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TOP FLATLANDERS CHALLENGE 10K FINISHERS FIND THEIR WAYS HOME

The Hernando High runners, past and present, stress the feeling of community.

With close to 200 entries and more than 70 volunteers, Saturday's 29th annual Flatlanders Challenge rallied the community once again for one of Florida's older long-distance running events.

Hernando High runners and alumni had some of the more impressive performances on the day. Drew Martucci, who graduated in 2007 and runs with Florida Southern's cross country program, won the 10K race with a time of 34:00. That was a big improvement over his time of more than 36 minutes in 2006, the last time he ran in the race.

"I look forward to this race every year," Martucci said. "It's a great time to catch up with everyone and take in this friendly atmosphere."

Hernando High junior Joe Wright came in second in the 10K. He wasn't overly excited about his performance, but being a part of the event was important to him.

"The thing about this race is that you feel like you're connecting with the community," Wright said. "So many people come out here that feel the same way I do; they just love running."

Laura Drake, 39, won the overall 10K for women, finishing in 44:15.

Tyler Maier, a senior at Hernando High, won the 5K race with a time of 17:24. Natalie Durrum, 27, a teacher at Fox Chapel Middle School, won the overall 5K for the women at 21:22.

The Masters division recognizes runners over the age of 40. In the men's 10K, 44-year-old Jon Das (40:44) won, while 43-year-old Katherine Van Allen (47:24) won the female 10K.

Masters winners for the 5K race were Albert Wierenga, 61, and Colleen Laduron, 44. Wierenga's time of 19:57 was impressive, as he beat out a much larger field to take the Masters title. Laduron crossed the line in 24:48.

The Red Mule Runner Club established the Flatlanders Challenge 10K in 1979.

Two years ago, organizers Addison Sullivan and Jay Pingley restructured the course and put much effort into publicizing the event's tradition.

"The turnout numbers doubled from the number of people we had preregistered before today," Sullivan said. "Everything has run as smooth as we could hope."

Volunteers from the local Rotary Club, the City of Brooksville and the Florida Highway Patrol assisted. The 10K event is the second-oldest in the state.

"This is the second generation of runners putting on this event," Sullivan said. "In the future, we hope to attract runners from all around."

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