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A Willey good time

Jon Mitchell
jmitchell@postindependent.com
Ben Sarno of Glenwood Springs runs up Mitchell Creek Road in West Glenwood during Saturday morning's Willey Coyote 5K Scholarship Run. Proceeds from the event, which encouraged costumes thanks to Willey's background as a theater teacher and performer, will benefit an annual scholarship in Willey's name.
Jon Mitchell / Post Independent |

Willey Coyote 5K Scholarship run

Saturday in West Glenwood

Top 25 (Out of 82 runners)

1. Alex Tiernan, 18:10; 2. Noah Crisler, 18:13: 3. Henry Barth, 19:22; 4. Benny Smith, 19;25; 5. Reid Swanson, 20:22; 6. Bryce Risner, 20;52; 7. Eddie Murray, 21:41; 8. Garrett Like, 21:50; 9. Ron Lund, 21:51; 10. Eric Lamb, 22:16.

11. Candelario De Luera, 22:39; 12. Brad Palmer, 23:01; *13. Morgan Hill, 23:12; 14. Benny Swanson, 23;38; *15. Jessi Rochel, 23:43; 16. Johnny Utah, 23:56; 17. Phil Samora, 24:32; *18. Hannah Tossie, 25:01; 19. Matthew Ross, 26:01; *20. Matilda Barth, 26:13.

21. Allan Filson, 26:40; *22. Taia Nykerk, 26:54; 23. Ben Sarno, 27:03; 24. Greg Feinsinger, 27:10; *25. Sara Porter, 27:51.

* — Denotes female.

Bob Willey Stories

Cassidy Willey, Bob Willey’s daughter, is collecting stories about her late father. Stories can be submitted no later than Oct. 1 to BobWilleyStories@gmail.com.

GLENWOOD SPRINGS — The biggest ovation Ben Sarno got on Saturday didn’t come at the finish line of the Willey Coyote 5K Scholarship Run. It actually came well afterward.

During the post-race costume contest that each one of the 82 participants was eligible for, four people stepped forward in an event judged solely on the volume of the applause from all in attendance. Sarno, wearing an old-school Denver Broncos superhero costume that included an orange cape, won by a landslide.

His finish in the race, by the way, was 23rd overall with a time of 27 minutes, 3 seconds. Then again, running this race had a little more meaning than a fast time.

“I knew that Bob was a Broncos fan,” said Sarno, who had known Bob Willey since he was a sixth grader at Glenwood Springs Middle School. “We all wanted to remember Bob, but I don’t think anyone wanted a sad atmosphere. This was something to keep the mood light.”

Mission accomplished.

Sarno was one of close to three dozen runners — close to half of the total field — who wore some kind of costume during the benefit run that will annually fund a scholarship in Willey’s name. It’s the second running of the event, which Willey himself attended during its inaugural run prior to his death on July 31, 2014, following a severe stroke his diagnosis of lung cancer.

Willey, whose name became synonymous with the annual Strawberry Shortcut 10K and 5K races after he’d run the race 35 of its 37 years at the time of his death, was also a longtime drama teacher and counselor in the Roaring Fork School District. He also acted in theatrical productions himself, starring in “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” at Colorado Mountain College not long before his stroke.

That was the primary reason why so many runners wore costumes during the run, which followed a nearly identical route to the route that Willey ran daily in his quest to run 1,200 miles annually. It went from the parking lot of Glenwood Springs Middle School in West Glenwood up Soccer Field Road to Donegan Road about three-quarters of a mile to Mitchell Creek Road. There, runners made a steep climb toward the Glenwood Fish Hatchery before turning around to finish back at the original start line.

Winning the race was 28-year-old Alex Tiernan of Carbondale, a Roaring Fork High School graduate who crossed the finish line in 18:10. Tiernan, who recently finished sixth overall at the San Juan 50-Mile Run in Lake City, Colorado, in late June, said it was a bit of an adjustment moving from running an ultra marathon.

Even Tiernan, however, decided to wear a costume. He donned a tiger-top costume, which he occasionally threw on top of his head while he was running just to keep the overall mood of the race light.

“There wasn’t really a special reason why I chose a tiger,” Tiernan, a 2005 RFHS graduate, said. “It just seemed like a fun thing to do to keep with the theme.”

Tiernan didn’t win the race convincingly by any means. Pushing him all the way to the finish line was 2015 Coal Ridge High graduate Noah Crisler, who crossed the finish line in 18:13. Crisler, by the way, will compete on the track and field team at Division II Colorado State-Pueblo in the fall.

Crossing the finish line was the top overall female was Morgan Hill, a former cross country and track standout at Glenwood Springs High. Her winning time was 23:12, which wasn’t too far ahead of the time of 23:43 posted by second-place finisher Jessi Rochel of Glenwood.

Rochel not only finished second while wearing a tutu, but she did it after riding her bike from Carbondale to the race in Glenwood with her friend, Sara Porter.

Porter, who wore a crab hat on her head while running the race, was one of the many people at the race who knew Willey before he died. Christine Holiday-Schriock ran the race wearing her “Cody’s All-Star’s” T-shirt, which serves as the uniform top for the slowpitch softball team Bob Willey used to coach.

“Even when you didn’t feel like going to play softball, you still went because you knew that Bob would be on your ass if you didn’t show up,” she said.

This year’s turnout was down from the 270 who showed up at last year’s inaugural event. That was partially because of the Ragner Relay Series races running from Frisco through Glenwood to Aspen this weekend, not to mention the Beaver Creek Half Marathon and 10K that takes place today in Avon.

All of that said, event organizers are more than happy with the turnout that, at $20 a person, more than pays for the $1,000 scholarship that will be distributed annually in Bob Willey’s name.

“This is a great turnout considering all of that,” said Molly Jankovsky, a former student of Willey’s who ran in a leopard costume. “This turnout shows how special he was. He was such a big part of this community.”


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