Video interview: Donnie Cowart, Jonna Strange reign in the rain in Winston-Salem

Winners Donnie Cowart and Jonna Strange talk about the USATF NC 5K state road race championship at Beat the Heat in Winston-Salem.

Video interview: Donnie Cowart, Jonna Strange reign in the rain in Winston-Salem
Jonna Strange and Donnie Cowart on their way to state championships in Winston-Salem (photos courtesy of Robert Hill). 
Watch a Running Shorts video interview with state road race champions Donnie Cowart and Jonna Strange.

The powerful thunderstorms that tore through the Twin City Track Club's Beat the Heat 5K were about all that could slow Jonna Strange and Donnie Cowart, the winners of the marquee event and USATF NC state road race champion titles.

Donnie Cowart during the Beat the Heat 5K's state road race championship (photo courtesy of Robert Hill).

"This is what it is," says the Winston-Salem favorite Cowart, who finished in 14:15.07. "Just keep going. Everybody else has to deal with this, whether it's heat, rain, wind, whatever it is. We're all contending with it."

The clouds opened – all the way – with the field of about 30 elite runners in their second miles.

Jonna Strange driving through the rain to win the title as the women's state road race champion in North Carolina (photo courtesy of Robert Hill).

"We're used to it, working out in the rain. Don't really get to move those around because of the weather," Strange (17:30.83), a Statesville native and rising sophomore runner at Furman, adds with a smile.

The nearly 500 participants in Saturday night's Beat the Heat 5K, sponsored by Cook Medical, dodged rain until they became soaked spectators for the elite showdown. And for the track club members, race officials and volunteers, it's a night they'll not soon forget.

"We were hunkering down under cover waiting for the weather to let up some, and all of a sudden we were diving for protection," writes Er Ralston, race director. "Serious downdraft winds and lightning were very scary. We ended up running to and sheltering in the Fairgrounds restrooms until the storm passed by."

In fact, the weather was so violent that the track club chose to return Sunday morning to pack all of its gear and clean up.

"Bill Gibbs told me that in 20-plus years of managing finish lines," Ralston says, "he's never encountered a storm like that at a race."

Leaders from the Beat the Heat 5K on Saturday night.

USATF NC State Championship


1. Donnie Cowart, Winston-Salem, 14:15.07

2. Josh Izewski, Blowing Rock, 14:41.64

3. Brandon Hudgins, Jamestown, 14:55.11

4. Jonathan Martin, China Grove, 15:14.19

5. Zachary Vaslow, Greensboro, 15:40.35


1. Jonna Strange, Statesville, 17:30.83

2. Ryen Frazier, Raleigh, 17:44.68

3. Hannah Wilson, Charlotte, 18:02.30

4. Andie Cozzarelli, Raleigh, 18:17.20

5. Natalie Lawrence, Kernersville, 18:42.09

Beat the Heat 5K


1. William Hamilton, Lewisville, 16:33.42

2. Michael Koballa, Greensboro, 16:45.21

3. James Snyder, Statesville, 17:05.54

4. Jeremy Bush, Winston-Salem, 17:42.66

5. Adam Bernot, Raleigh, 17:48.68


1. Maddie Stambaugh, Winston-Salem, 19:09.90

2. Maleah Pinyan, Salisbury, 19:56.40

3. Emma Schaefer, Niwot, Colo., 20:04.68

4. Jennifer Helmer, Greensboro, 20:08.87

5. Emily Cornella, Winston-Salem, 20:41.00

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