It was as toasty a day as ever to sprint through West Deptford Park Monday.
What would provoke a person to run in this weather, you ask? A bear? A rabid dog? A flock of Canada geese?
No, no need to chase these runners who gave their time in energy for a good cause Monday night.
Residents of West Deptford and neighboring towns braved stifling heat and humidity to run in the annual 5K Summer Series. Created four years ago by Tom Thomasson, Rutgers-Camden's associate athletic director, and Mark Drummond, West Deptford High School's boys' cross-country coach, the event creates a way for the local running community to come together and raise money for the West Deptford cross-country team.
Proceeds from the five runs help pay for camp for the cross-country runners and yearly scholarships given out to one male and one female runner each year. In addition to raising money for his team, the coach also brings his team out for the runs as practice for the upcoming season.
“The point is to get them into a different scenario,” said Drummond about the benefits of running in the series.
Drummond hoped for about thirty runners on the opening night, but said it’s common for fewer runners to turn out for the cross-country runs than the road runs, due to the mix of terrain and challenging nature of the trail.
Registration began at 6:15 p.m. in West Deptford Park for those who were ready to put some serious steps on their odometers. At 7, the runners were off, with temperatures around 90 degrees.
The cross-country run consists of a little over three miles of path, encompassing several types of terrain, forcing runners to navigate soccer fields, forest paths and asphalt, all while changing elevation and splashing through creeks. Drenched in sweat, the runners flew through the finish line, one by one.
“It’s a matter of getting back in shape,” said Gateway cross-country coach Michelle Brangan, who's working her way back from having a baby in November.
Brangan finished in the top 10, but said she hopes to improve in the coming runs. She brought along two of her runners, Emma Ledden and Will Cheety, to practice for the new season. Woodbury and Gateway compete together and regularly use the West Deptford Park course and Pennypacker Park in Haddonfield for their meets.
Kris Green and Andy Coppola, runners on West Deptford’s cross-country team, said the heat is good conditioning for their team. Green said if they can run in this type of weather, there is nothing that can stop their team.
“West Deptford will have a ‘W’,” said Coppola about one of their rivals, Sterling High School, after seeing what the Eagles runners were able to do on the evening.
Coppola also commended his new teammate, Mitchell Wileczek, a freshman, for his finish in the top five. Wlieczek said he loves running and aims to be in the low 18s this season.
The run at West Deptford Park is one of five that will run from now through mid-August. The next three races will take place on the road course, which snakes its way through the industrial park, before finishing up the series back at the cross-country course in West Deptford Park.
While there are no prizes or T-shirts, the 5K Summer Series keeps the runs fun and interesting with special runs, such as the prediction run. Runners will have to guess their run time before they even start. One other run will also have special formatting, but has yet to be announced.
The registration fee for the series are as follows: $6 for adults, or $25 for the series, and $4 for anyone under 18, or $15 for the entire series.