WORTON — Kent Island High School’s Sean Hobbs sprinted into the chute just a step ahead of teammate Isaiah Schulties, winning the inaugural running of the Maria Pechin Memorial 5K in 18 minutes, 33 seconds.
The May 5 race started and finished on the track at Kent County High School, and benefited 17-year-old twins Daniel and Brandon Mitzel, who are seniors at KCHS.
The Kent County teenagers are the sons of Maria Pechin of Massey, who died unexpectedly in March. Proceeds from the 5K are to be used to pay the balance of funeral expenses for Pechin and to assist with college expenses for her sons.
Around the local high school cross country and track circuits, Pechin was known affectionately as “Momma Peach.” The commemorative T-shirts that were handed out as part of the race packages had a colorful peach on the front.
That Hobbs and Schulties, and runners from North Caroline, Easton, Colonel Richardson and Wye River Upper School would travel to KCHS for a Sunday morning race in a downpour speaks volumes about the bonds that tie high school athletes — even those who are rivals.
“We had athletes, parents and coaches from other teams participate in the race, which meant a lot to us,” said race director Rich Shaw, who is the track coach at Kent County. “Even more impressive were the number of people who woke up knowing the weather conditions and still came out to sign up and run. We had 18 walk-up entries.”
A total of 53 runners and walkers completed the race, including Maria Pechin’s parents, her brother Henry and his children.
Nearly 20 Kent County Public Schools staff members either ran the race or made a donation, in addition to teammates of the Mitzels.
Daniel Mitzel was the first KCHS runner to finish. He was third overall in 19:54, a half-second ahead of classmate Corey Robinson, who is a star triple jumper on the Trojans’ track and field team.
Sabina Minney was the first female to finish, and seventh overall, stopping the timer in 23:38.
On her heels was KCHS sophomore Marlee Berghaus, who entered the chute in 23:49.
KCHS Assistant Principal Matt Moore led runners in the post-high school division.
Prizes were awarded to the top male and female finishers in each of three age groups. Prize sponsors included Bay Craft Printing in Rock Hall, Molly’s Place in Kennedyville and Rich and Lauren Shaw.
The age-group winners are listed here.
Pre-high school: Andrew Buckle, 26:05, 12th overall; and Halie Beattie, 35:23, 25th overall.
High school: Sean Hobbs, 18:33, first overall; and Marlee Berghaus, 23:49, eighth overall.
Post-high school: Matt Moore, 23:29, sixth overall; and Sabina Minney, 23:38, seventh overall.
Rich Shaw gave a shout-out to volunteers Brett King, Cheryl Hartmetz, Allison Billmire, Kevin Taylor, Lauren Shaw and KCHS students Josh Medford, Peyton Taylor, Ryan Argo and Taylor Lyons.
Belinda Schirmer was the “driving force” behind the event, according to Shaw.
“She sought out and collected many of the sponsorships and donations we received, handled the entries, T-shirt orders, etc. She leaned on me for the logistical side of running a race, but otherwise she did the bulk of the work,” he said.
Key partners were Kent County Parks and Recreation for use of nearby Worton Park as part of the race course; Kent County Public Schools for use of the high school cafeteria and track; and the high school’s universal booster club for use of its non-profit status for entries and payments.
Shaw thanked sponsors Hogans Insurance, Greenscapes Land Care, Willard Agri-Service, Chestertown Animal Hospital, Scout Boats, Venture Trailers, Shore Dermatology, Shrewsbury Parish Church, St. Michael Legacy Farm (the Nickerson family) and Sassafras Harbor Marina.
“We are very pleased with the amount of donations we have received so far. It has far exceeded our expectations when we set out to do this. The support shown by the community has been unbelievable,” Shaw said.
Donations are still being accepted. Checks should be payable to the KCHS Athletic Booster Club, with Cross Country written in the memo line, and mailed to KCHS Athletic Booster Club, Kent County High School, 25301 Lambs Meadow Road, Worton, MD 21678; attention Belinda Schirmer.
Daniel and Brandon Mitzel have been “triple threats” in cross country, indoor track, and track and field throughout their four years at Kent County High School. They are both planning to attend Cecil College, a community college in Cecil County. Daniel may run cross country coach there.