E.A. Sports Today

Blue skies follow Woodstock winners

Brown wins men’s race that eluded him last year, women’s race closest this century, 2 state age records set

William Brown of Marietta, Ga., hits the tape to win this year’s Woodstock 5K. On the cover, Brown and women’s winner Beatrice Jepchumba stand on the podium with their race runner-ups. (Photos by Allen J. Long)

By Allen J. Long
For East Alabama Sports Today

A “blue sky” was the theme of this year’s Woodstock 5K. A motif seen throughout its promotional material, social media posts, award plaques and even the color shades of its T-shirts, the theme came to life on Saturday morning as the weather was clear and the skies were, in fact, blue.

It was the perfect weather for running and 20-year-old William Brown of Marietta, Ga., took full advantage of it. Brown won the men’s race of the Woodstock 5K’s 41st edition with a time of 15:43.

In the women’s race, 38-year-old Beatrice Jepchumba of Homewood won the closest women’s Woodstock this century with a time of 17:52.

Brown most often runs 10K races, and admitted that he usually starts off faster than he should on the first mile. However, so long as he gets through mile two, he can finish strong on the third and final mile. It appears this was the case on Saturday.

He beat last year’s race winner Ethan Mines of Panama City to wire by 11 seconds. They ostensibly flipped positions from last year’s race. Yet even after finishing first, Brown remained modest.

“(There were) a couple places I could’ve done better, honestly,” he said shortly after finishing. “Really I’m just racing myself out there, though.”

Jepchumba beat last year’s Woodstock runner-up Carmen Hussar, also of Homewood, to the women’s wire by five seconds. It was the tightest Woodstock women’s finish this century and beat the previous mark of six seconds when Janet Cherobon of Rome, Ga., edged Stephanie Pezzullo of Indian Trails, N.C., in 2010.

The last hill before the finish line can be daunting, but it represents the last push for runners before they complete the race. Jepchumba said at the start she pushed alongside the men to get ahead, but by the time of the finish she came up the final hill at her own pace. Regarding the hardest part of the course, Jepchumba said “it was here” as she stood right outside of the finish line.

Brown had a different answer, however. “Immediately after mile one, there is a half-mile incline. It is not steep at all, but it is there and it is long, and it takes it out of you — regardless of whether or not you’re prepared,” he said.

Beatrice Jepchumba wins the women’s Woodstock. (Photo by Allen J. Long).

Maddyn Conn, a 15-year-old White Plains sophomore from Piedmont and the reigning Calhoun County girls cross country champion, rounded out the women’s top three with a time of 19:43.

Another teen runner, 17-year-old Noah George of Oxford’s cross-country team, was the fastest local finisher for the second year in a row. He improved on his placements this year, however, by finishing third overall in 16:11. 

“I know this course is difficult, and I was definitely feeling it,” George said. “That last 200 meters, I was just giving everything to get my knees to start driving and start pushing as hard as I could.”

George, the record-setting reigning Calhoun County boys cross country champion, prepared for the Woodstock 5K by running about 40 to 50 miles a week, and accomplished a lot of strength-based training.

Although the overall course records were not broken on Saturday, Jepchumba and Hussar broke Alabama state records for their ages.

Jepchumba broke the 38-year-old women’s record by a tenth of a second. Hussar smashed the 45-year-old women’s record; the old record was 19:02. Hussar also holds the overall fastest women’s 5K record in Alabama, which she set 10 years ago at age 35 when she again finished second in the Woodstock.

This was the first time Race Director Hayley Long was in charge of the Woodstock 5K, which was this year’s Road Runners Club of America (RRCA) Alabama State Championship 5K. Long’s hard work seems to have paid off, as in 2023 Woodstock will be the RRCA National Championship 5K.

It is the first time Woodstock has held this distinction since 2018 and will be the sixth time overall.

“I’ve always been on the finish line as a runner,” Long said. ”But to be on the other side of the line, as the race director watching the runners pour in, is totally different. It’s not what I expected, but it’s very rewarding.”

During the awards ceremony at the conclusion of the race and its Kidstock 1K variant, Long recognized several volunteer groups and sponsors who have supported Woodstock for more than 10 years. The ARC of Calhoun and Cleburne Counties, which provides assistance for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, is the primary beneficiary of the Woodstock 5K’s proceeds. The group has volunteered at Woodstock for more than 10 years and received a plaque on Saturday.

Other groups who were recognized and awarded for their service included the Northeast Alabama Bicycle Association, DD Club, the Calhoun County Amateur Radio Association and the YMCA.

Awards were also given out for Woodstock’s Team Challenge. The team with the most members was the Golden Bears of Lincoln High School, which had 45 runners cross the line. They received a $300 prize, which will be used to benefit the high school athletic program.

2022 Woodstock 5K

William Brown, Marietta, Ga.15:43Beatrice Jepchumba, Homewood17:52
Ethan Mines, Panama City, Fla.15:54Carmen Hussar, Homewood17:57
Noah George, Oxford16:11Maddyn Conn, Piedmont19:43
Cole Byers, Northport16:13Lucy Guthrie, Northport19:49
Josh Whitehead, Madison16:13Karis Kelley, Cottondale20:25
Dakota Frank, Munford16:54Abby Little, Ragland20:40
Chris Mahaffey, Springville17:08Ivy Kibet, Homewood20:41
Cayden Nelson, Jacksonville17:15Anna Strickland, Anniston21:05
Evan Somers, Anniston17:15Mary Shelton, Oxford21:33
Dalton Benefield, Cedartown, Ga.17:16Brandi Nichols, Gadsden22:07

Closest Women’s Woodstocks (since 2000)

2022Beatrice Jepchumba, Homewood17:52Carmen Hussar, Homewood0:05
2010Janet Cherobon, Rome, Ga.16:46Stephanie Pezzullo, Indian Tr., N.C.0:06
2002Emily Hulse20:56Athena Naugher0:09
2019Emma Neigel, Gainesville, Ga.17:49Esther Kipserem, Huntsville0:15
2018Gladys Cheboi, Homewood17:32Purity Munene, Homewood0:18
2016Justyna Mudy-Mader, Huntsville17:57Rachel Harley, Birmingham0:18

Race winner William Brown (7), runner-up Ethan Mines (8) and third-place finisher Noah George (sunglasses in back) jockey for position at the start of Saturday’s race. (Photo by Dana Stewart George).

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