TRAVERSE CITY — It was a new experience for Megan O’Neil and Steven Haagsma.
The two runners had never raced a 10K, but they did so successfully Saturday in the Meijer Festival of Races.
The 18-year-old O’Neil, a recent Chippewa Hills High School graduate, won the women’s 10K in 39:22.04. Haagsma, a 20-year-old senior at Calvin College, claimed the men’s 10K in 34:33.56.
O’Neil, who will run at the University of Wisconsin in the fall, edged Traverse City West’s Jessica Gockley by 10 seconds. The 16-year-old Gockley was timed in 39:32.13. Hudsonville’s Hope Gaffner placed third in 41:23.33.
In high school, O’Neil was more accustomed to running 5Ks during cross country season. She said she could tell — and feel — the difference in distance Saturday.
“When I got to the three-mile mark I was like, ‘This isn’t a 5K,’” O’Neil said. “It’s not the same. I was dying the last 2K.”
So why not opt for the 5K on Saturday?
“I needed to get a hard six-mile run in,” she said. “It worked out.”
O’Neil placed a close second in the high school girls Golden Mile on Thursday, running a 5:06.66.
Haagsma, meanwhile, continued Calvin College’s strong showing in Cherry Festival races. He won by nearly two minutes.
“I was with another runner for over a mile,” Haagsma said. “I felt him slowing down so I put in a surge to get a gap. I was by myself the rest of way.
“It’s really hard when you’re by yourself. I probably would have been able to run faster if I would have had more people with me, but that’s OK. It was still fun.”
Haagsma, who ran the 15K two years ago, did have company, though. Injured teammate Nick McKee was on a bike and joined him for part of the race.
Haagmsa then had to weave his way through 5K traffic down Front Street to the finish line.
But he had no complaints.
“It wasn’t too bad,” he said. “There was room.”
Traverse City West’s Matt Kulka took second in 36:31.22 while Charlevoix’s Norbert Scharenbroch took third in 38:36.51.