VALPARAISO | The course may have changed, but the results were the same at the 35th annual Popcorn Panic on Saturday morning.
Matt Blume led the field for the third straight year and his fourth title in the last five years by crossing the finish line in 25:07.02. Valparaiso native Racheal Marchand made history by winning the women’s division for the fourth consecutive year with a time of 27:57.2.
Race organizers reworked the course this season to allow runners to finish and gain post-race refreshments in Valparaiso’s Central Park Plaza. The new layout was a welcome change for the defending champion.
“The finish isn’t quite as long and it was nice to not have to go up that hill on the straightaway,” Blume said. “This is such a great race and it’s always fun to come back and run in Valpo.”
The Popcorn Panic win caps off an extraordinary week for Blume, as the Valparaiso University graduate (’04) won the Blueberry Stomp 15k in Plymouth on Monday. Blume beat the second-place finisher by just under three minutes. Saturday’s race lacked a little bit of the competition that Blume is used to as neither local runners Aaron Crague or Adam Piaskowy participated.
“I gave those guys some grief,” Blume said. “They wanted to be here, but they’re coaching. This is a great weekend to get together with the guys and see each other again. I wish they could’ve run today.”
Valparaiso native Nikolas Jeftich finished in second place in his Popcorn Panic debut. The 2011 Valpo High graduate is currently a junior at Indiana and was happy to return home for his hometown race.
“There are plenty of events I could’ve done in Bloomington this weekend, but I’m happy to be here,” Jeftich said. “I ran these streets when I was growing up and it was fun to come back and do this race.”
Marchand continued her recent dominance over the women’s division, setting a race record with her fourth straight victory. Both Kevin Higdon (89-92) and Crague (04-07) have won four straight titles on the men’s side, but Marchand became the first woman to accomplish the feat. Judy Crowe holds the record with seven overall titles.
“This is an important race to me,” Marchand said.
“It’s my hometown race and it was one I wasn’t able to do when I was away (at Iowa). I’m definitely looking forward to coming back next year if I’m healthy and going for a fifth straight.”