WILKES-BARRE — Jeff Bachak and Eryn Milius ran to wire-to-wire victories in the Wyoming Valley Striders 43rd annual Cherry Blossom 5 Mile Foot Race on Sunday in Kirby Park.
Bachak, 29, of Jermyn, broke the tape in 28 minutes and 57 seconds. Pat Leonard, 38, of Pittston, finished second in 30:14. Paul Leonard, 54, of Scranton, finished third in 30:26.
“I took it out hard right from the start,” said Bachak, who ran cross country and track for Lakeland High School and Keystone College. “I just tried to stay with that same pace the entire way. Nobody pressured me throughout the race. So I stayed with that pace. I felt strong at the finish and still had something left in the tank at the end.”
Milius, 31, of Plymouth, won top female honors, finishing sixth overall in 33:29. Ashley Shamus, 29, of Clarks Summit, finished second among the females with an 8th-place overall finish in 34:33.
“I’m just coming back after having a baby,” Milius said. “So I didn’t really know how well I would do. I went into the race with no plan.”
Milius had a baby girl, Reese, in November. She finished the Boston Marathon in 2016 while pregnant.
Shamus, who has only been doing distance running for two years, finished this year’s Boston Marathon in 3:29.
No surprise, Tony Cerminaro, 80, from Jermyn, won the 70 & over age group in 40:41. Cerminaro broke the 80-84 age group record by two minutes in the Steamtown Marathon in October, finishing in 3 hours and 57 minutes.
He finished first in the 80 and over age group in the Boston Marathon in April, clocking in at 4:14:10. Cerminaro has been the top senior runner in Boston for three decades (at age 60, 70 and 80).
Milius has only been running for three years.
Tim Thomas Memorial scholarships awarded
In 2004, race officials from the Wyoming Valley Striders running club added “Tim Thomas Memorial” to the Cherry Blossom 5 Mile Foot Race name in memory of Thomas, who was a standout runner from Plains Twp. who ran for Bloomsburg University. He died at age 31.
Each year, Thomas’ widow, Kim, contacts all Wyoming Valley Conference guidance counsellors with a criteria for entering a scholarship contest in her husband’s name. The contest is for high school seniors who plan to run at the college level. Each contestant is asked to write a letter explaining what running means to them. Kim then picks two winners (one boy and one girl) from the letters that impress her the most. Both winners then receive a $750 scholarship.
This year’s winners, who were announced at the race, are: David Alberigi III of Wyoming Area High School and Samantha Dyer from Berwick High School.
Alberigi, who will be heading to Temple University. In his letter, Alberigi wrote about the importance of balancing his training (track, cross country and ice hockey), social life and extracurricular activities. He said academics are his top priority.
Dyer will be attending Seton Hall University. In her letter, Dyer wrote about how she made good friends through competing on her cross country team. She wrote about the dedication it takes to get up at the crack of dawn to beat the summer heat in order to get in her training. And she injected a bit of humor when she said the most important thing she learned from running was, “The quicker you run, the quicker you’re done.”
Wyoming Valley Striders 43rd annual Cherry Blossom 5 Mile Foot Race
“Tim Thomas Memorial” results
Top 3 male finishers
Jeff Bachak, 29, Jermyn, 28:57
Pat Leonard, 38, Pittston, 30:14
Paul Leonard, 54, Scranton, 30:26
Male award winners: Overall: Bachak. Age group winners: 14 & under: Ethan Shea, Jermyn, 47:23. 20-29: Joey O’Day, Wilkes-Barre, 37:48. 30-34: Jon Milius, Plymouth, 37:19. 35-39: Pat Leonard. Masters division: 40-44: Jesse Edwards, Clarks Summit, 34:03. 45-49: Paul Manley, Plymouth, 39:06. 50-54: Paul Leonard, Scranton, 30:26. 55-59: Greg Bassham, Mountain Top, 35:45. 60-64: John Miller, Lake Ariel, 48:13. 65-69: Leo Turissini, Scott Twp., 36:25. 70 & over: Tony Cerminaro, Jermyn, 40:41.
Top 3 female winners
Eryn Milius, 31, Plymouth, 33:28
Ashley Shamus, 29, Clarks Summit, 34:33
Ann Zoranski, 46, Kingston, 36:14
Female award winners: Overall: Milius. Age group winners: 15-19: Elizabeth Dyer, Berwick, 40:41. 20-29: Ashley Shamus, Clarks Summit, 34:33. 30-34: Jen Palmaioli, Kingston, 40:58. 35-39: Chris Zermane, Avoca, 37:34. Masters division: 40-44: Darby Kiley, Ithaca, NY, 41:29. 45-49: Ann Zoranski, Kingston, 36:14. 50-59: Jill Hildebrand, Wapwallopen, 42:32. 60 & over: Patti Turissini, Scott Twp., 39:50.
Field: 113. Official starter and timing: Vince P. Wojnar. Results: Wyoming Valley Striders. Race director: Traci Dutko-Strungis.
Note: The Jewish Community Center’s River Street 3 Mile Run will not take place this year. But the JCCs Benjamin August Memorial Run will still take place in the fall.
Sunday, May 21: Wyoming Valley Striders 26th annual Spring Trail (5.3 mile) Run “Jen Stec Memorial” (an age group handicap race) at the pavilion, near the boat launch area, of Frances Slocum State Park, Kingston Twp., at noon. Info: Don Grose, 570-239-5792.
Monday, May 29: Forty Fort Lions 37th annual Old Fort 5 Miler at Betty Mascelli Borough Park, Wyoming Ave., Forty Fort at 9 a.m. Info: Bernie Popson, 570-498-7665.
Saturday, June 3: West Pittston Anthracite 4 Mile Run and Fun Walk at W. Pittston Borough building, Route 92, W. Pittston at 9 a.m. Info: Don SheRer, 570-357-9144.