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Wednesday, 04 February 2015 17:55

Successful Inaugural Big Game 5K/10K in Las Vegas

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11-year-old Olivia Garcia (center) joins 1999 Super Bowl champion Az Hakim and national and world ranked distance runner Milena Glusac in signifying that Garcia is No. 1 after winning the women's 5K title at the inaugural Big Game 10K in downtown Las Vegas on Feb. 1. 11-year-old Olivia Garcia (center) joins 1999 Super Bowl champion Az Hakim and national and world ranked distance runner Milena Glusac in signifying that Garcia is No. 1 after winning the women's 5K title at the inaugural Big Game 10K in downtown Las Vegas on Feb. 1.
With unseasonably bright, sunny weather and the city’s only downtown 10K/5K course, the inaugural Big Game 10K attracted 1,000 runners and walkers to Las Vegas on a day (2/1) when some inspirational words from a Super Bowl champion helped fuel impressive performances.
 
The sun-splashed crowd came out sporting numerous jerseys of NFL teams and deflated footballs, and were treated to a rousing pre-race address from Az Hakim, a member of the 1999 Super Bowl champion St. Louis Rams. Hakim, the honorary host for the first-year race, shared tips on what makes a successful team, then watched as the 10K runners took off from Carson and 8th Street in downtown Las Vegas.
 
“I’m honored and blessed to be here as the honorary guest. This is a great event and it’s been very rewarding for me to be a part of it,” said Hakim, who made a special connection with many of the young runners in the field. “Kids have always been my priority. I majored in child development in school and I’ve always believed in giving back to the community.”
 
One of those seemingly inspired by Hakim hours before the NFL’s biggest game was to take place, was Olivia Garcia. Only 11, Garcia easily ran to a wire-to-wire victory in the women’s 5K, finishing in 18:52, a minute and a half ahead of runner-up Tiffany Barrett, 27.
 
“I had a little competition early, but then I wound up winning easily,” said Garcia, whose father, Juan, and 12-year-old brother, Jacoby, also competed. “I started running when I was 9 years old. I’ve already won many races.”
 
While Garcia was stunning the women’s field in the 5K, the 10K was following a more traditional pattern.
 
Henderson resident David Cardona, a 4:05 miler and standout at Cal Poly SLO, trailed early but then dominated the last half of the 10K to win in his new hometown.
 
“I took the lead at about 2 and a half miles,” said Cardona. “I decided it was time to bring up the tempo.”
The result was a victory in 32:45, with early leader Devin Mancuso second in 33:40.
 
“These were perfect running conditions on a flat, fast course,” Cardona said. “It was a great event. I loved it, and it was great winning in front of my new hometown.”
 
In the women’s 10K, Red Rock Running Company teammates Laura Chappell and Amanda Henriques ran side-by-side for most of the race, before Chappell closed strong to win in 38:31.
 
“I put my head down, closed my eyes and drove to the finish,” said Chappell, a former Portland State runner. “This was a great event to see where your conditioning is because it’s at the start of the season. It was a very easy course to follow and we loved the race in downtown Las Vegas. We’ll definitely be back next year and might run in the team competition for Red Rock.”
 
In the men’s 5K, John Santana ran 15:21 to edge Colin Corrigan (15:40) and Andrew Duncan (15:54).
 
“I led the whole way,” Santana said. “We had perfect weather and a really fast course.”
 
The race through the streets of downtown Las Vegas on the morning of the NFL’s big game attracted more runners than race officials had anticipated and many were in a festive, football-focus mood, including a pair that featured a San Francisco 49er jersey and a New England Patriot jersey, plus a football that was carried for the entire 5K.
 
“But,” said the runner, “the ball was deflated.”
 
On a more serious note, the race brought a message about the important of fitness on the biggest sports spectating day in America.
 
“This event was awesome,” said Patti McCoy, Director of Business Development for sponsor Nevada Health Co-Op. “It was great seeing people out taking care of themselves and running before the big consumption of Super Bowl day. It was wonderful to see so many visitors and members of the community come together to run through the downtown streets.”
 
Dr. “Z,” founder of race sponsor Turntable Health welcomed the crowd and stressed the importance of the race to the community and wellness. LV Injury Law firm also sponsored the race.
 
Other celebrities on hand for the race included four-time track and field Olympian Martha Watson of Las Vegas, BMX star and past X-Games announcer Ricardo Laguna, former pro football player Tony Berti of the Goodie Two Shoes Foundation, and nationally ranked distance runner Milena Glusac.
 
In addition, the event raised funds for four area charities – the Goodie Two Shoes Foundation, the Az Hakim Foundation, Hollingsworth Elementary and Las Vegas Academy.
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