Matthew Blume, Racheal Marchand defend Popcorn Panic titles
By Anthony D. Alonzo Post-Tribune correspondent September 7, 2013 7:16PM
Matthew Blume placed first in the men's division of the five-mile run at the annual Popcorn Panic race in Valparaiso on September 7, 2013. | Michael Gard/For Sun-Times Media
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Updated: October 10, 2013 6:23AM
VALPARAISO — In Saturday morning’s Popcorn Panic 5-mile race, the men’s and women’s defending champions retained their titles and extended their winning streaks among what was the highest turnout for the 35-year-old Valparaiso event.
Marking the start of the city’s annual Popcorn Festival since its inception, the Panic included a 5K non-competitive walk. Participants numbering 1,612 (four more than the record set in 2010) had registered to tackle the route that traced Campbell Street and residential roads north of the city’s downtown.
Thirty seconds ahead of the next runner, Matt Blume of the Chicago Fleet Feet team won the crown en route to a three-peat.
Blume, a former Valparaiso University runner, blew past the finish line at 25:07.02 — a personal record. He’s won four times since 2009.
“It’s always fun to come back this week and run the race,” said Blume, 31, recovering after his win. “We have a get-together — a lot of the guys from the cross country and track teams.
“I’ve been training a lot and have been working pretty hard and had a pretty good year so far and had a lot of (personal records),” he said.
Blume was coming off a title run at the 15K Blueberry Stomp on Sept. 2 in Plymouth.
At 25:36.2, first-time Panic participant Nikolas Jeftich, 20, completed the race as the runner-up.
“It’s great to see the results when you’ve put in the work for it,” Jeftich said.
Jeftich, whose dad, Danny Jeftich, is the boys varsity soccer coach at Valparaiso High School, had bested many more experienced runners. He said he adjusted his own pace while keeping close tabs on the leader.
“I stayed relatively close until about the third mile, where (Blume) got a nice gap on me,” Jeftich said. “Mentally, I knew where I could go and trusted my training.”
Participating in cross country as a recreational club sport at IU in Bloomington, Jeftich said Saturday’s results had him considering trying out for the school squad next year.
Five seconds after 32-year-old Joey Betz finished the Panic in the No. 3 spot, Racheal Marchand extended her title streak among females and earned the fourth best overall time with a 27:56.8.
The former Valparaiso High School standout and Iowa All-American had a strong cheering section as she became a four-peater.
Marchand, 27, said she trained well for the familiar course and likes the local “crowds that keep you going.”
Former Chesterton standout and Ball State cross country record holder Ali Bishel earned the runner-up title on the ladies’ side, clocking in at 30:53.1. The last time the 25-year-old ran the race was when she was in seventh grade.
“I improved on (the seventh grade try) by a couple of minutes,” Bishel laughingly said.
Bishel, a Muncie resident, had a hunch.
“Honestly, I figured that (Marchand) was in much better shape than I am now. So I wasn’t really looking to chase her down,” Bishel said.