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Sunny day draws big 5K crowd

  • Julie Dragon of Framingham, finishes the Big Cheese 5K with a time of 23:13, winning the top overall women category. Carson McGrath

  • Jack Bassett, 16, crosses the finish line with a time of 18:18, winning the top male category. Carson McGrath

  • Big Cheese 5K runners and walkers dash down the School Street hill. Carson McGrath

  • Big Cheese 5K runners and walkers dash down the School Street hill. Carson McGrath



Staff Writer
Sunday, April 15, 2018

More than 480 runners and walkers raced through a crowded downtown Athol during the annual Big Cheese 5K Road Race and Walk Saturday.

With sunny skies overhead, participants lined up at the start on School Street to prepare for the race. At 9:30 a.m., the race began, and the runners and walkers dashed down the hill into town.

Last year’s race drew 405 participants to the starting line, while in 2016, 479 runners and walkers took part.

YMCA Director Jeanette Robichaud said more people decided to join in the race at the last minute because of the beautiful weather.

“We’ve had a couple years over 500, but definitely this year was right where we wanted it to be,” she said.

Spectators gathered along the sidewalks throughout the course to cheer participants on throughout the race, chanting and blowing bubbles.

Carrie Novak of Templeton, a veteran of the race, said she was excited to join in on the fun by walking the course. She participates in other local 5K events, but finds this one unique.

“This (race) has got a great camaraderie, a great downtown feel, there’s people at their houses and you walk by and everybody is laughing and cheering, waving at you and they make you feel special even though you’re just walking … it is a really fun day,” she said.

Julie Dragon of Framingham was the top female runner, with a time of 23:13, and 16-year-old Jack Bassett, who attends school in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, was the winner, with a time of 18:18.

Last year, Aaron Stone, 34, was the winner of the race, at 17:32; Emma Currier, 16, was the top female runner, at 22:18; and David Kymalainen, 65, was the top walker with a time of 36:03.

Dragon said she runs a 5K just about every weekend, and enjoyed the beautiful weather during the Big Cheese race. She said the first hill was a challenge, but she found the race to be fun.

Compared to other races, she said the Big Cheese course has more hills than most. Dressed in a Native American-style dress, Dragon also took home the prize for best costume.

After the race, the prizes were handed out to the top three winners in each category. Those with the fastest times took home cheese donated by Smith’s Country Cheese and YMCA water bottles.

Without the help of local volunteers each year, Robichaud said, the race wouldn’t be possible. She said the event truly brings the community together.

“It is just so much fun, it’s a race where people are just having a good time,” she said.


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