50K-ers not bothered by the puddles

PUNXSUTAWNEY — For many, Saturday is a day to sleep in and catch up on rest after a long work week, but 77 runners from six states — including one from Missis-sippi — awoke early last Saturday to take advantage of what many would consider less-than-ideal running conditions at the 13th annual Groundhog Fall 50K Trail Race.

This year's race was hosted by Big Run VFW Post 9044. Previously, the race had been hosted by the Punxsy Road Runners Club.

The race officially started at 7 a.m., but runners who preferred some extra time to complete the 50 km — that's more than 31 miles — race were allowed to start as early as 5 a.m., and one particular runner who travelled a particularly long distance took advantage of the early-bird start.

Jamie Gary travelled more than 1,000 miles to reach Punxsutawney for the race — her first ultra-marathon — and completed the race with a time of 6:50:47.

For being the first participant to set out on the course, Gary was presented with a walking stick designed and carved by retired U.S. Marine Major Mike Monyak of Oliveburg.

Gary and the other runners raced a course that had received a hard rain late Friday night and into the early hours of Saturday morning, creating water crossings that were waist-deep with swift currents, according to race director Bob Lott.

Lott pointed to the race's Facebook page, which is filled with positive comments about the race and runners' promises to return next year, as proof that the conditions didn't stop the group from having a good time.

In the male division, Vince Rucci, of Stow, Ohio, set the pace and won the race for the third consecutive year with a time of 4:09:22.

Josh Stacher, also of Stow, finished second (4:33:52), and Kyle Ward of Indiana (4:35:39) took third.

In the women's division, the race was tight. Indiana's Laura Yevchak won with a time of 5:45:01.

Karen Rule of Reading (5:49:11) and Rita McClel-land, Slippery Rock, (5:51:06) were close behind, finishing second and third, respectively.

The winners were awarded unique trophies in the form of a rock. The rocks were completed by R.D. Brown Memorials, and the logo painted on them was designed by Nance Finley of One-of-a-Kind Artwork in Punxsutawney.

The race wasn't all about competition, though, as the runners had the opportunity to fellowship with each other Friday night at a pre-race dinner prepared by the VFW Post 9044 Ladies Auxillary.