CHAMPION - Maplewood High School graduate and Youngstown State University runner Eric Rupe was looking around for Tyler Ames, a former Lakeview High School graduate and Ohio University runner.
Rupe finished second to Ames during the past two 2-mile races at the Warren Kiwanis Turkey Trot at Kent State University-Trumbull Branch.
However, Ames was unable to attend this year's running on Thanksgiving, which is in its 34th year.
This year, Rupe finally broke through by beating out Youngstown's Jonathan Hutnyan. Rupe ran 9:17.00 to Hutnyan's 9:56.16. The aforementioned times are chip times, which started when each runner passed through the starting line and ended when each person passed through the finish line. The chip is on the runner during their race.
"Last few years me and him have been going back and forth," Rupe said. "It's kind of a fun thing we do. It's our rivalry, I guess, from high school."
Rounding out the top 10 were: Ryan Sullivan (9:58.33), Patrick Kunkel (10:07.11), Derek Morrison (10:12.02), Eric Harris (10:21.43), Solomon Yoder (10:23.07), Ryan Pavlicko (10:23.55), Chase Kern (10:23.75), Michael Pollifrone (10:26.42).
Despite that, there were plenty of other runners coming out to this year's Turkey Trot, where there were a record-setting number of runners.
According to gopherarun.com, there were 2,800 runners and walkers signed up for the 2-mile and 5-mile races.
In the 2-mile race, runners started on the left driveway entering KSU Trumbull and the walkers came out of the right driveway. Runners in the 2-mile then made a right up toward Trumbull County Technical Center, made a loop around the building and back down the road toward KSU Trumbull where runners re-entered the driveway toward the finish.
"On the way back down, I wasn't sure I was going to get back down with the herd of people coming (at me)," Rupe said. "I thought the whole road was taken up. I felt I was getting back and there was guys still getting across the starting line so far back. The good thing is you have that chip timing and you don't start your time until you get across the starting line."
Yet, Luke Grau, 2007 Chardon High School graduate, didn't have luxury of someone pushing him. He said he ended up pushing himself to win the 5-mile run. He won in a time of 24:21.23.
Craig Rupe (25:34.02), Kyle Joynes (25:46.27), Heath Harris (25:54.99), Aaron Sutton (26:51.26), Mitchell Thornton (27:31.36), Brandon Lang (27:35.21), Samantha Hamilton (27:40.63), Michael Dahman (27:40.76) and Nathaniel Sutton (27:47.90) round out the top 10.
"I kind of stuggled the last 2 miles, but it was solid going out there by myself," said Grau, who is a graduate assistant women's cross country coach at Walsh University. "I've done workouts by myself, which helps. But, it's hard to stay in it when you're so far ahead, staying in it mentally."
He, like Eric Rupe, was hoping to have somebody there pushing him.
"I was hoping Andy Morgan, who used to run for Maplewood, was going to come down," Grau said. "But, he wasn't able to. I just kind of went out and ran as hard as I could today."
Thanksgiving Day is full of traditions. For Grau, running the 5-miler is more than his normal run.
"I get out and run every day," Grau said. "But it's nice to get in a race, go home and relax and spend time with family and eat food and stuff. It's a little more satisfying, I guess."
And, running the Turkey Trot is a little less stressful as well.
"You wake up you're not nervous the night before," Rupe said. "You can go out and have fun. Today is really nice out, so you can get a good time."
Who knows, Rupe might get to renew his friendly rivalry with Ames next year?
"Maybe we'll run against each other next year," Rupe said.