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Climbers step up in One Oxford Centre to benefit American Lung Association

| Sunday, March 16, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

If all goes well, Shaney Enck will scale 897 steps in just less than nine minutes.

Enck, 12, of Saxonburg will lead her team but probably won't be the first to the top.

“We had one guy last year who made it up in five minutes,” said Maggie Fromm, 24, of the North Shore. “And the first responders in full gear will be right behind him.”

More than 470 people have registered for the eighth annual “Fight for Air” Climb at One Oxford Centre on Saturday.

Runners dash up the Downtown skyscraper to benefit the American Lung Association. As of Friday, the campaign collected about 40 percent of its $150,000 fundraising goal through a combination of individual, team and corporate sponsors.

Fromm, a first-time runner and development manager at the association, encouraged climbers of all abilities to participate. Awards will be given.

Dianne McMaster, 50, of North Huntingdon said she climbed all 45 floors in 18 minutes last year. She didn't practice, so this year she and 19 others started meeting on weekends to climb the University of Pittsburgh's Cathedral of Learning.

Enck set the pace for Team Zada for the past three years.

“She has so much energy,” said her mother and association committee member, Stacey Enck, 44. “We lost my dad, her Zada, to lung cancer four years ago. He probably contracted it from smoking, even though he quit 15 years before the diagnosis.”

With his death, the Encks dedicated themselves to educating others.

“Even if you quit, there's no guarantee you dodge that bullet,” Stacey Enck said.

The association holds the event annually to spread awareness about local air quality. Last year was the first time all eight air-quality monitoring sites in Allegheny County met Environmental Protection Agency standards for fine particulate pollution, county officials said Friday.

Seven sites — Avalon, Clairton, North Braddock, Harrison, Lawrenceville, North Park and Fayette — met standards before. Last year was the first year the monitoring site in Liberty met federal standards, according to the county.

Health Director Karen Hacker said in a statement the milestone marks a “huge leap forward” in the county's efforts to improve air quality. Fine particle pollution, derived from coal-fired power plants, auto emissions and coke works, have long plagued the Mon Valley.

The Pittsburgh region was one of two places outside California to rank among the 25 most polluted in the association's “State of the Air 2013” report.

In the report, Allegheny County trimmed its average of unhealthy air days to 20.7 from 26.3 in the year prior, but still earned an overall “F” grade. The association's methodology considers only the worst daily readings from federal monitors, particularly those of Liberty, a borough about 16 miles southeast of Downtown that is downwind of U.S. Steel Corp.'s Clairton Coke Works, the nation's largest coke plant.

Megan Harris is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach her at 412-388-5815.

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