Sun, smiles and speed: Records fall at 3rd annual FOCUS 5K race

Saturday, April 27, 2019 - 14:21
  • Emi Moore nears the finish line en route to victory in the women’s division of the FOCUS Family 5K race Saturday, April 27, 2019 in Eagle River. Moore is a seventh grader at Mirror Lake Middle School. (Matt Tunseth / Chugiak-Eagle River Star)
  • Bailey Rogers, Sami McLaughlin and Kim Ulrich near the finish line of the 1-mile race during the FOCUS Family 5K races Saturday, April 27, 2019 in Eagle River. (Matt Tunseth / Chugiak-Eagle River Star)
  • Sami McLaughlin smiles after finishing the 1-mile event at the FOCUS Family 5K races Saturday, April 27, 2019 in Eagle River. (Matt Tunseth / Chugiak-Eagle River Star)
  • Michael Olson races to victory in the FOCUS Family 5K race Saturday, April 27, 2019 in Eagle River. (Matt Tunseth / Chugiak-Eagle River Star)
  • Competitors hit the trail at the start of the FOCUS Family 5K races Saturday, April 27, 2019 in Eagle River. (Matt Tunseth / Chugiak-Eagle River Star)
  • Evelyn Stiehr, left, and Charlotte Knox run alongside the Old Glenn Highway during the FOCUS Family 5K Saturday, April 27, 2019 in Eagle River. (Matt Tunseth / Chugiak-Eagle River Star)
  • Olivia Merrill, left, and Daniella Murray near the finish line of the 1-mile race at the FOCUS Family 5K races Saturday, April 27, 2019 in Eagle River. (Matt Tunseth / Chugiak-Eagle River Star)
  • A pair of dogs runs alongside the Glenn Highway after running with their owner in the FOCUS Family 5K Saturday, April 27, 2019 in Eagle River. (Matt Tunseth / Chugiak-Eagle River Star)
  • Ryan Bish gestures to the camera near the end of the FOCUS Family 5K race Saturday, April 27, 2019 in Eagle River. (Matt Tunseth / Chugiak-Eagle River Star)
  • Tia Hale pushes Brayden and Elisa Hale at the start of the FOCUS Family 5K race Saturday, April 27, 2019 in Eagle River. (Matt Tunseth / Chugiak-Eagle River Star)

It’s easy to see why the FOCUS 5K is gaining a reputation as one of the happiest footraces around. Just look for the smiles.

“It’s a great event, great atmosphere — they even brought the sun out,” said Eagle River runner Ryan Bish after the third annual race in downtown Eagle River.

Bish was one of 92 competitors in this year’s 5K race, which benefits FOCUS Inc., an Eagle River nonprofit that helps children and adults with special needs. Another was Eagle River’s Sami McLaughlin, a 26-year-old whose smile was the only thing brighter than the sunshine that soaked participants at the start/finish line in the vacant Eklutna Inc. lot across from Fred Meyer.

McLaughlin’s developmental disabilities limit her mobility, but she still managed to walk the entire 1-mile fun run course with the help of FOCUS employees Bailey Rogers and and Kim Ulrich. As they crossed the finish line, the women shared smiles and hugs to celebrate McLaughlin’s accomplishment.

The 26-year-old’s mother, Darline, said such a moment wouldn’t be possible without the support provided by the Eagle River nonprofit.

“She started when she was 2-years-old with infant learning and respite care — Kim was our first respite provider — so she’s been getting services since she was two,” McLaughlin said.

With therapy, McLaughlin said her daughter has been able to live a more mobile and independent lifestyle.

“It’s huge,” McLaughlin said. “They honestly said she’d never walk, and with the infant learning and physical therapy she’s gotten with FOCUS she’s out here doing what she’s doing.”

The front of the 5K field saw a pair of local youngsters race to record times as 18-year-old Michael Olson of Eagle River claimed the overall title in 17 minutes, 53 seconds and Mirror Lake Middle School seventh grader Emi Moore burst onto the Anchorage running scene by placing seventh overall and winning the women’s division in 21 minutes 19 seconds.

Olson’s time was more than a minute faster than the previous men’s record, while Moore lowered the women’s standard by 45 seconds.

Moore is already the Anchorage School District’s 6th/7th grade cross country running champion and said her goal is to get faster in every race she runs.

“I like running in races because it’s funner to have a challenge,” she said. “If I have someone faster than me, I can run a better time.”

Moore, 13, said she has been running since she was in third grade and likes the individual nature of the sport.

“It’s fun and relaxing and it’s not a team sport so you can do whatever,” she said.

Eagle River’s Andrea Barnes was second among women in 24:12, followed by Jaylee Brendel in 24:44. Moore’s time bested the record of 22:04 set last year by Eagle RIver’s Karen Kirk.

This year’s start/finish line returned to its original location after moving last year to Recency Drive off Business Boulevard.

Olson, a junior at Eagle River High, said he thought he had a decent chance of winning the men’s title after looking at the times posted the first two years by back-to-back winner Chaven Davidson. But crossing the finish line first was still an emotional moment.

“Honestly, it’s exciting,” he said. “It’s just a rush — an amazing feeling.”

Eagle River runners took the top three spots in the men’s race, with Ryan Bittinger finishing second in 19:28 and Joseph Davis third in 19:36. Davidson’s previous record was 19:06 set last year.

Anchorage’s Davidson finished fourth and said he wasn’t too disappointed to see his two-year reign come to an end. In fact, he kinda expected it to happen.

“I kinda snuck under the radar the first two years, but I figured the actual fast people would show up eventually,” he said.

The event attracted everyone from serious athletes to weekend warriors to children racing for family pride. Eagle River’s Tia Hale pushed a stroller with her two kids — Brayden, 15 months and Elise, 4 — along for the ride. Hale said Elise even got out and ran for some of the event and is already nipping at her mom’s heels.

“She’s becoming my little inspiration,” Hale said. “She wanted to start running with me and it was the perfect weekend so I wanted her to come with me.”

Hale said she was excited to have her budding running buddy along for the race.

“She wants to me like me, I think that’s awesome,” she said.

FOCUS community relations manager Jenna Morales said the annual event has become something organizers and clients look forward to each year and she’s hopeful next year’s race will be even bigger.

“We’re super excited to keep this going,” she said. “We just hope every year we can get more community together, that’s what we really want to do, that’s what it’s really all about for us.”

For complete results, visit athlinks.com.

Email Star editor Matt Tunseth at [email protected] or call 257-4274

FOCUS Family 5K

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Eagle River

Men— 1) Michael Olson, 17 minutes, 53 seconds (new men’s record; previous record 19:06 by Chaven Davidson in 2018); 2) Ryan Bittinger, 19:28; 3) Joseph Davis, 19:36; 4) Chaven Davidson, 19:45; 5) Ryan Bish, 20:16; 6) Travis Kindred, 21:17; 7) David Owens, 21:29; 8) Austin Sayer, 21:47; 9) Devon Greer, 21:49; 10) Jason Werner, 23:34; 11) Dylan Sharkey, 24:07; 12) David Espino, 24:12; 13) Huy Bui, 24:13; 14) Micah Samuelson, 24:32; 15) John Brewer, 24:38; 16) Brandon Childers, 24:46; 17) Eli Lang, 24:56; 18) Brian Johnson, 26:57; 19) Edwin Rivera, 28:03; 20) Jason Gates, 30:07; 31) Duane Mayes, 30:56; 32) Trevor DoBell-Carlsson, 31:03; 33) LaFewt Knox, 33:13; 34) Ryan Murray, 34:14; 35) Matt Fraize, 35:02; 36) Robert Edmiston Jr., 37:34; 37) Gary Stevens, 55:14; 38) Cooper Vause, 55:15; 39) Blaine Bish, 57:56; Gabe Friemuth, 1:11:59

Women — 1) Emi Moore, 21:19 (new women’s record; previous record 22:04 by Karen Kirk in 2018); 2) Andrea Barnes, 24:12; 3) Jaylee Brendel, 24:44; 4) Janet Morrone, 24:50; 5) Shelby Wagoner, 25:00; 6) Sarah Buhr, 25:15; 7) Deann Denter, 25:33; 8) Ashley Lang, 25:40; 9) Suzanne Johnson, 26:15; 10) Petra Knox, 26:28; 11) Cary Moore, 27:18; 12) Cinda Devine, 28:24; 13) Grace Lang, 28:28; 14) Dreanna Owens, 28:39; 15) Renae Werner, 28:56; 16) Kiana Gates, 29:19; 17) Andrea De La Rosa, 30:12; 18) Nicole Cleary, 30:17; 19) Kinzie Gates, 30:25; 20) Suzanne Armentrout, 30:31; 21) Donna Levy, 30:58; 22) Annie Luck, 31:05; 23) Alicia Vernon, 31:42; 24) Heidi Voeller, 31:43; 25) Charlotte Knox, 31:48; 26) Kenna Rahm, 31:51; 27) Kailey gates, 31:51; 28) Desiree Winters, 32:14; 29) Aubrie Davidson, 32:19; 30) Magayr Knox, 32:24; 31) Darline Mclaughlin, 32:38; 32) Sonya Wagoner, 32:57; 33) Tia Hale, 33:31; 34) Zoey Stille, 33:32; 35) Kacy Stille, 33:33; 36) BC Kindred, 33:56; 37) Makenna Merrill, 32:15; 38) Rachel Lockyer, 34:53; 39) Julie Merrill, 35:13; 40) Kristine Casteel, 35:58; 41) Erika Hopper, 36:19; 42) Catherine Allison, 37:01; 43) Julie McDonald, 37:23; 44) Marie Terry, 37:26; 45) Octavia Knox, 38:14; 46) Emma Toth, 38:15; 47) Andrea Toth, 38:16; 48) Evelyn Stiehr, 40:22; 49) Shalea Davies, 40:31; 50) Leah Davies, 40:31; 51) Mandy Dulin, 41:10; 52) Judy Krier, 41:48; 53) Mary Eckardt, 42:15; 54) Renae Sather, 42:16; 55) Valerie Flynn, 42:17; 56) Denise Baldwin, 47:53; 57) Donna Davidson, 53:05; 58) Falica Forell-Stevens, 55:12; 59) Marcey Bish, 57:55; 60) Cheryl Tope, 1:04:36; 61) Engel Goodnight, 1:11:59

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