Friday’s Mustangs 5K was a first for Hooker Field and a first for the Martinsville Mustangs.
But if first reactions are any indication, it won’t be the last 5K for the ’Stangs.
Mustangs General Manager Shea Maple and Managing Partner Jesse Cole teamed up with Brad Kinkema and the Martinsville and Henry County YMCA to put on the Mustangs 5K at 6 p.m. in conjunction with the “Midnight Madness” promotion that began at 8 p.m. Friday.
Local band Left Hip Pocket performed between the race and the games for the entertainment of the 50 runners, race volunteers and fans arriving early for the doubleheader.
Kinkema, the executive director of the YMCA, said there were discussions of holding a 5K with the Mustangs last year, and the plans finally came together about six weeks ago.
“We’re happy to partner with the Mustangs on a neat project like this one,” he added.
“The Y is a great partner and a terrific resource for us,” Maple said. “We think this is something that will grow and be a staple on our calendar for years to come. Fans have a lot of different interests these days, and we like to appeal to that.”
The race course started on the third base line at Hooker Field. After a brief jaunt around the field’s warning track, runners turned onto Commonwealth Boulevard headed towards Memorial Hospital. After rounding the hospital, runners then headed to the Martinsville High School track and parking lot before returning to Commonwealth and Hooker Field.
Alfredo Garcia of Martinsville was the overall winner, crossing home plate first with a time of less than 19 minutes on a day when highs neared 90.
“I did not expect to win. There is a lot of good talent here I would have been happy with fourth or fifth,” Garcia said. “I’m feeling the effects. In the beginning when I heard about the race I thought it was going to be pretty easy, but considering the weather and a new course with consecutive downhills then coming back up, that kind of kills you. Being hot made it much more difficult.”
Garcia also said that starting and finishing in the ballpark “added a great atmosphere to the race. To be honest, I don’t consider myself the winner because everyone is doing the same course, in the same humidity, with the same sun, and that makes everyone a winner.”
Allison Corbo of Martinsville was the female division winner. She crossed the line in fourth place overall.
“It feels good. I’m proud because it was really hot and I wasn’t expecting a time like that,” she said.
Corbo, a rising junior at N.C. State University, said she has been running since high school. She said she enjoys running for fun and thought it was “cool to run around the ballpark with friendly people.”
Just more than 50 people from the area signed up to take part in the race, ranging from 14-year-old rising Martinsville High School freshman Morgan Clemons, who said she was there to prepare for her upcoming cross-country season, to 70-year-old Boston Marathon competitor Joe Philpott, who was forced to withdraw Friday at the last minute due to a back injury.
Although there was a common despair among the runners about the heat and lack of shade on the course, several runners, including Corbo, said they plan on taking part in the race again as a fun alternative on a summer afternoon.
Kinkema said that although the race currently is not part of the Miles in Martinsville race series put on by the YMCA, there is a chance it could be added in the future based on the success in recruiting runners on short notice.
“We were a little late on advertising but for the first year on a hot night we’re happy” with the turnout of 50, mostly experienced, runners, he said.
Cole said he was excited about the addition of some new summertime activities in Martinsville and Henry County. A similar run has been held with Team Cole’s Gastonia Grizzlies, and Cole said both that event and the Martinsville run were successful.
“It’s a fun event,” he said. “It’s a completely new thing for this area and we’re excited to combine this race with ‘Midnight Madness’ and promotions like the bed race. Finishing in the ballpark at home plate is rewarding for the runners. That’s a unique thing and I know in Gastonia, fans loved it. Our first-place finisher there last year slid into home after a quick time. I think it’s going to grow and we look forward to it in future years.”