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.
"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.
"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