SEBRING - More than 225 people started their July of Fourth by participating in the 19th annual Firecracker 5K at Highlands Hammock State Park on Thursday.
Celebrated runner and Hawaiian Ironman competitor Patrick High cruised to first place overall with a time of 17 minutes, 52 seconds over the wet 5K course.
"Chet Brojek's Firecracker 5K on the Fourth of July is an annual tradition," the 51-year-old High said. "It's a healthy activity and whether you're walking, trotting or running, this is a beautiful environment and perfect for people of all walks of life.
"It's a privilege to be here."
Regan Davenport was the overall female winner with a time of 21:16, Male Masters winner was Sean Brown in a time of 19:30, Female Masters winner was Maureen Spinler-Kracik in 23:27, Male Senior Grand Masters winner was Thomas Lucas in 22:12 and Jo Collier was the Female Grand Masters winner in 29:36.
The proceeds from the 5K go to the Avon Park High School boys and girls cross-country programs.
"I started the cross-country program at Avon Park High in 1971," said event coordinator Chet Brojek. "I coached track and cross-country and running has played such a big part in my life and I want to give back and help the kids out."
Brojek coached and was the athletic director at Avon Park until his retirement in 2003. He is in the school's hall of fame and the track at the high school is named in his honor.
"The kids work very hard and I want all of them to have nice uniforms," Brojek said. "I like being able to do this to help raise funds for those kids.
"I've had a great life in this community and this is just a way for me to give back."
In the male 9-under age group, Zander Durastanti was first in 27:02, Zachary Vanfleet placed second at 27:44 and Bud Cox was third in 28:03.
Shayla cox was first in the girls 9-under division in 34:36, Elissa Nawrocki came in second at 35:08 and Hayley Alred finished third in 40:41.
Damian foster was first in the male 14-19 age group in 18;44, Andrew Rivera was second at 19:15 and Ean Ormsby was third at 19:35.
Kaytlyn Cooper won the girls 14-19 division in 26:03, Olivia Burnett placed second with a 26:06 and Ashley Castelli claimed third place in 27:10.
Matthew Schult won the male 25-29 age group in 19:43, Eric Marshall was second at 25:28 and Jeremy Kelly was third at 30:30.
Lindsey Smith won the female 25-29 age group with a 28:29, Mary Starr came in second at 32:43 and Sonya Atwell finished third with a 38:36.
James Alred was first in the male 40-44 division in 21:43, Zbigniew Nawrocki placed second in 24:52 and Bryant Musselman came in third at 27:46.
Vicki Musselman was first in the female 40-44 age group with a 25:20, Kathy Edgemon was second at 28:55 and Sonia Quejada came in third with a 30:30.
In the male 50-54 category, Rick Lilyquist was first in 23:21, John Snyder placed second in 29:04 and Mike Lee came in third with a 29:34.
Helen Bingenheimer won the female 50-54 division with a 27:38, Darlene Celantano came in second at 29:22 and Nancy Goddard finished third at 31:51.
Dale Barger was first in the male 70-74 age group at 38:44, Winkie Williams came in second with a 42:19 and Charles Leighton was third in 43:02.
Nancy Miesse was first in the female 70-74 age group with a 38:59 and Audrey Smith placed second in 44:02.