Runners make a splash

WARREN – While most people gathered around Courthouse Square were dining on pasta and elephant ears at the Italian American Heritage Festival, a large group of runners ran off the calories in the 30th annual Pizza Splash 5k.

The 3.1-mile run took area athletes through the surrounding downtown area before finishing at the intersection of High Street and North Park Avenue.

Nearly 300 athletes competed in the Heritage Festival’s run, with Salem’s Aimen Scullion taking the top overall time in 15:03.0. The 2010 graduate of Kent State University and 2006 graduate of Salem High School won the race by nearly four seconds over second-place Eric Rupe of Cortland. Rupe, 22 and a graduate of Maplewood High School, was the top finisher in last year’s run.

Fred Kieser, 42, of Cleveland, was the top finisher in the Masters Division, placing fifth overall in 15:25.8. Kieser said he was happy with his time, and praised the nice weather for Friday’s race.

“Last year, it rained a little bit, so we had a really good weather this year,” Kieser said. “It wasn’t too hot and it wasn’t muggy.

”As for the race itself, I thought I ran well, but the top runners like Scullion and Rupe were very good.”

Among young runners, 10-year-old Brooklyn Swieger had a good outing, taking the top overall spot among girls 10 and younger. Running with her father Ron, the Bristol native finished in a time of 25:15, two minutes off her personal-best, Swieger said.

“I had a lot of fun,” Swieger, who has been running for a year and a half, said. “The hardest part is making sure that you don’t start out running too hard.”

True to its name, the organizers of the Pizza Splash provided a seemingly endless supply of pizza in front of the Warren YMCA following the run. While athletes chomped down on the free pizza, however, Swieger’s mother, Carrie, said that her daughter had her eyes on the food trucks across the street at the Heritage Festival with larger varieties of other choices.

“We always make sure that (the family) gets to pig out after a run,” Swieger quipped.