Illinois Race Weekend’s Top Athletes Discuss Races

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) — Rain or shine, thousands of runners were determined to finish the 2022 Christie Clinic Illinois race weekend strong on Saturday. Volunteers and athletes said everything went well.

“We’re back to real racing again; we sort of slowly rolled into it. And it feels…I mean look around – the energy is real,” Joseph Cowlin said. He finished third in the half marathon.

David O’Gara was the first to complete the half marathon on Saturday morning – the longest race of the weekend.

“It was a cool moment. It’s the first road race I’ve won, so I just tried to soak it up on the home stretch. It was really cool,” O’Gara said. “I really wanted to come back so I was really excited for the race to happen this year, the storms held up. So really fun to be here.

Like many other runners, he said that while the pandemic halted the event for two years, it didn’t stop him from racing.

“I know it wasn’t possible for everyone, so I was grateful for that. For my own sanity and sanity,” he said.

The top runner – Julie Wiemerslage – said she worked hard during the preparation and it paid off.

“You know, life, right? Just busy with work and all kinds of travel… So it feels really good to be able to come here again and run really well today,” she said.

She has some advice for other girls hoping to follow in her footsteps.

“Don’t let anything get in your way. When I started, I wasn’t the fastest girl on the team in high school or college, but I kept showing up,” she said.

The wheelchair half marathon winners were also excited to compete again.

“Brand new year, new racetrack, so it’s great to be there and celebrate the racing community,” said Jenna Fesemyer.

“It’s always nice to be able to do a half marathon here in town. We train on these roads every day, so racing on them was pretty exciting,” said Brian Siemann.

A family crossed the 10k finish line together.

“He’s super fast, he smoked me at the finish line and I finished,” said Peter Byler alongside his sons, Ephram and Asher.

Not everyone competed for the prize money. Some simply competed for bragging rights.

“I feel really good, especially when I beat him,” Asher Byler said.

“I can’t believe they’re getting so big. At some point, your kids get bigger and faster than you and that’s okay,” said Peter Byler.

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