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Weather is just fine for big Sawdust field

A year ago lightning, thunderstorms and horrific weather wreaked havoc on the Sawdust 5K in Cloquet, causing first-year race directors Julie and Sam Jacobson all kinds of problems. This time around, the July Fourth race couldn't have gone any smoother.

It featured gentle weather and plenty of anxious runners gathering to run Cloquet's favorite summertime race.

"Everything went super and there was a great turnout," Julie Jacobson said. "We had 272 runners signed up prior to the race and another 100 runners running in the Lavonna Prevost One-Miler prior to the parade on Cloquet Avenue."

Usually among the biggest challenges is getting enough volunteers. This year over 45 volunteers came out to assist in setting up the finish line, starting line and do all the other work to make the event a success.

"We had people along the course with squirt guns shooting water to keep runners cool, kids leaving encouraging chalk messages on the streets and sidewalks, music on the course and just all kinds of things that make the Sawdust so unique," Julie said. "The city of Cloquet is super accommodating and the police departments from both Cloquet and Fond du Lac did another super job with crowd control."

When the race finished, the top men's runner was 33-year-old Andrew Papke-Larson of Duluth in 17 minutes, 6 seconds. Sam Blascyk, a 17-year old from Duluth, finished second in 17:24. The women's open division champion was 16-year-old Cromwell-Wright star runner Emaleigh Olesiak, who ran a blistering time of 20:10. Another 16-year-old, Bobbi Nichols of Alexandria, Minnesota, finished second in 21:17.

"There was just a lot of positive energy at the starting line and on the course," said co-director Sam Jacobson, who also ran the race. "In the men's race, we had a bunch of high school kids who took off early in the race and that made it interesting for a while."

Winners in the men's divisions were: Blascyk in the 16-29 age division, Papke-Larson in the 30-39 age group, Dave Hyoppenen for 40-49, and Barry Fischer in the 50-99 age group. Mark Goettel was the U-16 boys winner.

Age division winners for the women included Olesiak in the 16-29 age group and Brooklyn Wasche for the U-16 group. Anne Hyoppenen won the 30-39 age division; Joanie Chacich took top honors for 40-49, and Kim Holak placed first in the 50-99 age group.

Another interesting feature of the Sawdust 5K was a chance for runners to turn around and run the course in the reverse direction after they complete the race. This unique event is called the "Jimmer Challenge" and honors local runner Jim Hagerl, who was said to have loved a challenge. Hagerl passed away a few years ago and former race organizers Jeff and Alyson Leno decided it was a great way to honor Jimmer.

"It is a great way for everyone to honor Jimmer during the race," said Sam, noting they had 52 runners do the challenge.

Once the Sawdust 5K finished, organizers hustled down to Cloquet Avenue for the annual Lavonna Prevost One-Miler - named for Prevost who was struck by a car while walking on Washington Avenue.

"Again, the local running/walking community has really jumped on board with this unique event," Sam said. "The streets are lined with people getting ready for the parade and they are cheering on the runners as they run down Cloquet Avenue."

The remarkable Emaleigh Olesiak also won the women's 1-miler for sweep of the two events. The men's winner was Kieran Johnson from South Range, Wisconsin.

"We'd also like to say a big 'thank you' to all of our sponsors for both races," said Julie. "Also a special thanks goes out to Austin-Jarrow sports which presented a pair of running shoes to the winners of the 1-miler."

Money raised for this year's event will be donated to the cardiac rehab unit at Cloquet Community Memorial Hospital.

"We just determined that it is a good fit this year," said Sam. "They have some equipment needs and they do such great work on getting people back up and on their feet after heart surgery and issues."

One can only hope that next year the weather is equally nice so that runners can enjoy another great day in Cloquet.