KEYSTONE HEIGHTS - With what seemed to be a renew vigored to celebrate the July 4th celebration of America, Keystone Heights’ Freedom 5K and festivities brought one of the biggest race crowds to …
KEYSTONE HEIGHTS - With what seemed to be a renew vigored to celebrate the July 4th celebration of America, Keystone Heights’ Freedom 5K and festivities brought one of the biggest race crowds to the lakeside venue in recent history.
“This is the fourth year of the event and we had about 250 runners this year; our biggest race ever,” said Kerry Cooper, race director and director of the Jordan Cooper Scholarship Foundation that the race benefits. “It’s crazy that it has grown like this, but it is about tradition, honoring my niece Jordan Cooper and community.”
Cooper noted that nine scholarships were awarded this season led by Keystone Heights High School standout athletes Bryar Schenck, a football and weightlifter, and Candace Jackson, a golf and track standout.
“Jordan passed away years ago and her legacy is that her foundation and this race gives out scholarship money to Keystone Heights seniors,” said Cooper. “My husband, Brad, is in the Navy and we traveled to Europe recently and were recently on Memorial Day and we were overwhelmed that patriots are everywhere in the world. You only see one or two people on the TV news as patriots, but in the real world, there are a lot of people, as we saw in France, who still, at age 80 years old, remember how good America has been.”
For the race action, it was Baker County High senior track standout Troy Winkler, a regional cross country finisher last fall (26th in 17:20), who took the lead with an opening five minute, 50 second first mile, then sped away to win in 16:32.04 by nearly a minute over Gainesville’s Julian Bautista, a St. Francis Academy graduate last year with a fourth in his cross country region (17:17 in 2021) and 23rd in the Class 1A championship (17:04), who cruised in at 17:38.70.
“I thought if I got out fast at the first mile, I knew the hills were coming and I wanted to be ahead at that point,” said Winkler, 18. “I knew the rest of them were able to run fast from cross country and track.”
Bautista came on near the two mile mark to finish just ahead of Keystone Heights High standout Tyler Griffin, third at 17:54.57.
For the women, it was a familiar face in St. Francis Academy coach Maggie McCloskey, who came in at 17th overall as first female with a 21:49.67 split.
“You think it’s flat because this is kind of lake community, but the hills are brutal because they keep going up and down,” said McCloskey, a multiple times winner of the Freedom 5K. “Plus, today it is super humid.”
In second for the females, was 14 year old Olivia Griffin in 22:41.69 with 65 year old Carolyn Corgel third at 22:45.14.