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Pottsville Republican/Evening Herald

Area runners help make history
Cuono and Popalis earn individual championships

FRACKVILLE - Area runners had a chance to make history Saturday morning. Nearly 40 local athletes participated in YMCA's World Largest Run at Schuylkill Mall, Frackville, an unprecedented national event in which an estimated 200,000 runners in 700 cities nationwide took part in a synchronized 5K race and fun walk. The race, held to commemorate YMCA's 150th anniversary in America, began across the country at 10:00 a.m. Eastern time. Runners in California took off at 7:00 a.m. local time, and Hawaiian racers at 4:00 a.m. "It's part of history," said Dave Yoder, executive director of Schuylkill YMCA. "The runners should be proud for being here and taking part."

Yoder said Saturday's run for the record book was the first YMCA-organized race in Schuylkill County. The event, organized in conjunction with Anthracite Running Club, which handled pre-registration and timing, and Schuylkill Mall, attracted runners of all ages and skill levels.

Jim Cuono, 42, of Port Carbon, won the race, a two-lap circuit along the outside of the mall parking lot, with a time of 17 minutes, 31 seconds. "This course was tough," said Cuono, who competes regionally and nationally in 5K races. "They had the two uphills, one at the mile mark and one at the two-mile mark. Perfect spots, right where you start to hurt." Cuono said community as well as competition drew him to the race. "It's great," said Cuono. "I try to make as many local races as I can, and this was for a great cause. I'll be here again next year." Bloomsburg's Renee Popalis, 26, took first place in the women's division in 21:44. "It's exciting," said Popalis, a Shenandoah native and graduate of Cardinal Brennan High School. "For a first-year event, they had a nice turnout. It's nice to come back." Dave Rossi, chief volunteer officer for Schuylkill YMCA, was pleased with the showing as well. "We had 37 runners, which is a good first-year turnout,"Rossi said. "Hopefully it will grow in the future."

While winning may have been on the minds of some, other participants saw the event as just another chance to meet up with other area runners. "There's a great camaraderie among runners," said Elmer Lazar, 71, of Frackville. "The people here are great. Runners are great people."

Saturday's race marked the first for Tim Nestor, 11, of Ashland. "I'm tired," Nestor said after completing the race. "I'm going to bed when I go home." "The kids always run together," said mom Nancy, 37, who also ran with daughter Sara, 9, and Kim and Drew Paul, 35 and 8, of Frackville and Kate Zeigenfuse, 12, of Ashland. "When we saw in the paper that this was going to be a special event, the kids were even more excitied," Nestor said.

All proceeds from the event benefit the YMCA Youth Scholarship Fund, used to send Schuylkill County children to summer day camps, after-school child care centers and the youth center in Pottsville. "YMCA does a great job throughout Schuylkill County," said Dave Rattigan of the Anthracite Running Club. "We're happy to be associated with them." Cuono and Popalis received trophies for their efforts, as well as gift certificates from Cracker Barrel and Sears. K-Mart and the law offices of Williamson, Friedberg and Jones, Pottsville, also provided major awards and t-shirts. Medals and prizes were also awarded to the top-three finishers in seven age brackets. Brent Clauser, 11, of Pottsville, won the male 14-and-under division with a time of 23 minutes, 11 seconds. Kate Zeigenfuse, 12, of Ashland, took top honors in the female 14-and-under at 32 minutes, 49 seconds. Josh Hart took the male 15-19 bracket, coming in at 20 minutes, 24 seconds and Jonathon Gibas won the male 20-29 division at 18 minutes, 56 seconds. Mike Dicello finished first in the male 30-39 at 19 minutes, 51 seconds and Dan Lewis topped the male 40-49 division at 19 minutes, 20 seconds. Robert Miller was the first male 50-59 winner at 21 minutes, 53 seconds. Ed Miller took first in male 60 and over at 31 minutes, 39 seconds and Dolores Miller won the female 60 and over at 39 minutes, 22 seconds.

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