BY DENNIS CHASE
---- — TRAVERSE CITY – The Cherry Festival 5K road race turned into a Big North Conference reunion Saturday.
Traverse City Central alum Jacob Secor held off two former high school rivals to win the men’s race in 15:09.63. Petoskey’s Derek Henning placed second in 15:13.07 and Traverse City West’s Geoff Burns third in 15:22.25.
“It felt like we were back in high school again,” Secor said. “We all graduated in 2008. It was definitely cool.”
Little separated the trio on a warm, sunny morning.
“We were running together right from the beginning,” Secor said. “We stuck together pretty much the whole race.
“At the mile, we were in a group with a few more people. By mile two, though, it was just the three of us. We were working well together, sitting in a pretty tight pack. I would surge and they would catch up. Geoff would surge and we would catch up. Derek would surge and we would catch up. It didn’t really break up until the last 800. Then we kind of went for it to see what we had left.”
Turns out, Secor had a little more in the tank.
“I was trying to close on him, but really I was already running full throttle,” Henning said. “He held me off.”
The sprint to the finish played out before a sizable group of onlookers lining Front Street.
“I felt good,” Secor said. “I run this road almost every day. I knew it was a long stretch (down Front), so I was waiting, and waiting, then I went with whatever I had the last 800.”
So did Henning.
“The last straightway is a grind, really tough,” he said. “You see the finish, but you know from previous experience that it’s (finish line) far away. You just have to ignore it and look at the guy ahead of you and keep pumping.”
Henning’s time set a personal best.
For Secor, who ran the Golden Mile on Thursday, it was his third Cherry Festival 5K triumph.
“It was a good day,” the 22-year-old said.
Former Benzie Central standout Theresa Warsecke, another Golden Mile participant, won the women’s 5K in 17:24.59. Leland’s Erika Fluehr took second in 17:44.29 while North Carolina’s Kari Johnson finished third in 19:05.76.
“I wasn’t too happy with my race in the mile Thursday,” Warsecke said. “So I wanted to redeem myself. I ran a PR. I just finished my first year of school at Toledo, and I had to redshirt my cross country season, so I wanted to PR since I haven’t raced a 5K in almost two years.”
Warsecke ran with her former coach at Benzie, Asa Kelly.
“He asked me last night if I wanted him to run with me and I told him, ‘of course,’" Warsecke said. "I love running with him. He pushed me today.”
Warsecke surged to the lead about a mile and a half into the race.
Fluehr, who runs at Princeton, said she wishes she would have “closed better” at the end.
“I felt I had a lot more (left) on the straightaway,” she said.
Nonetheless, Fluehr, who turns 20 in a week, called her time “fine for now,” given that she’s just doing generic running now before stepping up her training to prepare for the cross country season in the fall.
“It was a shock to the system to be going faster than normal,” she said.