Celebration 5k exceeds expectations in debut

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By Tim Donohoo
For the Courier
CONIFER — You knew it was going to be a good day for the Elevation Celebration 5k run and walk in Conifer on July 13. The sun appeared right before the runners approached the starting line. Then came the big boom, and the runners were off.
That skin-crawling sound came from a 15-pound starting cannon rocketed south toward the Conifer sky by trails member Brooke Kerns.
“My grandfather owned a starting cannon left over from sailboat races on Lake Michigan,” said Kerns, a Wisconsin native who has resided in Colorado for 20 years. She received the cannon from her parents for her 40thbirthday.
“He used it for practical jokes when friends would come over to visit. He would place the cannon under their car and when they started the car to leave for home he would trigger the blast. The car would pull away and an outline of rust from under the car would be left on the ground from the vibration of the blast,” Kerns said. “We would all just laugh and nearby cars would stop to see what all the commotion was about.”
As for the 5k, possibly the youngest race starter in history gave the order to begin the race. Matthew Bacher, 12, of Conifer, an aspiring movie director who makes movies on YouTube and for film festivals, gave the runners the cue to start the descent down the hill.
The 5k was a fundraiser for lights and athletic field improvements at Conifer High School. Phase one of the fundraising is under way and a goal of $500,000 is needed. The phase includes lights for the main field including pathways and spectator lighting, team rooms, concession stands and other improvements. Thus far, more than $181,000 has been raised.
The course also celebrates the grand opening of the new Conifer Community Trails. The trail winds around the scenic Aspen Park neighborhoods of Conifer.
Kevin Johnson, 17, a student at Conifer High School, was the first to cross the finish line.
“I thought it was a pretty good course overall. The tricky part was coming up to the finish line — the uphill run,” Johnson said.
Samantha Sagaser, a 2013 graduate of CHS and an incoming freshman at Tulane University in New Orleans, found the route to be a difficult one, despite being the first female to cross the line.
“The second to last hill was the longest and most tiring and it was a hard course, but I wanted to win so I kept going hard,” she said.
One gains a real sense of community here at the festivities in Conifer. King Soopers donated the post-race food for the runners. More than half of the 139 runners registered online or during walk-up registration prior to the race.
“The race exceeded our expectations,” said Katie Bartojay of Aspen Park, a vice president of the Conifer Lobos Unified Boosters. “It was a success. We had more participants than we expected and we prepared this event in a short period of time. We did not start to plan this race until two months ago.”