YOUNGSTOWN - He grew up almost three hours from here, but Scott Denham is ready to call the Mahoning Valley home.
A victory in one of the area's biggest races solidified his residency.
Denham, 24, is originally from the Toledo area and graduated from Oregon Clay High School in 2007. He ran track and cross country for Youngstown State, placing as high as eighth in the Horizon League Championship in the 800-meter dash. On Sunday, Denham finished first in the fourth annual Panerathon 10K held in downtown Youngstown. His winning time was 31 minutes, 9 seconds - more than one minute faster than his second place time in 2012.
Tribune Chronicle / Dave Dermer
Runners sprint down Federal Street in downtown Youngstown on Sunday morning during the 2-mile race as part of the 2013 Panerathon. There was also a 10K as a part of the fourth-annual event.
Andy Morgan, a graduate of Maplewood High School placed third. Morgan won the event last year.
"We always run together," Denham said. "We were in a pack with (fourth-place finisher) Fred Kiser and I just happened to get up one of the hills quicker and I just ran scared.
"It's pretty flat and fast then you hit a couple of hills. It's a nice course through the park and then you get downtown and it's a pretty cool, nice mix. It's basically the last few miles of the Peace Race course, so it's very similar."
Denham recently completed his graduate studies in microbiology at YSU and he's also an assistant coach on the cross country and track teams.
"Scott has been getting better and better as a runner and now he's really blossomed into a leader," said Brian Gorby, the 20-year veteran coach of Penguin track and cross country. "He's done a tremendous job. He lives running. Every single year over the last six years that I've known him, he's been a pleasure to be around."
Matt Folk, a former YSU runner and three-time winner of the Peace Race, helped recruit Denham to Youngstown.
"Everything in my life has started to come together since I've been living here," said Denham, who now resides in Boardman. "It's been great."
Gorby was the first finisher in his age group for the 2-mile race. The event also included a kid's fun run.
"We both had a heck of a day," Gorby said. "YSU was really represented well."
More Penguins supported the cause in the 2-mile race, too. Some athletes from each varsity sport participated and every player on the men's and women's basketball team went for a run through town on Sunday morning.
"The basketball teams look forward to competing in the event and I know they have a lot of fun trying to see who is going to finish first out of that group," said YSU Sports Information Director Trevor Parks. "Beforehand they play it cool, but once they get out there and start running with everybody I think the juices kind of kick in and they want to show that it means a lot to them."
The Covelli group is a strong supporter of YSU athletics having sponsored many marketing efforts and events, including the Roundball Classic held at the Covelli Centre last December.
"We're happy to be involved with the Covelli group," Parks said. "Panerathon is a great event for us, and obviously for the community because it's always packed down here."
The big crowd lining the downtown streets and the more than 2,000 participants gave Rochelle Morgan, Andy's wife, a big rush. She won the women's open division for the second-straight year.
"It was great running back and you had everyone on their way out cheering for you," she said. "That was such a great feeling. It made the last half of the race so much better. I appreciate all the fans out there cheering on the runners."
Rochelle, a former Rupe, and Andy were married over the summer in 2011. They met at a running camp while in high school and grew their relationship as Rocket runners and scholarship athletes at the University of Akron. They usually run together on Sunday mornings.
"It's great to get out of your regular routine and do something different," Rochelle said. "I took the lead pretty early, so the whole race I was a little nervous that someone was going to be catching me. I was looking back but it was alright and I just kept running."
Andy had a better time on Sunday than he did winning the race with a 31:49 in 2012. He's training for a half marathon and Olympic time trial in Philadelphia that will be held in mid-November.
"It's a dream," he said. "It's not something I'm ready to say that I can or can't do but I'm going to give it a shot. Now, I've been doing a lot of strength workouts.
"At this point last year I was a little more into harder training and had some speed under my legs."
All proceeds of the Panerathon go to benefit the Joanie Abdu Comprehensive Breast Care Center.