VALPARAISO | The last time that Morgan Wichlinski took part in Popcorn Fest, the Valparaiso native was waving to the crowd as Miss Porter County in 2009.
Wichlinski returned to Lincolnway Avenue on Saturday morning, but instead of wearing a tiara, the 2008 Boone Grove graduated was wearing running shoes. Wichlinski participated in her first Popcorn Panic and finished well before her 45-minute goal with a time of 40:42.4.
“This took a lot more effort today than riding in the parade and waving,” Wichlinski said. “This was very rewarding.”
Wichlinski graduated from Valparaiso University in 2012 and currently works in Chicago for Valvoline as a sales associate. This weekend represented a homecoming for Wichlinski as she was able to spend time with her family before heading to a charity golf scramble in Crown Point.
“It’s been an awesome weekend,” Wichlinski said. “This is what you do when you grow up. You come back home.”
Four Orvilles: It doesn’t take much to get Jessica Snook to run in a race. All the Ben Franklin Middle School teacher requires is a costume.
Snook and three of her close friends dressed as Orville Redenbacher on Saturday morning and ran together in the Popcorn Panic. The four Valparaiso natives previously dressed as bumble bees in the Ringing in Spring race earlier this year.
“Running is just more fun when you can do it in a costume,” Snook said. “We have a lot of fun with this.”
Dressed with button-down shirts, suspenders and glasses, the quartet were crowd-pleasers as they completed the five-mile course.
“The crowd would get loud whenever we ran by,” Joanna Peszko said. “The little kids were the best. We would feed off their enthusiasm and that made the race easier to finish.”
Amy Bowen and Stephanie Crague rounded out the folk hero imposters and Crague was running with a bit of pressure given that her husband, and five-time champion Aaron Crague wasn’t running. He was with the Valpo High School cross country team at a meet in Terre Haute.
“Aaron told me that I needed to win for the family,” Crague said. “I didn’t come here to win. I came here to have fun.”