many race options every weekend, including Saturday, Ionta said he is grateful so many people support the Stampede and the cause of raising money for cancer research.

“The event is going on year 11, and we've raised more than $250,000 for the Hillman Center,” Ionta said. “That's really positive.”

Adam Molinaro, a Plum graduate who went on to run cross country and major in history education at St. Vincent, is one of a number of Plum alumni who take part in the race each year.

“For the past several years, we've tried to get more of an alumni involvement in the race,” Molinaro said. “We've kind of created teams to compete against each other. It's always a good time for a great cause.”

Molinaro also gives back to Plum as an assistant coach for the running programs.

Proceeds from the race also go toward scholarships each year for Plum cross country and track and field runners.

Ionta said this week is designated “Stamp Out Leukemia and Lymphoma Week” in Plum Borough, and the Stampede organization was presented a proclamation by Plum mayor Richard Hrivnak and borough council.

From now until race day at John Anthony's restaurant in Plum, 20 percent of each bill will go toward the Stampede. Chinese auction baskets will be available at John Anthony's and at the ski lodge Saturday.

The event's online registration period has passed, but those still wanting to sign up can do so at the Boyce ski lodge from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday and on race day from 7 to 8 a.m.

Those who have registered before Saturday can pick up race packets from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday and before the race from 7 to 8:15 a.m.

An awards ceremony will be 20 minutes after the conclusion of the race, and Pittsburgh Penguins mascot Iceburgh will be on hand.

For more information on the Stampede in the Park, including the event's history and past results, visit Stampede5k.com.

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at mlove@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Mlove_Trib.

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