CHARLEVOIX This Saturday, between 20 and 40 elite mile runners will gather in Charlevoix to commemorate running phenom Ryan Shay, a Central Lake native who died while competing in the 2008 Olympic Trials marathon in New York City.
“Ryan was a great runner, but also, by all accounts, he was a great person,” said Matt Peterson, one of the event organizers. “We just wanted to have a fitting tribute to him.”
This year will be the fourth annual Ryan Shay Elite Mile. The invitation-only event attracts an elite field of runners from all over the United States, and will include runners from Australia and Kenya.
The race begins at the corner of M-66 and U.S. 31. The course is a straight shot down Bridge Street, and, after the runners coast down the hill to downtown Charlevoix, they will cross the finish line just south of the bridge.
“I always thought it would be pretty exciting to have a road mile down Bridge Street in Charlevoix,” said Peterson, who, along with fellow Charlevoix High School running alums Doug Bergmann and Doug Drenth came up with the idea for the event, which has grown immensely in popularity and anticipation.
“The event has been very well received. There is probably going to be 15,000 people watching this, lining the course, ringing bells and enthusiastically supporting the runners.
“Our inaugural year’s male winner, Grant Robison, said the crowds in Charlevoix were some of the best he’d experienced in his career, and he has competed around the world.”
A slew of volunteers, the Venetian Festival committee, and city fire and police personnel help ensure a smooth-running event, Peterson added.
Current top entrants include defending winners Jeff See (men) and Nicole Sifuentes (women). See was a six-time All-American and four-time Big Ten cross country champion at Ohio State University, and Sifuentes, a native of Winnepeg, Manitoba, was an All-American at the University of Michigan.
See won last year’s men’s race in a record 3 minutes, 55.9 sconds. Sifuentes (née Edwards) won the women’s race last year in 4:34.9.
Among the other top contenders in the men’s field are former Penn State runner Ryan Foster of Australia, University of Minnesota alum Richard Kandle of Kenya, and Matthew Elliott of North Carolina.
In the women’s event, Sifuentes could face serious challenges from the likes of 2008 winner Dot McMahan of Rochester, U-M alum and Grand Rapids native Katie Jazwinski, and Lindsay Gallo, another former Wolverine.
The race will begin at 10:30 a.m., and will consist of approximately 10-20 runners in each men’s and women’s categories, Peterson said.
The winners will receive $1,000, second place, $500; and third place, $250.
Additionally, the lead runner at the half-mile mark will receive $250.
The annual Jeff Drenth Memorial 5K and 10K Foot Races are scheduled for 9 a.m. Saturday, beginning at the corner of State Street and Park Avenue.
Jeff Drenth graduated from Charlevoix High School in 1979 and was a standout runner at Central Michigan University. After graduating from CMU, Drenth began a professional running career at a club in Eugene, Ore. He died in 1986.
Proceeds from the Drenth Foot Races benefit the Charlevoix High School cross country program and the Northern Michigan Runner’s Endowment. The courses highlight the beauty of Charlevoix including Earl Young mushroom-style houses, and the course runs through the channel connecting Lakes Michigan and Charlevoix, East Park and the Belvedere Club.
The course finishes in front of an enthusiastic crowd awaiting the start of the Venetian Festival Parade.
In addition, a Family Mile event is scheduled on an out-and-back course which starts and ends downtown.
The family-friendly event can be enjoyed by all, Peterson said, including those in jogging strollers. Each participant in the Family Mile receives a medal.
Some 800 runners are expected to partake in the Drenth Foot Races and Family Mile events.
Register online at www.venetianraces.com until 11 p.m. on Thursday, July 21.
Register in person at Lake Michigan Beach Pavilion from 4-7 p.m. on Friday, July 22, and 6-8:30 a.m. on Saturday, July 23.
For more information or to register, visit www.venetianraces.com or contact Matt Peterson at (231) 675-1746 or firstname.lastname@example.org.