HIGH SPRINGS ‒ The High Springs Annual 5K frozen foot race lived up to its name this year. It was a brisk 40 degrees when over 50 runners gathered in the early morning of Feb. 4 at the High Springs Civic Center to compete in the aptly named 5K Frozen Foot Race. The weather was cold enough that they moved the registration indoors.

The 3.1 mile run winds through the High Springs Sports Complex, around Bailey Estates and back into town covering varying terrains and elevation changes. Each runner paid a $35entry fee for the 5K run or $15 for a one-mile run. Groups were separated by age and gender into eight groups, with competitors in both male and female categories starting at age 1 to 17, then 18-39, 40-49 and finishing with over 50 years old. Younger kids could accompany their parents in strollers. Awards were given for the top three runners in each group who completed the course. This year they also added a one-mile fun run for kids.

The 1st place winners received a $25 gift cards to McDonald's, a $30 cash prize and free entry to next year’s race. But aside from the fun, the competition for cash and bragging rights, participants are also contributing to the community’s recreation programs.

The $35 entry fee is for improving and maintaining the City High Springs parks and recreation facilities. High Springs government is the only municipality in Alachua County that sponsors a marathon with the revenue benefiting the community’s recreations programs and facilities.

The event was started in 2016 and all proceeds that year went to the Parks and Recreation Department’s budget to purchase playground equipment and fund facility improvements at parks. Each year the event has grown with increasing numbers of the community participating.

First across the finish line was the overall winner and 1st place in the Men's 40-49 category, Demarco Andrews, while the winner of the Women’s 40-49 category was Patrice Resendez. The overall female winner and 1st place in the Women’s 18-39 was Celina Pargo and the winner of the 18-39 Men’s category was Chad Gaither. Winners in the over 50 category were Tom Story and Kathy Hellriegel. In the children’s 1-17 category the winners were Hunter Williams and Olivia Alexander. High Springs Police Chief Antoine Sheppard won 2nd place in the 40-49 category.

While High Springs Fire Department Lt. Kevin Pearson didn’t get any awards for speed, he should have gotten one for endurance. Pearson ran the 3.1-mile course in full turnout gear and on-air tank, similar to a scuba tank. The combined weight of the gear and air pack is over 60 pounds.

“This is what we would wear to an actual fire so doing it for the marathon was good practice to stay fit,” said Pearson. “We wanted to challenge ourselves and always be physically prepared for an actual emergency and this was a cause that benefits the community as well with funding for our parks.”

With High Springs’ recent purchase of the Canoe Outpost on the Santa Fe River off U.S. Highway 441, city officials may also be considering developing a triathlon that would include bike riding to the river, a swim and then back to the Civic Center for the footrace. No decisions have been made, but it is a possibility for the future.

The 5K frozen foot race is a Parks and Rec Department event that enjoys support and sponsorship from local organizations. The Kiwanis Club of Santa Fe has been involved since the first event, as has the High Springs Police and Fire departments. Additional organization that sponsored this year’s event with either funding or supplies were AAA Porta Serve; Campus USA Credit Union; Pepperonis Pizza; Pink Flamingo; The High Springs Brewery; Outdoor Life 4 guys and gals; Heart of High Springs; Decades on Main; and Lloyd Clark Sports.

“We greatly appreciate all these sponsors, and we also want to make sure to thank the Santa Fe Kawanis Club and the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, especially Linda and Tom Hewlitt who put a lot of effort into making this event happen,” said Parks Director Damon Messina.

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