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Part of the field of over 600 runners and walkers leave the start line on Litchfield Avenue in downtown Willmar at 8 a.m. Saturday for the 15th annual Foot Lake Four jaunt around the lake. (Tribune photo by Rand Middleton)

Gladitsch wins men's FL4 title; Brown is women's champion

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Gladitsch wins men's FL4 title; Brown is women's champion
Willmar Minnesota 2208 Trott Ave. SW / P.O. Box 839 56201

WILLMAR -- The heat was on Saturday morning as runners and walkers left downtown Willmar for the four-mile run around lower Foot Lake.

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Most were soaked soon into the 15th annual Foot Lake Four by a combination of pre-race sprinkles and 90-degree humidity at the 8 a.m. start.

The mass start flooded Litchfield Avenue with near upwards of 700 runners and walkers. The final results showed 436 "chipped" runners reaching the finish line -- the second highest number behind only 463 in 2007.

Reflecting the conditions, first-time winners Carl Gladitsch, 22, of Bloomer, Wis., and Kari Brown, 31, of Garfield each came in well off last year's winning times. Brown did post the only age-group record.

"The air was pretty heavy," commented Brown, who as Kari Breitkreutz ran on state-winning cross-country high school teams at Alexandria from 1992-95.

She caught last year's winner, Kari Bloch of Blomkest, at the bridge hill.

The 22-year-old Bloch, who runs at Minnesota State University, Moorhead, said she stopped momentarily overcome by the conditions, but "pulled myself together" to finish second in 26:43, compared to her winning time of 25:50 in 2008.

Brown won in 26:23 in her third attempt here. She said this was her fifth straight win this season, including races at Brainerd and Stillwater.

Bloch, a 2005 Willmar graduate, struggled all spring with "low iron", but looks forward to one more year running at MSUM as a fifth-year senior.

Three of the top four finishers ran for Bethel University.

Gladitsch and runner-up Tyler Hinrichs of Clara City are both spring graduates who competed in the NCAA Division III Track and Field Championships. Gladitsch was 11th in the steeplechase and Hinrichs eighth in the 1,500 run, an event in which he holds the school record (3:50.15).

Kyle Eckhoff, the 2008 champion, finished third. The MSUM senior, who redshirted this year due to injury, posted a time of 22:09 compared to his winning time of 20:44 in a year ago.

Austin Hinrichs, 20, Tyler's brother, took fourth. He also runs for Bethel.

Fifth-place finisher Chris Brown, 35, is Kari's husband.

Five Willmar High School runners, beginning with Matt Weitzel in sixth, polished off the top 10.

Foot notes

Leon Lentz was honored for 15 years as race advisor and volunteer. He has run and helped organize the Willmar runs since 1972. He was presented the coveted Phil Scheevel hand-carved goose that also goes to the men's and women's winners.

Traditional starter Corby Newman noted the origins of this race 40 years ago at the fairgrounds where his assistants were his late wife, Mary, and his mother-in-law.

The race has gone on every year under several different names, except 1994. Rice Hospital restarted the race in 1995.

Overall winner Gladitsch noted the ample on-course support (volunteers providing water and directions and uniformed safety personnel) was "Something you don't always see" at community races. He added it was a "flat and scenic jog" unit he got to the bridge climb which "burns you lungs and legs."

Ann Day of Willmar, Wendy Nelsen of Svea and Mike Mulder of Prinsburg were honored by the race committee for participating in all 15 Foot Lake Four events. Day and Nelsen were age-group winners.

Race director Pat Berg said 130 walkers pre-registered. With race-day additions, the total numbers of runners and walkers should have nudged 700.

The race theme remains "Heart Healthy". Revenue after expenses will benefit the Rice Cardiac Rehab unit by providing financial aid to needy patients.

The age span for the 436 runners was 65 years. David Jurek, 9, of Willmar finished 143rd in 33:01, while Richard Hagen, 74, was 298th in 40:35.

Next in the Glacial Lakes running series is the Green Lake 12-mile run with a 7 a.m. start Sunday in Spicer.

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