By Zack Peterson
The sound of a record 462 pairs of feet pounding pavement signaled another Independence Day 5K run in Lutz.
“It’s the biggest turnout we’ve had yet,” said race coordinator Terry Donovan.
The increased participation brought out the sights and smells the Lutz people have always grown accustomed to: the multitude of sponsors greeting people with smiles, the freshly cut grass surrounding the Lutz Community Center and the love for a tightly knit community radiating from everybody.
It also brought out the competition.
The Independence Day 5K Race lured in runners from multiple different communities spread across Florida.
While some woke up in Lutz and stepped right outside their front doors to the starting line, others rolled in from Sarasota or, in the case of top woman’s finisher Ali Crabb, St. Petersburg.
Crabb finished with a unofficial time of 17:37 and claimed victory for the first time in the Lutz Independence Day 5K Race.
“Last year I came in second place behind Jacki Wachtel,” Crabb explained.
For the past eight years Crabb has been running but claims she only got serious about running the summer before her senior year.
Her successes with running lead her to the University of Florida, where she’s since participated in the track and field and cross country programs there.
Now that she’s home for the summer, Crabb says she prepared for the race by training with the Florida Forerunners.
“The Florida Forerunners are based out of Tampa and St. Pete,” Crabb said. “It’s just a group of people who love to run, meet up whenever and enjoy training together.”
According to Crabb, the Forerunners train together during the hot summer heat and run at local races everywhere.
“We even had a few run the local midnight race,” Crabb said.
The Midnight Run, hosted in Dunedin the night before the Independence Day 5K, had several Independence Day 5K runners participate in its events, including Oscar Orozco, the first male finisher and the overall winner of the Independence Day 5K race.
Orozco, 23 and a student at USF, finished with an unofficial 5K time of 16:25. He also won the one-mile race at the Midnight Run with a time of 4:36.
Like Crabb, Orozco has been an active runner for the past eight years, and trains frequently with the Tampa Bay Running Center, a runners group located near Gaither High School. He too was a first-time winner of the event.
“I was kind of tired because I did the Midnight Run last night. I was running on some tired legs so I didn’t really know what was going to happen,” Orozco said. “I thought I was barely going to get under seventeen (minutes).”
According to Orozco, the heat was a challenging factor, but something “that’s expected.”
“Overall, it’s a flat course; it’s a fast course,” Orozco said.
From the initial start Orozco pushed his way to the front and ran in a pack of three.
“The competition was good,” Orozco said. “We stayed close together.”
It wasn’t until a final break in the bend that spectators would see Orozco shoot towards the finish line with no competition in immediate sight.
And for Orozco, victory was sweet.
At the finish line, he gleamed from ear to ear, exasperated, sweating and breathing hard, but thrilled nonetheless.
“I’m happy with it all,” Orozco said. “It’s not the Fourth of July without a couple races.”