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Great day for Train Race
More than 3,000 children and their families turn out for the Great Train Race and Caboose Run

 Antonio Churchill, 8, races down Caroline Street toward the halfway point of the Great Train Race yesterday morning.
Photos by SUZANNE CARR ROSSI/THE FREE LANCE-STAR
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Date published: 5/3/2010

BY RYAN MARR

When Taylor Clark was diagnosed with Angelman syndrome as an 18-month-old, doctors told her parents that she would never walk.

Yesterday at the Great Train Race, Clark, now 18, did more than just walk. She finished more than three-quarters of the mile-long race before succumbing to exhaustion and accepting help from her father, Mike Clark, who wheeled her across the finish line to a cheering crowd.

"She went much farther then we expected," said her mother, Robbin Clark. "I think it had a lot to with her excitement at the start, being with all the kids and all the clapping and cheering."

This kind of community encouragement is what drew more than 3,000 kids and their families to downtown Fredericksburg yesterday for the 16th annual Great Train Race, which organizers bill as the largest youth-oriented race on the East Coast.

These large numbers translate into hefty donations to various charities around Fredericksburg, too, through the Fredericksburg Area Service League, whose members volunteered to help put on the race. The event is sponsored by The Free Lance-Star and VA Runner.

However, for race director Debi Bernardes, who organized the first Great Train Race in 1995 to raise money to fight leukemia, the race is still all about the kids.

"Other races include fun runs for the kids, but they just send them off like a herd of cattle," Bernardes said. "We try to acknowledge their individual accomplishments by providing times for each runner and awards for each age group."

Kids seem to appreciate that individual attention, too. With the exception of the youngest participants in the Caboose Run--a quarter-mile race for kids 5 and younger sponsored by Allen, Allen, Allen & Allen--most of the kids who lined the finish line at City Dock with their families were seasoned veterans.

Some of them, like 16-year-old David Pennisi, have literally grown up with the Great Train Race. Currently a sophomore on Colonial Forge's track and field team, Pennisi first caught the running bug while participating in the race as a first-grader. According to Pennisi, the dynamics of the race have changed quite a bit for him since then.

"Once you start racing high-schoolers in the 14-and-up heat, it gets a lot more competitive," he said.


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VICTOR I. CULP SCHOLARSHIP: David Justis of Spotsylvania

LORI LIBBY SCHOOL SPIRIT AWARD: Courtland Elementary

SCHOOL PARTICIPATION AWARDS

First place: Holy Cross Academy

Second place: Fredericksburg Academy

Third place: Courthouse Road Elementary

Fourth place: Ferry Farm Elementary

Fifth place: Sealston Elementary

BOYS OVERALL

All of the top finishers were 14-18.

1. David Pennesi, Fredericksburg, finished in 4:29

2. Aubrey Heflin III, Fredericksburg, 4:32

3. Taylor Torino, Stafford, 4:38

4. Brian O'Loughlin, Stafford, 4:39

5. Tyler Oliver, Fredericksburg, 4:47

BOYS 12-13

1. Joey Abbatiello, Fredericksburg, 5:04

BOYS 11

1. Kyle Richardson, Fredericksburg, 5:39

BOYS 10

1. Ryan Robert Miller, Fredericksburg, 6:09

BOYS 9

1. Luke Durocher, Fredericksburg, 6:01

BOYS 8

1. Jaren Holmes, Fredericksburg, 6:38

BOYS 7

1. Asher Ardron, Fishersville, 6:37

BOYS 6 AND YOUNGER

1. Eric Miller, Fredericksburg, 6:49

GIRLS OVERALL

All but two of the top finishers were 14-18.

1. Gabby Martinez, Fredericksburg, 5:49

2. Julianne Rogers, Fredericksburg, 6:01

3. Monica Mares, Fredericksburg, 6:05

4. Haley Heath, Spotsylvania, 6:08 (11 years old)

5. Samantha Huffman, Fredericksburg, 6:10

6. Nia Fountain, Fredericksburg, 6:11 (12 years old)

GIRLS 10

1. Ashley Fabela-Gilbertson, Stafford, 6:23

GIRLS 9

1. Caitlyn Kirtley, Fredericksburg, 6:40

GIRLS 8

1. Caroline Fairbanks, Spotsylvania, 6:59

GIRLS 7

1. Unoma Aquolo, King George, 7:12

GIRLS 6 AND YOUNGER

1. Daya McGee, Stafford, 7:41

MORE RESULTS: Visit racetimingunlimited.org/Store/farc2010.aspx.