Approximately 100 runners found actual snow, instead of the usual slush, under their feet Sunday morning for the sixth annual Slush Rush 5k Run/Walk on the campus of SUNY Fredonia.
The annual benefit competitive event was hosted by the campus' International Education Center to benefit the Class of '85 Xylia Peterson Memorial Scholarship Fund and boasted runners from all over western New York in 11-degree weather and snow. With the majority of the participants being pre-registered runners, some registered Sunday morning after having completed Buffalo's Shamrock Run 8k the previous day.
Marc Levy, a Fredonia resident and a campus employee, let out a sigh of relief at the after-race reception held in Dods Hall's gymnasium, after completing his very first 5k run.
OBSERVER Photos by Ann Belcher
Top: Snow and cold temperatures Sunday failed to stop the 100 runners in the 6th annual Slush Rush from competitively racing across the campus of SUNY Fredonia.
Above: Elysia Peterson finishes second in her age category as she runs in memory of her mother, the late Xylia Peterson, during the Slush Rush 5k on the campus of SUNY Fredonia.
A high school soccer referee, who also actively snowshoes, hikes and bikes during all four seasons of western New York, Levy was encouraged by a group of three other friends running with him, encouraging him along the race course, which traversed the campus.
"I was just hoping to finish the whole thing," Levy joked.
"I do a lot of snowshoeing in the winter time, so I was just focused on keeping my traction. Just being able to finish was a great feeling."
While many spectators were dressed in heavy layers, most of the runners like Levy were dressed as normal for the event.
"Regardless of whether it's running, or any other activity, I just enjoy being outdoors and love the winter, so for me to be out in this 10- to 15-degree weather today was fine with me. If you look at the way most of us are dressed today, it's not that heavily; once we get moving, we warm up," Levy said.
As snow fell lightly amid the race, Levy and others kept their focus employing mental as well as physical abilities.
"Some of my friends have encouraged me to just keep looking forward, and not to look down at my feet, so I enjoyed the scenery, and it helps that I work here on campus and know the roads and the route very well," he added.
The attendance of Sunday's race featured hearty racers of all age groups, many who race competitively all year long.
Tim Geiger of Fredonia has completed every Slush Rush, and like many, joined more than 5,000 racers in the Shamrock Run on Saturday.
A racer since 1976, Geiger enjoys the health benefits of running, but noted the unusual weather handed down by this year's Polar Vortex allowed him to take a small break in between his usual year-round running schedule.
The Slush Rush was established to benefit the Xylia Peterson '85 Memorial Fund of the Fredonia College Foundation. Xylia was a business administration graduate of SUNY Fredonia originally from Sri Lanka and a former staff member of the Fredonia campus who is fondly remembered by her former coworkers and friends in the community for her friendly personality and smile. Tragically, Xylia lost her life in 2002 from injuries sustained in an auto accident.
Finishing second in her age category was Xylia's daughter Elysia, who attended the race with her father Steve, also a campus staff member and the official starter of Sunday's race.
A junior at Niagara University majoring in biochemistry, Elysia said, "It was a rough race today with the weather, but I kept my mom in the back of my mind. I'm so impressed with the number of people here today, and we're so grateful for the racers who came out in this cold weather and for the organizers. My family is so thankful for everyone involved in this event, and we look forward to seeing the runners again next year."
"One thing I would want people to understand about international students is how hard it is for them to be so far away from their families, and how difficult studying is with a language barrier, as well as making friends. Some students come to college with their high school friends, and it's easy for them to make new ones, but I would encourage international students to not let those barriers stop them from studying here. My mom was an international student, and she met my dad here and then worked on this campus. Whatever students are educated in here at Fredonia, they'll be able bring that back home and utilize it," she added.
The winner of the scholarship will be announced later this spring and official race times can be found at buffalorunners.com.
Race Coordinator Ashley Eneckes gave a special nod to the campus facility services department for its maintenance of the race course Sunday as well as her fellow coordination assistants: Pilar Nelson, Katrina Hamilton-Kraft and Mary Sasso. Western New York Finish Line Services expertly clocked each racer for the Slush Rush, one of over 200 that they keep time for in the WNY area.
"We all work as a cohesive team in International Education, and it makes the event a lot of fun and that much more rewarding afterward," added Eneckes.