Follow him to freedom

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By Chaz Hudd

Holidays are all about tradition, and the Fourth of July is no exception. We celebrate our independence, barbecue with friends and family and ooh and ahh at fireworks shows.

In Evergreen, a thousand-plus runners and walkers gather for the annual Freedom Run to benefit Mount Evans Hospice and Home Healthcare.

A recent addition to the list of traditions has been the crowning of Brandy Erholtz and Bob Weiner as 5K Run champions. On a sun-splashed Friday morning the pair of speedsters won their third consecutive Freedom Run titles.

Weiner, a 43 year-old Evergreen resident and accomplished national runner, crossed the finish line first with a time of 15 minutes, 56 seconds. Erholtz, a 30 year-old living in Bailey who ran at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, was the top female finisher in 18:03.

“I was gunning for the course record (18:00) but just missed it,” Erholtz said. “Still, I’m pretty happy with my result. The Freedom Run is a very well organized event and the course is great. This is a race that I really enjoy doing.”

Fourteen year-old Dominique Gerard finished second among the women in a time of 19:32. Dierdre Matthews took third in 19:35.

Weiner blazed through the hilly course which began at Evergreen Middle School and ended at Nick’s Pro Fitness at a 5:09 mile pace. Nathan Rice was the runner-up in 16:28. Jackson Brainerd placed third with a time of 16:37. The second- through fourth-place finishers were all in their teens, a fact not lost on the winner.

“I’m racing against time,” Weiner said. “It’s nice to be able to hold the younger guys off. My time was almost exactly the same as last year, so I am doing alright.”

Weiner appears to be winning the race against time, but there were clear signs that youth will be served eventually. Ten year-old Eric Temple of Evergreen placed 33rd overall with a time of 20:52. Michael Belrose crossed the finish line just ahead of dad Marc in 23:45. Not too shabby for a 7 year-old. And 9 year-old Sofia Weiner showed she received the running gene from her father, finishing the 3.1 mile course in 24:17. It was a family affair, as mother Linda pushed 10 week-old Gianna Weiner across the finish line a bit later in a stroller.

Approximately 200 race walkers participated in the race, with Francisco Pantoja of Denver taking top honors in 25:34. Jose Juan Vargas (27:08) and Michael Blanchard (27:37) placed second and third, respectively.

Luz Barriento was the top female finisher in 30:06. Patty Gehrke of Arvada was runner-up in 32:10. Sixty-eight year-old Evergreen resident Rita Sankovec showed no signs of slowing down, placing third in 34:24.

As always, the Freedom Run benefited Mount Evans Hospice. Proceeds will be used to care for underinsured and uninsured patients as well as support numerous services including grief counseling and Camp Comfort, a bereavement camp for children.

Nick’s Pro Fitness, owned by Nick and Heather Kapande generously hosted the post-race party and awards presentation, as well as providing free day care in the nursery.

Race participants were treated to the music of Sharla Jackson as they wound down from the race.