VALPARAISO | A new tradition began Saturday at the Valparaiso Family YMCA's 18th annual Ringing In Spring. But there were still familiar names atop the leader boards.
For the first time, organizers added a 10K run to the already popular 5K event. That move resulted in a record 1,730 finishers, surpassing last year's total 1,456.
A pair of local favorites earned a coveted bell trophy by winning the women's divisions.
Former Valparaiso High School cross country and track standout Racheal Marchand, an All-American at the University of Iowa, captured her third consecutive 5K title in 16 minutes, 51.5 seconds.
Marchand, 26, was third overall behind men's champion Anthony Schurz, 22, of South Bend and Morgan Twp. eighth-grader Ben Savage. Her time last year was 17:38, so she improved by 46 seconds.
"I've been trying to concentrate on my speed so that's why I didn't run the 10K," Marchand said. "It's nice to keep the streak going."
Karen Nagel, 32, hopes she started a new streak.
The seven-time women's 5K winner (2003-09) competed in the 10K and won easily in 39:40.2.
"I'm very excited," Nagel said. "It was a little weird because this race has always just been a 5K, but I'm glad they added the 10K."
All runners started together. Those who ran the 10K had to loop the course through Valpo's north side neighborhoods twice, turning around at the roundabout on Cumberland Crossing.
Schurz ran by himself virtually the entire race on his way to the 5K victory in 15:52.6. A senior at Brown University, an Ivy League school in Providence, R.I., Schurz made a last-minute decision to run the race while visiting family for the Easter weekend.
He ran the first mile right at five minutes and hit the second-mile marker at 10:07.
"A lot of random things brought me to this race," said Schurz, who was making his first-ever visit to Valpo. "The course was gorgeous. I loved running through the neighborhoods and the town is really supportive of the runners."
Although he's from South Bend, Schurz attended Deerfield Academy, a boarding school in Massachusetts, for high school. His 5K personal-best is 15:20 and his best mile time is 4:07, but he's still battling back from a bout with mononucleosis last month.
"My training was really shot down due to the mono," Schurz said. "I'm almost 100 percent back but it has taken a couple of weeks. As a runner you get sick all the time and just run through it. But it's too dangerous with mono so I didn't run for two weeks."
Schurz stayed ahead of 10K leaders Todd Ptacek, Brent Alexander and Matt Blume, Fleet Feet teammates from Chicago who were the top three finishers in last year's 5K.
This time, Ptacek emerged as the overall winner of the 10K in 32:01.8. Alexander was right behind in second (32:02.9) while Blume – a Valparaiso University graduate and two-time Popcorn Panic winner - battled a side stitch the last four-plus miles and finished third (34:21.2).
Ptacek, 27, ran in college at Notre Dame and credits his teammates with giving him the incentive to stay in shape.
"Sometimes it's hard to get back into it," Ptacek said. "But it helps having these guys and we meet several times a week to run. Without them I'd be sitting around getting fat and not training properly.
"But nothing beats getting in shape and running a good race."