TRAVERSE CITY — Finally.
That’s what Clark Ruiz was thinking as he crossed the finish line to win the men’s Meijer Festival of Races 5K Saturday morning .
“I’ve raced this (5K) six times,” the 19-year-old Michigan State sophomore said. “I took second once before. I really wanted to win it. It feels great to finally do it.”
Ruiz, a Big Rapids High School graduate, finished in 15:24.67. He held off challenges by Traverse City Central junior Anthony Berry, who came in at 15:31.43, and Michigan State teammate Max Benoit, who was clocked in 15:32.62.
Ruiz said his race strategy was simple.
“I tried leading from the gun,” he said.
Ruiz opened a gap after the first mile, but Berry and Benoit started closing in after two miles.
“They were creeping up on me after mile two,” Ruiz said. “They were inching their way towards me.”
Ruiz, who’s been running 80-90 miles a week in preparation for the upcoming cross country season, followed a police escort down Front Street with Berry and Benoit in hot pursuit.
“I was looking in the store windows (reflections) to see where they were at,” he said.
Danielle Tauro, who resides in the Grand Rapids area, had an easier time in winning the women’s 5K. The former University of Michigan runner finished in 17:37.62 — 47 seconds ahead of Clinton Township’s Rachel Walny, who posted an 18:24.55. Cedar Springs’ Breeann Ovokaitys was a close third in 18:25.84.
Tauro was coming off a fourth-place finish in the Golden Mile on Thursday night.
“I didn’t know how I was going to feel after racing the mile,” the 25-year-old said. “To be honest, my workouts have not been going that well. So I was just going to feel it out, see how it went and compete with those around me.