EVERGREEN — Nathan Rice’s Fourth of July began with a thud and a little bit of blood.
Rice was tripped up at the start line of the Freedom Run 5k and came away with a few cuts and scrapes on his hands and legs.
The Lafayette resident didn’t stay down long. He quickly dusted himself off, then caught up with the lead pack and made his winning move with a half-mile to go, claiming the Freedom Run title with a time of 15 minutes, 39 seconds.
“I took second last year and there was no way I was going to finish second again,” Rice, 20, said. “With a half-mile to go, I realized I had a shot to win and just gave it everything I had.”
Rice kicked past Jackson Brainerd of Littleton and Bob Weiner of Evergreen, using long strides to push himself out in front for good. Brainerd finished five seconds behind Rice, while Weiner, who earlier this year won the Rocky Mountain half-marathon, crossed the line at 15:48.
“We were all pretty close the entire race,” Rice said. “I think we all kind of pushed each other to go a little harder.”
After taking time to assess the damage done by the trip, Rice stated that he hoped to spend the rest of the holiday relaxing with his girlfriend and watching a fireworks show at the University of Colorado’s Folsom Field.
“It definitely wasn’t the way I wanted to start the race,” Rice said of his fall. “But, it all worked out in the end.”
Evergreen’s Ryan Haebe finished fourth, just outside the lead pack, with a time of 16:01. Haebe, who will attend Western State in the fall, has been ramping up his workouts in anticipation of Aug. 16, when the cross-country practices at Western begin.
“I’m really looking forward to it,” said Haebe, who concluded his prep track career with a pair of top-8 finishes in the 1,600- and 3,200-meter races. “I’ve been running for a month now and the workouts are getting progressively harder. It’s more running than I’ve done previously. It’s tough but I know it will pay off.”
Dominique Gerard won the female race with a time of 19:05. Conifer’s Jen Webers was second, 11 seconds back. Tiffany Romero of Littleton was the top finisher in the open walk division.
Approximately 1,000 people took part in the Freedom Run, which benefits Mount Evans Hospice.