SEBRING - The Heartland got a taste of winter weather Thanksgiving Day, as Highlands Hammock State Park hosted the 21st annual Turkey Trot 5K in near-freezing temperatures.
Close to 700 runners showed up to participate in the fundraiser, which benefits the park.
"We had an excellent turnout today," said race organizer Erin Morton. "It's the most we've ever had for this race."
The funds raised by the 5K go directly to the Friends of Highlands Hammock State Park, an organization dedicated to maintaining and improving the park.
Highlands Hammock dates back to the early 1930s, when it was established as part of an extension of a Civilian Conservation Corps camp on the property.
By 1935 when the state's park system was founded, Highlands Hammock was one of the four original parks incorporated.
"We have a similar mission to the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC)," Morton said. "We really enjoy the park, and it's a valuable resource to the county, so any way we can help to improve the park is an honor."
Out on the course, 21-year-old Leonel Ayala braved 37-degree weather and a crisp breeze to win the 5K, finishing in a blistering 15:58.1.
Michael Quigley was the Male Masters Winner, coming in at 18:47.4, which was good for 10th overall. Tom Lucas captured the Male Grand Masters class with a time of 21:17.5.
On the women's side, perennial champion Regan Davenport was the overall female winner, finishing in 21:07.1.
Penny Quinn was the Female Masters Winner, gliding in at 24:15. In the Female Grand Master group, Peggy Essex-Klammer trotted into first with a time of 31:36.
A myriad of youngsters traded in a day to sleep late in favor of running. Zachary Van Fleet, 8, was the male nine and under winner, edging second play Zander Durastanti with a time of 23:09.5 to 24:50.8. Aston Griffin was third in 26:04.8.
On the girls side, plucky 9-year-old Zoe Wortinger, the female winner of September's Sebring Sunrise Rotary Red, White, and Blue 5K, galloped in at 23:36.4 to win the nine and under class.
Kinsley White was next with 25:18.5 and Cadence Osborne was third in 32:11.7.
In the female 10-13 age group, Savannah Oldfield was first in 26:21.3. Hailey Myers and Kerryanne Farrell followed, with Myers finishing second in 28:15.1 and Farrell placing third at 30:16.4.
Kayla Pratat won the 14-19 class with a time of 21:26.4. Maria Munoz was second in 21:40.8 and Crystal Avila was third in 22:11.6.
In the 20-24 group, Kaitlyn Bornemann was first in 23:38.6. Kayla Griffin was second in 25:58.3 and Natalie Dash was third in 27:00.8.
Tabitha Spiker captured the 25-29 class, coming in at 24:42. Gina Shlaferman was second in 25:39.4 and Bridget Bochanski was third in 26:22.6.
Sebring High School's girls cross country coach Krista Schult won the 30-34 age group, breezing in at 21:10.5. Jennifer Sawnick was second in 25:46.8 while Lorie Percy was third in 27:24.6.
Fatima LaGrow won the 35-39 class in 24:27.8. Stephanie White was second in 24:34.5 while Courtney Lenhart in 25:09.7.
Other impressive first place finishes on the women's side included Trudy Benton (24:41) in the 40-44 class; Paula Jean Lunt (24:31.8) in the 45-49 group; Roxane Burrous (26:55.3) in the 50-54 group; Laura Griffin (24:30.2) in the 55-59 class; Katie Taylor (40:44.8) in the 60-64; Mary Rucker (35:26.4) in the 65-69 class; Lois Hotchkiss (35:38.2) in the 70-74 group; Jan Coyle (47:26) in the 75-79 class; and Jane Cashell (59:13.1) who was the lone runner in the over 80 group.
On the boys side, Dylan Branch sparked the rest of the youngsters, winning the 10-13 class in 20:03.7. Chandler Gowan was second in 20:39.1 and Zackary Durastanti was third in 21:01.9.
Representing the Blue Streaks, Eric Foster won the 14-19 group in 16:42.6. Foster's time was good for second place overall. Malcolm Holdman was behind Foster in the class with a time of 17:04.3, which put him in third overall. Damian Foster was third in 17:51.1. Eric's twin brother, Damian was fifth overall.
Renee Marin-Gomez was first in the 20-24 class, gliding in at 17:05.2. Jesse Sellers was second in 22:18 and Elvis Villalobos was third in 23:12.3.
Matthew Schult was first in the 25-29 class at 17:54.5, capping off a husband and wife first place finish after Krista her group. Jonathan Skipper was second in 20:18.6., while Aaron Williams was third in 20:37.1.
In the 30-34 class, Adam Smehyl was first in 18:43.8. Smehyl was ninth overall. Stewart Skipper was second in 21:12.3 and Diego Pierilla was third at 21:49.3.
Sebring's boys cross country coach Jayson Bass was first in the 35-39 class with a time of 19:13.9. Josh Zahller followed him in second at 19:18.7 and James Brown was third in 19:37.3.
Other top men's finishes included Chris Doty (21:04.8) in the 40-44 class; Andrew Ames (25:55.8) in the 45-49 group; Thomas F. Meade (20:16.6) in the 50-54 group; Roger Travis (20:02) in the 55-59 class; Michael Stewart (25:10.1) in the 60-64 group; Terry Engle (22:43.5) in the 65-69 group; Cliff Ables (39:41.8) in the 70-74 class; Roger Rouiller (24:11.7) in the 75-79 group; while Ken Filppula (46:47.1) captured the 80 and over class.