Popcorn Panic has record turnout
By Anthony D. Alonzo Post-Tribune correspondent September 7, 2013 11:26PM
A clear, calm morning with temperatures in the mid-60s greeted a record number of Popcorn Panic participants on Saturday. Coordinators raved about the weather and attendance, and participants generally said the event zone was easier to navigate on foot this year.
Athletes from Valparaiso’s Thomas Jefferson Middle School were among the few groups representing older kids and teens. Many area high school squads had committed to meets. So about two-dozen young athletes at varying levels of running — not to mention adolescent growth spurts — carried the banner of city schools at the Panic.
Kylie Ireland, a Jefferson sixth grader, said her fellow runners’ season would start weeks later than the high school one. She suggested that the schedule provided advantages such as the chance to hone their skills and be in the hometown event.
A boy crossing the finish line but seemingly not breaking a sweat said “hi” to Ireland and went looking through the crowded plaza for his mom. Official T&H Timing results showed other young teens from the area finishing high among the race’s hundreds of participants. They include: No. 19 Carlos Martinez, 13; No. 23 Andrew Smenyak, 14; No. 29 Carl Frey, 13; No. 34 Jessie Mescal, 13; No. 38 Aiden Hostetler, 13; No. 55 Maria Goheen, 12.
Going the extra mile: When Valparaiso residents Todd and Heather Henderlong opened the Extra Mile Fitness Company in the city last year, they had something more in mind than simply setting up an athletic shoe store. The husband-and-wife operators of T&H Timing made a point to share their running know-how with friendly banter in the store.
Todd and Heather met as two individuals who had each participated in races that were coupled with charities. T&H has in turn offered its professional services at comparably low prices for the benefit of the many runs and walks held in Northwest Indiana. An instructional wing of the Extra Mile soon took flight.
Heather Henderlong said one of the store’s first classes of runners to advance through training was ready for the Panic. Among a group of adults of varying levels of fitness and running experience, Cassie Emerick and Carrie Ackenhusen identified themselves as “friends from the running group.” (And it was said in unison.)
“I had set a goal for myself and I beat it,” Emerick said. “I ran in middle school and it’s been 20 years and I had stopped until five or six weeks ago, when I started running again.”
At Saturday’s 5-mile race, Emerick ran a 47:40.6, and Ackenhusen ran a 48:31.5; both had accomplished their mission of crossing the finish line in less than 50 minutes.
Both “born and raised” Valparaiso natives, Ackenhusen, 34, and Emerick, 33, said seeking a mentor in running was essential.
“I would have never been able to (complete the race) without (the training), I know that much,” said Ackenhusen. “I was trying to run before I started (at the Extra Mile) and I’d run for a couple of weeks then I’d stop — that’s when I decided to join.”
The two students of running said the Extra Mile sends trainers in the field to cover topics such as speed work, pacing and adjusting to varying terrain. They help aspiring athletes set and reach goals.
“When I started I was doing 12-minute miles, now I’m doing 9:17-miles,” said Ackenhusen.
It’s measureable progress that could appeal to almost anyone.
“They make it very fun and it’s not intimidating at all,” Emerick concluded.