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Freedom Run success for 2nd straight year

Shelby Gunsch, left, Caleb Jarding, middle, and Nicole Jarding, right, run during the Dakota Plains Running Club's second annual Freedom Run Thursday at the Pepsi-Cola Soccer Complex in Mitchell. (Brooke Cersosimo/Republic)1 / 2
Gina Schrank, left, of Corsica, and Sue Tilberg, right, of Ethan, run together in a 5K race during the Freedom Run Thursday morning at the Pepsi-Cola Soccer Complex in Mitchell. (Brooke Cersosimo/Republic)2 / 2

On your marks. Get set. Go.

Fifty-four runners set out Thursday morning during the Dakota Plains Running Club's second annual Freedom Run at the Pepsi-Cola Soccer Complex in Mitchell.

"It's about the same number we had last year," said Scott Loecker, who is head of the local running club and race director. "With the fourth of July being on a Thursday, we were worried that people might be headed out of town for a four-day weekend, but it was a good turnout."

Matt Heesch, who is a former Mitchell High School runner, was the top finisher in the 5K with a time of 16 minutes, 40 seconds. Matt Bennett recorded the fastest time in the 10K with a time of 43:56.00

For the past two years, the race has been a fundraiser for the Mitchell High School cross country program. The Kernels have received around $500 each year.

"We're going to have to think about what we want to do," MHS third-year coach Scott Munsen said. "It's for the student-athletes, so we want to use it to benefit them."

To support the team, there were nearly 10 combined current and former MHS cross country athletes in the race.

"I like running in these events because it feels like you're still a part of the program," said Shelby Gunsch, a 2012 MHS graduate who ran for the Kernels. "The feeling afterward is a sense of accomplishment and it's always fun.

"I'd like to keep running in these races and get more people to come out."

The Dakota Plains Running Club, which has been operating for seven years and has 15 members, also puts on the annual Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving and began an intro to cross country program in the summers through the Mitchell Parks and Recreation Department for kids grades 3 through 5.

"We'd like to put on more races, but with as small as we are, it's hard to put on bigger races because we don't have the help," Loecker said. "Most of the volunteer help I get is from outside the club and we do help with other races that are put on by other organizations.

Munsen said the club and Loecker, who is a volunteer coach for the Kernels, have really benefited his program and the running community.

"It's really great to have people like coach Loecker as a part of our staff," he said. "His heart's into running, developing kids and sparking an interest in a running culture here. That's how we're going to get our program better."

Brooke Cersosimo
Brooke Cersosimo is The Daily Republic's sports editor.