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Christiansen, Groner set pace at Brentwood Firecracker 5K event

| Tuesday, July 5, 2016, 11:00 p.m.
Jed Christiansen
randy jarosz | for the tribune-review
Jed Christiansen
Roberta Groner
randy jarosz | for the tribune-review
Roberta Groner

Jed Christiansen, 29, breezed to first place Monday at the 33rd annual Brentwood Firecracker 5K Run.

Christiansen, from Grove City, won this year's holiday event with a time of 15:17 — 22 seconds faster than last year's winning time posted by Scott Denham of Youngstown, Ohio.

Christiansen also defeated runner-up Juris Silenieks of Pittsburgh by a 17-second margin.

“My goal was to place overall but, yes, to (also) win,” Christiansen said. “You just never know who might show up at a race like Brentwood, though. I wasn't sure how fast I could run because I've had a lot of injuries I've been trying to overcome.

“I love races that are lined the whole way with spectators, and Brentwood has it because of the parade. Very few others do. It's actually big for a 5K, but most of the races that are lined the whole way have like 20,000 people. So this makes Brentwood stand out.”

Silenieks, 23, registered a time of 15:34, and was followed by 25-year-old Job Christiansen of Kent, Ohio, who placed third in 16:07. Brad Popple, 28, and Casey Conboy, 17, finished fourth and fifth with times of 16:27 and 16:35, respectively.

Jed and Job Christiansen are siblings and long-time running enthusiasts.

“Job actually stayed with me the whole weekend, and Saturday evening we went out for a run together,” said Jed, the older brother. “We were actually debating through the weekend on whether we'd come down (to Brentwood) because I wasn't sure I'd be healthy enough to run. I never thought I'd be able to go 15:17, so I was really surprised.”

Conboy, who will be a senior at Baldwin High School, has won the Whitehall Borough 5K Race for five consecutive years, and owns the course record.

Roberta Groner, 39, of Randolph, N.J. corralled first place among female runners at the Brentwood event with a 17:01 time. Groner also placed eighth overall.

“I've run the Brentwood 5K before,” Groner said. “I lived here until two years ago, then moved away. I love the race. It has great crowd support and fantastic pre- and post-race festivities. I was in town to visit my family so I decided to race it again. Since moving to New Jersey, I have been running significantly faster so was excited to see what I could run here.

“I am a competitive runner, so I always have a goal to perform at the best level for each race. That doesn't mean it always has to be a win.”

Clara Santucci, 29, last year's champion, ended up second in 17:05, followed by Laura Harnish, 29, of Pittsburgh, who took third in 17:48. Ann Mazur, 30, and Jamie Morgenstern, 28, finished fourth and fifth in 18:27 and 18:40.

“Clara is an amazing runner, and I knew she had just run Grandma's Marathon two weeks ago,” Groner said. “I thought it would be a good test to try to run with her. I'm always up for the challenge.

“The course is slightly challenging with the rolling hills, so my time was slower than my two previous 5Ks. I was just happy to stay with Clara at mile 2, and able to give it my all at the end. I'd love to come back yearly and run it.”

Other individual “medalists” at this year's 5K consisted of Steve Kirkland (16:41), Craig Woshner (16:46) and Larry Quinn (17:01), among the male runners; and Stephanie Bonk McGlynn (18:54), Laura Mucho (19:08) and Grace Trucilla (19:29), among the female runners.

Weather ‘amazing' for annual race

The Brentwood Firecracker 5K Run was held on Brownsville Road as a kickoff to the borough's Fourth of July holiday parade. The start and finish are held in front of Brentwood Towne Square.

There were 2,186 runners in this year's event. Elite Runners Race Management provided the timing system.

“The weather was amazing,” said Brentwood resident Kira Kellner, who is co-race director along with Maureen Cunningham, another Brentwood resident. “We actually expected a much lower turnout this year with the race being on a Monday, but (we) ended up with only about 50 less than last year.

“We are thrilled this race is regarded as one of the largest 5Ks in the region and attracts runners from all over the United States, and various countries, as well.”

Woshner, Nigrelli masters champions

Trophies and cash awards were presented to the top three male and female finishers, and to the top individual male and female master (ages 40-plus) runners.

Woshner, 46, won the male masters division championship. Stacy Nigrelli, 61, took first place in the female division with a 22:00 performance.

Woshner was followed by Eric Shafer (17:30), Stephen Crelli (18:47), David Wilt (18:50), Greg Barnhisel (18:51), John Oluszak (19:21), Stu Bewick (20:01), T.C. Collins (20:08), Mike Klier (20:12), Larry Zalewski (20:14), Mike Kirch (20:22), Joseph Molinaro (20:35), Mike Romzy (20:47) and Rob Polinsky (21:04).

Shafer won last year's title in 17:41.

Nigrelli set the pace for Roxanne Romah-Picard (22:34), Sha Zhao (23:14), Cassie Scarpino (23:25), Stephanie Teagarden (23:31), Amy Koontz (23:33), Mary Fallon-Potts (23:35), Kim Lambert (24:13), Tara O'Brien (24:30), Ann Rhodes (24:33), Lisa Medved (24:34), Suzanne Natter (24:35), Lisa Knavish (24:55), Stacy Byers (25:09) and Staci Harrold (25:10).

Christopher, Dutka clinch borough titles

Trophies are awarded annually at the Brentwood Firecracker to the borough's first male and female runners.

The leading borough contestants this year were Neil Christopher and Gabrielle Dutka, who dethroned last year's champions, Sam Shea and Amy Wroblewski.

“I really enjoying running the Firecracker every year that I can. It's a great race with a lot of great and talented runners,” Christopher said. “I have competed in the two years prior to this year. Each year I've decreased my time.

“It was not my goal to win the borough title. I didn't even know until I got the results. It's an honor to win it.”

Christopher, 21, posted a time of 19:11, while the 19-year-old Dutka crossed the finish line in 23:31.

“I was not expecting to win the borough title at all,” Dutka said. “I actually didn't know I won it until I checked my race results. It was a nice surprise.”

“I'd like to thank all the people who volunteered to help out and put the Firecracker 5K together. It's a really fun and uplifting race.”

Shea, a Duquesne University graduate, had been the top male Brentwood runner at the holiday event in four of the previous five years.

Christopher was followed by borough residents Aidan Barker (19:43), Josh Gildea (21:15), Joey Grimm (21:55), Brian Kellerman (22:04), Nate Rigby (23:10), Jason Rubinsky (23:17), Matthew King (23:25), Gary Wobb (24:03), Craig Casillo (24:08), Roger Gaughan (24:15), Sam Kostyak (24:28), Paul Kostyak (24:50), Brandon Mayheim (24:54) and Zachary Keib (25:12).

“The Brentwood Firecracker is just a great race,” Christopher said. “The race atmosphere is always great. Having such a small community and having over 2,000 runners is really special.

“Those who haven't run in it should really try it sometime. It doesn't matter how good you are, but just try something new.”

Dutka was followed by Brentwood's Dorothy Rigby (24:44), Carly Cunningham (24:52), Erica Medina (25:40), Katharina Lippmann (27:20), Abby Scalise (27:41), Ava Barker (28:15), Melita Karadza (28:53), Shelby Stockline (29:04), Lindsey Bennett (29:30), Elizabeth Rishel (29:30), Deana Donovan (29:47), Sydney Luther (29:52), Cameran Evans (29:52) and Charlotte Kenrick (30:00).

This marked the third year Dutka has competed in the Brentwood Firecracker.

“The atmosphere is really great because the whole community comes and watches the race,” Dutka said. “I love that people of all ages run it. My 10-year-old brother (Zach) ran it for the first time this year.

“It's a great way to kick off the fourth. I think it's really great for the community, and its a fun and challenging course because of all the hills. The celebration after (the race) is always really fun, too.”

South Hills area well-represented

“The race went very well, and there was an upset in women's division,” said Rich Wright, a Brentwood Firecracker 5K race committee member who serves as the event's public address announcer.

Wright and Bonita “Bunny” Schmidt are co-head coaches of the Baldwin cross country program. Wright also is an assistant track and field coach at Baldwin.

“There were many Baldwin runners in the race, past and present,” he said. “There was a lot of local talent.”

*****

The course record in both the male and female division were set in 1997 by Carl Leonard (14:16) and Carole Zajac (16:24).

Ray Fisher is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at 412-388-5820 or rfisher@tribweb.com.

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