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WVIHF 5K moving on up

by Greg Talkington

SPORTS WRITER

Larry Cann has a goal.

As race director of the West Virginia Italian Heritage Festival 5K Run, Cann believes the race can become the biggest 5K in the state.

"We've already had about 180 pre-register as compared to 130 last year," Cann said Thursday. "If we get a nice, cool morning, I think we'll have close to 150 more sign-ups on race day."

That would put the race, only in its second year, in the same league with other top 5Ks around the state.

"I think the one they had in Wheeling had more than 500, and the one in Charleston in association with the regatta had around 367 or so," Cann said. "So I'm really excited because I think we can make this the top 5K race in the state in a few years."

Cann and the festival took a big step in making the race a top-notch event and unique to its participants.

Saturday's event will feature the use of a high-tech computerized road race scoring system.

Each runner will attach a small plastic disc to his or her shoe before the start of the race. This disc contains a computer chip programmed with a an identification number. A set of special mats, containing antennas are situated at the finish line, are energized with an electromagnetic field.

Each time the chip comes within the detection range of the mats, the magnetic field activates the chip. It's identification number with a corresponding time is sent directly to the finish line computers.

The results tabulation and the posting of race results are practically instant. The chips are collected at the finish line where they are recycled at the next chip-scored race.

The system is called ChampionChip, and it was first introduced in the Netherlands in 1994. Only 31 timers in the United States have purchased the system from the Holland manufacturer, which has limited the supply of the system to smaller races.

The Runner's High, the official timer for Saturday's race, is one of the most recent additions to the list of U.S. chip timers.

"I'm sure the runners will be impressed with this new technology," The Runner's High owner S. Mark Courtney said. "I always enjoy working in north central West Virginia and have made a lot of friends there.

"It's great to see a resurgence of road racing in West Virginia."

The race will be the second in the state to use the chip system, with the Big Boy 20K in Wheeling the first a few weeks ago.

"We are excited about being the first 5K in the state to use this technology," Cann said. "The availablity of the chip was an extra perk that we were most eager to use."

The race, which is run on Emily Drive at Newpointe, is used by several runners to prepare for the Greater Clarksburg 10K, which is set for July 29.

"We invite runners to use this race as a way to gauge their training for the Clarksburg 10K," Cann said. "That way the can make adjustments in their training if they need to.

"We look at our race as a stepping stone to that race."

Final registration will be held from 7-8:15 a.m. at Lowe's. The race is set to begin at 8:30 a.m. A CENTRA shuttle bus, running from WalMart to Lowe's will be in use.

Sports writer Greg Talkington can be reached at 626-1444.

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