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Competitive field enjoys second annual road race

by Mike Nutter

SPORTS WRITER

The numbers spoke for themselves -- both in quantity and quality.

Three hundred and thirty-two runners took part in Saturday's West Virginia Italian Heritage Festival 5K race -- the official 5K state championship. That figure is almost double the amount who ran in last year's field.

But it was also who was in the field that made this race stand out and gave race coordinator Larry Cann reason to believe the event will only get bigger and better in the future.

"We figured on getting around 300 (runners), so it's actually a little better than we thought," Cann said. "I think what's going to happen is you're going to see better runners each year.

"Again, we're only in our second year and as the word gets out, we're only going to grow and get better."

Being a state championship, the WVIHF 5K drew its share of top runners.

Among the field was defending champion Larry Taylor of Fayetteville. Both the men's and women's champions of this year's race were collegiate runners. Poca's David Lyle was the men's winner and spent his college days running for Marshall. The women's champion, Heather Bury of West Orange, N.J., ran from 1993-1998 at West Virginia University.

Next month, Bury will leave for Sacramento, Cal., to the Olympic Trials in the steeple chase.

Both agreed the race, despite its infancy, was quickly becoming one of the premier road races in the state.

"The area itself is a great place to have a race," Lyle said. "It's easy to get to, the course is designed great ... I think it will probably become the best road race in the state.

"It's one that beginners can finish and run a good time on. I think this is only going to get bigger once people find out more about it."

It is unlikely, however, that neither Lyle nor Bury will be back for the Greater Clarksburg 10K.

Bury will be training, while Lyle said he plans on being in Switzerland just prior to the race.

While last year's race was used mainly as a half-way point to the 10K, the WVIHF 5K is quickly starting to forge its own identity in the racing community.

"This is going to become a race where you had better train very hard for," Taylor said. "This year, you started to see some of your better runners. That's only going to increase in the future.

"I'm glad to see that, though. That's what racing is all about and this event is going to be one that's going to draw a lot of interest."

Sports writer Mike Nutter can be reached at 626-1444.

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