Eight hundred eighty eight runners, along with a host of well-wishers and volunteers turned out for the second annual Umpqua Strong 5K and 9K Run/Walk event at Stewart Park on Saturday.
The event honors the victims of the Oct. 1, 2015 shooting at Umpqua Community College and raises funds for Greater Douglas United Way and the Umpqua Community College Foundation.
Event organizer Bryan Trenkle, the executive director of Greater Douglas United Way, said, “It was nothing but a miracle to see our community come together.”
He praised sponsors, participants and volunteers for their show of determination, unity and hope.
“I am beyond blessed to be part of this community,” he said.
Just before the race, Hugh Heinrichsen, a pastor at Redeemer’s Fellowship, offered brief remarks and a moment of silence was held. Then UCC students Juan Martinez and Gavin Clark sang the National Anthem together.
“It’s just a lot to take in honestly, and do I even feel worthy of the honor?” Clark said afterward. Clark had also rung the bell at a memorial ceremony Friday at the school.
Clark and Martinez were in high school when the shooting happened.
Clark didn’t know any of the victims, but Martinez did. He sat in front of Rebecka Carnes in a South Umpqua High School math class for a year, he said.
Finding out about the shooting felt unreal, he said.
Singing the anthem Saturday was important to him.
“It’s my way to pay respect to my friend. It’s my last gift to her,” he said.
It was also about paying respect to the soldiers who sacrifice themselves for the country, he said.
Some of Saturday’s runners and walkers were current, or former, UCC students who were on campus that horrible day. Others didn’t have a direct connection shooting, but just wanted to come out to show support and raise money for the cause.
Marc Beckwith was in the room next door to the classroom the day of the shooting, but said he’s been doing well since. He returned to UCC afterward to study business and management.
On Saturday, he said he got a chance to run and to help out.
“I like to support the families and donate to the charity,” he said.
Terry Gunn wasn’t running. She was there to support her good friend Tami Fox, who was running in the event, and babysit her French bulldog. Gunn said her grandson is attending UCC to gain the skills to become a firefighter. He had tried to get into the writing class the shooter and his victims took, but it was full, so he didn’t take it.
She agrees with the sheriff about the importance of not saying the shooter’s name.
“To me it makes this run all about the survivors and the victims,” she said.
Mike Durbin was the first to finish the 5K race, with a time of 19 minutes 3 seconds.
“I wanted to support the community. I was out here last year and saw how people support each other,” he said.
Even though it’s been a couple years since the shooting, he said, the victims are still remembered.
“It’s good to see they’re not forgotten and this community can come together to support a good cause.”
The first woman to cross the finish line was Michon Kysilka, with a time of 26 minutes and 7 seconds.
Kysilka is new to the community, having moved here after the shooting took place. She said she doesn’t feel as connected as some, but she loved witnessing everyone coming together.
“It’s a beautiful day and a really cool event,” she said.
Jose Ibarra came up from Medford for the race. He ran with his son Gabriel, 9, who was very, very tired afterward.
“I’m so proud, beyond proud of my little guy,” Jose Ibarra said.
Ibarra was there partly to support a Roseburg friend who had lost 40 pounds and was running his first 5K race. Even though Ibarra doesn’t live here, he said the meaning behind the event felt close to home.
Blair and Melena Brundige pushed their two small children, Bailey, 3, and Maeva, 1, in a stroller throughout the race.
“They can get a little heavy,” she said of the kids, “but when you have two people pushing it’s a lot easier.”
Her brother in law is a state trooper who responded after the shooting, and they were running partly for him.
Given how much he had to go through, she said she can’t imagine what the families of the victims have gone through.
The top runner in the 9K was Matt Lawrence, with a time of 33 minutes 1 second. Lance Leisher took second place and Hampton Edwards third.
The top female runner in the 9K was Georgina Kennedy, with a time of 38 minutes 20 seconds. Keri Esterbrook took second and Shelby Osborn third.
After Durbin in the 5K were Brandon Byrd and Gregory Scheidler. For the women, after Kysilka were Allie Blaine and Nikki Yun.
The individual who brought in the most money for UCC Strong at Saturday’s event was Larry Safley, who raised $995. The top team, Common Ground Mediation, raised more than $2,000.