2011-04-21 / Front Page

Rain Doesn’t Stop Memorial 5K Race

Over 80 participants battle weather to pay homage to the late Steven Szwydek
By Chanin Rotz-Mountz

Steven Szwydek Steven Szwydek Even the pitter-patter of rainfall couldn’t dampen the spirits of those gathered outside the Forbes Road School District Saturday to pay homage to the memory of late Marine LCpl. Steven Szwydek.

Given the outstanding turnout and community support displayed during the first-ever Semper Fi Memorial 5K run/walk held in 2010, event organizers were pleased to announce the second annual event on April 16 again boasted an “awesome turnout.”

According to Szwydek’s mother Nancy, over 120 individuals preregistered to participate in the race that began in front of the junior/senior high school located on Red Bird Drive, headed south on North Hess Road to the intersection of North Hess Road and returned to the school. More than 80 actually showed up, undeterred by the inclement weather.

The 9 a.m. opening ceremony, said Nancy, kicked off with a video of Forbes Road’s junior class visiting Arlington Cemetery and the national anthem performed by sophomore Olivia Mills.

“I heard several participants say that it would be easy to have stayed home. They knew that Steven would have been working in all kinds of weather, and they were motivated to participate,” stated Nancy.

Not long after the race got under way, Steven Szwydek’s cousin, Brian Jastrebsky, was the first runner to cross the finish line with an overall time of 17:39. Perhaps it was fitting for Jastrebsky to earn top honors this year as he coincidentally held the distinction of serving as Steven Szwydek’s Marine escort from the time of his return to the United States until his burial Ar- lington.

On Jastrebsky’s heels were Joshua Voight and Dillon Hollinshead, who both crossed the finish line at exactly 19:33.

First and second-place winners honored at the conclusion of the race were under 18 males Joshua Voight and Dillon Hollinshead; 19-29 males Brian Jastrebsky and Daniel Sigmore; 30-39 males Jeremy Hollinshead and Robert Souders; 40 - 49 males William Baker and Gary Hawkins; and 50 and over males Craig Leisher and state Sen. John H. Eichelberger Jr.

Additional first- and secondplace winners were under 18 females Kylie Zittle and Libby Strayer;19-29 females Joni Dunkle and Melissa Barton; 30 - 39 females Chastity Miller and Jolinda Wilson; 40 - 49 females Deanne Baker and Brenda Nolton; and 50 and over females Donna Sanders and Susan Thomas.

Awards were also given to 8- year-old Mikayla Shives, who was the youngest participant, as well as eldest race day participant 67-year-old Dorothy Kelley.

Registration fees and patriotic sponsorships, which were denoted on the back of “Running for Freedom” race day Tshirts netted a total of $4,300 for the Semper Fi Memorial. The memorial was established in 2006 following the death of Warfordsburg resident Steven Szwydek, who was fatally wounded by an improvised explosive device while on his second tour of duty in Iraq.

Memorial funds are earmarked for junior students enrolled at the local high schools to take an annual pilgrimage to Arlington National Cemetery and the Washington, D.C., area. While there students experience first-hand the cost of freedom and get an appreciation for the sacrifices of our military.

Race-day sponsors included F&M Trust, Edward Jones Investments, Country Care Midwifery, Randy Ward - Fed Ex, JLG, Gabe and Sheila Gate, Joe Corbis Fundraising, Mellott Wood Preserving, MEGSS, S&S Excavating, Kaplan University, Fulton County Council of Republican Women, Preceptor Gamma Pi Sorority, Hancock Plumbing, The Layton Family, Kristen Earley Photography, Fulton County Medical Center, Cutchall Family and Cutchall’s BP, Commissioner Craig Cutchall and JJ & K Concrete Contractors.

“The overall theme of the race was ‘Running for Freedom.’ Although the wind, rain and cold weather was evident, it didn’t dampen the spirits of those in attendance,” noted Nancy following the race. “The greatest thing I heard from two award winners was they had won a lot of medals but this was the most special because they knew Steven died defending freedom. I was also touched by several Forbes Road girls, who made the effort to come to me and thank me for the opportunity to visit Arlington. They were very excited to be part of the trip this year.”

Even though the Semper Fi Memorial 5K has wrapped up for this year, tax-deductible donations can still be made to the fund by sending checks payable to Semper Fi Memorial to the Warfordsburg branch of F&M Trust.

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