Grand Slam Central


RUNNING

March 2, 2007

Anthem 5K is bigger and better in 2007

By NATHAN CHAMBERS
BeyondTheDerby.com

It’s not your father’s Anthem 5K Fitness Classic.

Oh, that’s right. The race is only four years old. So it’s not your older brother’s Anthem 5K Fitness Classic.

Expect another big turnout (more than seven thousand people?), the same course (see the map below), the same post-race amenities (i.e., refreshments), the same ChampionChip timing technology (just don’t lose that chip!), the same great cause (WHAS Crusade for Children).

What’s the difference? Just look at the field that has been assembled for the five-kilometer race, which kicks off the 24th annual Louisville Triple Crown of Running (presented by Novo Nordisk) on Saturday. The talent level, particularly in the men’s division, is extraordinary if not unprecedented for any race in the series but the Papa John’s 10 Miler during the four years that it hosted the USA Men’s 10 Mile Championship.

Late registration at Louisville Slugger Field

Many of the usual suspects will be there, such as Jef Scott, a former Western Kentucky University star, and Stuart Moran, who was an NAIA All-American at Berea College; both regularly finish in the top five of Triple Crown events. Defending Anthem 5K winner Wes Alkin also will run, and former University of Louisville standout Tim Kaiser will make his Triple Crown debut.

But race consultant Camille Estes has recruited one of America’s best distance runners, Matt Downin, and several other former NCAA Division I All-Americans who now compete on the national circuit.

They include Kyle Baker, who was an All-American at Michigan State University and placed 11th in the USA Men’s 10 Mile Championship last year; Hunter Spencer, who was an All-American at the University of Kentucky; and Chris Swisher, a recent Miami (Ohio) University graduate who also was an All-American.

“I’m excited to mix it up with those guys,” said Kaiser, a Covington, Ky., native who won all three races in Fleet Feet Louisville’s recently concluded Polar Bear Grand Prix series. “It will be a real good race.”

Downin is no stranger to Louisville road races. He won the Kentucky Derby Festival miniMarathon last year and was fifth in the 2005 USA Men’s 10 Mile Championship. But he is best known for his successes elsewhere. For instance, he placed 11th in the 2005 ING New York City Marathon with a time of 2:14:28.

Downin’s personal record in the 5K is 13:40:37, albeit on the track. The Anthem 5K record is 14:38.

“The pace will be a lot quicker with him in the race,” said Alkin, one of BeyondTheDerby.com's bloggers. “It will be cool. It definitely makes the race more interesting.”

Among the women, at least five Kentuckians undoubtedly will finish at or near the front. Jen Alessandro placed second behind Susie Bush (who is not running) in the Anthem 5K last year and is coming off two wins in the Polar Bear Grand Prix; Bonita Paul just beat Alessandro in the Polar Bear Grand Prix’s Frostbite 5K two weeks ago and finished in the top four in each of the previous three Anthem 5Ks; Amy Doolittle-Crider finished no worse than seventh in each Anthem 5K; Michelle Scott placed third last year and fifth in 2005; and Jamie King-O’Shea was third in 2005.

The most prominent newcomers are Stephanie Dueringer, who was an All-American at Michigan State University and placed 13th in the 10K at the USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships last June; Erin Nehus, who was an NAIA All-American at Cedarville University and has finished in the top 10 at several USA championships; and Julia Rudd, a former NCAA Division III steeplechase champion who recently graduated from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.

Of course, the vast majority of the Anthem 5K’s runners (not to mention the walkers) won’t be participating to win. That’s just fine with Deb Moessner, the president of Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kentucky.

“We’re very interested in promoting a healthy lifestyle,” she said. “That’s why we’re so excited about this race. It’s an event that’s open to anyone who wants to participate in something that’s fun, something that’s healthy. You don’t need to have to been running for years and years, and you don’t have to be intimidated. There are a lot of walkers in the event. You can get involved if you just want a healthy lifestyle.”

People seem to be getting the message. The race already had 6,136 entries before the all-day late registration at Louisville Slugger Field on Friday (pictured above), and registration will continue there at 6:30 a.m. on Saturday. There were 5,384 entries at the same point last year.

“We’re expecting to have over 7,000 people registered for the race,” Moessner said. “We had a little over 6,000 last year, and we should exceed that by close to 1,000.”

The Triple Crown will continue with the Rodes City Run on March 17 and conclude with the Papa John's 10 Miler on March 31.

Anthem 5K Fitness Classic course map