Area runners take part in the 2018 Van Wert 4 Mile. (Photo submitted)
Area runners take part in the 2018 Van Wert 4 Mile. (Photo submitted)

On July 13, downtown Van Wert will have runners from across the county and the world passing through the Town Creek Live Festival and traversing South Walnut Street and Washington Place. This year’s Van Wert 4 Mile, presented by Van Wert Health, features local runners from Van Wert, Lincolnview, and Crestview high schools and middle schools as well as at least five U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon Qualifiers, NCAA All Americans, Big Ten Champions, a United Kingdom National Champion, and your neighbor down the street.

Local businesses and organizations have the opportunity to raise money for a charity of their choice by bringing at least 10 members to participate in the 4 Mile. Additionally, community members can help their local high school cross country program by participating in the 4 Mile race. In particular, the race organizers will use the results to identify the fastest runner associated with each high school team and, subsequently, subtract 10 seconds off of the fastest runners time for each community member that affiliates themselves with the cross country program on the race sign-up form. The winning team will receive a $250 donation to the program. Last year, Van Wert narrowly edged out Lincolnview for the donation. Additionally, any high school cross country program that brings at least 15 members (community members, family, alumni, & athletes) will receive a donation. Last year, the Van Wert 4 Mile raised over $1,200 for local community organizations including local cross county teams and trail development programs.

The race features teams of elite and sub-elite post runners, including Dave’s Running in Toledo, Working Man’s Track Club of Indianapolis, Wolf Creek Track Club of Pennsylvania, and Playmakers New Balance of Michigan. On the women’s team competition, Playmakers New Balance is aiming to defends its title against Dave’s Running. Notable elites in the women’s field include 6-time NCAA Division I All-American, 4-time Big Ten Conference Champion & 2006 Big Ten Athlete of the Year, University of Michigan alumn, Erin Ralston as well as NCAA Division 3 All-American, Cassandra Vance. Another former University of Michigan cross country and track athlete and alumn, who also ran for The Ohio State in graduate school, Rachel Dickman, will be returning. Rachel placed second in the Van Wert 4 Mile women’s field last year in 21 minutes 50 seconds.Two runners expected to be highly competitive—former University of Toledo runner and current Dave’s Running team member, MacKenzie Chojnacky, as well as Capital University graduate Emma McCaron – are also 2020 Olympic Trials Qualifiers. Recent registrant Helen Mugo, who resides in Bowling Green but hails from Kenya also looks to make a splash in the elite field with a personal best time of 2 hours 27 minutes in the marathon.

The men’s team race returns defending champions, Wolf Creek Track Club with NCAA All-American Dan Jaskowak from Virginia Tech and 2020 Olympic Trials qualifier Nick Edinger leading the charge. A strong Playmakers New Balance team, with recent 2020 Olympic Trials qualifier Mitch Klinger, along with Van Wert resident and Van Wert High School alumn, Justin Dickman, hope to provide a challenge. A new team to this year’s field, Working Man’s Track Club of Indianapolis, includes Great Britain 5k champion and Butler University grad, Tom Anderson, along with fellow Butler and Purdue graduates Caleb Kerr, Bobby Johnson, and Jeremy Craven. Ohio Northern University’s Alumni Team – The Elite Men’s Club – will also has a team competing. As of press deadline, the individual race is wide open, with last year’s Van Wert 4 Mile champion & former Division II cross country and track 10k champion, James Ngandu will likely be traveling across the United States for another race. However, newcomer Benson Kiema, who has been training in Van Wert, looks to be a strong challenger, as will Dennis Koetch, Mathew Chemboi and the reigning Columbus Marathon Champion, Elijah Rugut.

This race would not be possible without the support and financial contributions from several local businesses including Van Wert Health, Straley Realty and Auctioneers, Richard Sealscott CPA, Edward Jones, Greve, Van Wert Federal, Vancrest, Keister and Baker, Playmakers, and Second Sole.

A one-mile and half-mile fun run and walk are available for children and adults alike beginning at 7:45pm from Fountain Park. Registration opens at Egress Stadium at 6:00pm and the 4 Mile will begin promptly at 8:00pm. Sign up today at https://runsignup.com/Race/OH/VanWert/VanWert4Mile.