Navy Comes in First, Army Wins Freedom 5K

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Right: Greg Stamper, representing the Navy, ran with the American flag held aloft for the whole 5K distance
Right: Greg Stamper, representing the Navy, ran with the American flag held aloft for the whole 5K distance

The Freedom 5K was run for the third time Dec. 10, the day of the Army/Navy football game, on a course through Old Trail in Crozet. About 320 runners took part despite the windy conditions and chilly 37-degree air.

The race raises funds for the Folds of Honor Foundation, a Tulsa-based organization that attempts to provide college scholarships to the children of armed services members killed or disabled overseas, and for the Blue Star Mothers of Central Virginia, an organization that sends care packages to the units of local soldiers and sailors serving overseas. This year’s race raised money for Braydon Nichols, the son of helicopter pilot Bryan Nichols, who was shot down in Afghanistan in August while transporting U.S. Navy SEALS. About $20,000 was raised, according to race organizer Mike Kaminski. “I do this because I’m grateful,” he said. Runners paid a $20 entry fee, but most of the money raised was from donations.

Representing Folds of Honor, Major Ed Pulido, a three-tour Iraq war soldier who lost his lower left leg in an IED explosion in 2004—he now walks with a prosthesis—gave a rousing speech to inspire the runners, who chose to wear either an Army or Navy race bib. The first 50 runners of either side to cross the finish line would decide which was the winning service. In the end, the victory went to Army.

The Monticello High School Color Guard opened the pre-race ceremony and then changed clothes and ran in the race. Rev. Chauncey Brown of Charlottesville’s Evergreen Ministries offered a soulful invocation and the runners were off.

The first man back was Haroon Ahmad, 26, who wore a Navy bib and clocked in at 18:39. The first woman to return was Meg Crook, 36, also wearing Navy, at 20:06. Crozet running phenom Joseph Taylor, 9, crossed as number 11 with a time of 20:23. Charlottesville Running Company’s Franny Conte handled the race timing.