This year's Festival of Leaves 5K in Front Royal, VA faced competition from a new 5K race being held on the same morning some twenty miles to the north in Winchester, so it was not surprising that the Festival of Leaves race had a lower turnout than last year. The surprising part was that it was not a record low turnout! Thirty-seven runners, quite a few more than expected, participated in the fifth edition of this 3.1 mile race at Warren County High School, with two more youngsters taking part in the concurrent one mile fun run/walk. The 5K field was buoyed by the participation of at least ten runners from Frederick County Middle School's cross-country team, plus three more from the Warren County High School squad.
Overcast skies kept temperatures in the upper 50°s for the 8:30 AM start. 24-year-old Kevin Shirk quickly sped off in front of the field, trailed by training partner and Warren County High School cross-country coach Mike Tanner. Tanner, 29, won the race in both 2000 and 2002, but he predicted before the race that his men's course record from 2000 would easily be broken by Shirk. Sure enough, Shirk, a fourth grade teacher at nearby Hilda J. Barbour Elementary School, took seventeen seconds off of Tanner's record, winning the race in 16:31. Tanner earned second overall with a 17:10 performance. Third place went to 47-year-old Mike Meadows of Martinsburg, who spent much of the race battling with Warren County High School's Daniel Arnold and 18-year-old Zach Frye of Winchester. Meadows finished in 18:34, with Arnold, the top local finisher, crossing the line five seconds later. Frye faded to fifth in 19:03.
Warren County High School sophomore Rita Burrill came away with the women's victory in 22:55, sprinting across the finish line comfortably ahead of fellow WCHS sophomore Natasha Olson, who finished eleven seconds later. 35-year-old Vicky Krossman, returning to the Festival of Leaves 5K for the first time since the inaugural race in 2000, earned third overall with a 23:28 finish. Last year's third female, 20-year-old Alison Tripp of Summerhill, PA, returned to take fourth this year in 24:09, just five seconds off of her '03 performance. Fifth went to 34-year-old Michelle See of Boyce, with a 25:29 finish. And for the second year in a row, there was only one female participant over the age of 40: Linden's Colleen Snyder, who had her best Festival of Leaves performance by far, finishing in 32:10.
Proceeds from the race will benefit the Warren Heritage Society. Thus, race director Patrick Farris-- who is also the WHS's executive director-- thanks everyone for participating! Also deserving of thanks are the race's many volunteers, including Karsten Brown, Terry Leckie, Nancy Bullock, Joe Bernazani, and others whose names the author of this report does not have. Special thanks to Warren County High School, to the Front Royal Police Department, and to the Shenandoah Valley Runners for their assistance. We hope we'll see more runners at next year's Festival of Leaves 5K on Saturday 8 October 2005!