Italian Heritage Festival 5K race director Larry Cann says he is impressed with the growth of the event despite being in just its second year.
The proof, he says, is in the number of entrants which Cann expects to be around 300 when the race begins next Saturday at 8:30 a.m. at Eastpointe in Clarksburg.
"We liked our turnout last year, but I think this race is growing better than we expected," Cann said. "Originally, we had it five weeks prior to the Greater Clarksburg 10K, but this year we pushed it to six weeks prior to the race.
"We really feel like it's a good chance for people who want to race in the 10K to see what they have to do in preparation."
The race, which is sponsored by Lowe's, is the official 5K state championship. The course is sanctioned by United States Track and Field and is described by Cann as "gently rolling with a downhill finish."
So far, Cann said the event has drawn runners from Charleston, Parkersburg, Morgantown and Wheeling. Defending men's and women's champions Larry and Jessica Taylor of Fayetteville will be back.
Jessica, who just completed her junior season at Fayetteville High School, is a three-time state cross-country champion, and top distant runner in Class AA-A track and field.
"I think it's a popular course because you see a lot of people set personal records on it," Cann said. "It's one a good runner can excel on, and one that a novice can feel pretty comfortable with.
"Our whole intent is sort of to be in combination with the 10K, but I think we have built our own identity with this race."
In addition, games and festivities will be held on the Lowe's parking lot for children and family of those participating in the race.
Cann said runners can register from 7-8:15 a.m. the morning of the race.
Sports writer Mike Nutter can be reached at 626-1444.