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Arneson defends Spit Run crown: Marriage proposal pleases crowd

Posted: Sunday, June 27, 2010

Not even overcast skies and drizzling rain could put a damper on the action of Saturday's 35th annual Homer News Spit Run. There was nothing monotonous about the 2010 10-kilometer race that included a neck-and-neck competition for first, second and third place, a second consecutive win in the men's division and a crowd-pleasing marriage proposal under the finish line.

John Chapple, an 88-year-old, longtime Spit Run participant and 16-time entrant in the Boston Marathon, sent approximately 250 runners bolting across the starting line at the sound of his whistle this morning, each individual with their own personal goals propelling them to the Land's End finish line.

"John's story is the prime example of why the hospital partakes in this event," Derotha Ferraro, director of public relations for South Peninsula Hospital, said. "He has shared his lifelong passion for health and wellness with every generation of his family."

Seven Chapples, spanning three generations, raced in the Spit Run this year.

Lars Arneson, 20, of Soldotna took his second consecutive win in the men's division with a time of 36, 27 seconds, 44 seconds faster than his first-place finish in 2009. Trailing behind Arneson by only 11 seconds was first-time participant Tim Blackmon, 31, an avid cross-country runner, of Homer. Arneson pulled ahead of Blackmon about halfway through the race and never let go of his lead.

"It's a great event," Blackmon said. "It wasn't windy at all and the course is nearly all downhill. That was a good race," he said congratulating Arneson on his win.

Arneson, who has taken his running talent to the University of Alaska Fairbanks, where he studies mechanical engineering, agrees that the Spit Run is a fun event.

"It's cool, it's a flat course and promotes good competition among friends," he said.

Arneson said he didn't do any particular training for this race but is in year-round training for the running and skiing events he partakes in at college.

Placing first in the women's division and third overall was Denee Shaner, 28, with a time of 36:45. In 2009, there was a seven-minute difference between the first male and first female finisher. Shaner demolished that gap by finishing only 18 seconds after Arneson, and seven seconds after Blackmon.

Shaner, an enthusiastic runner since college, participated in a 10-mile race in Soldotna two weeks ago and thought the Spit Run would be a fun way to see Homer for the first time. Shaner recently relocated to Soldotna from Santa Monica, Calif., where she was attempting to earn a spot on a running team there sponsored by Nike.

"Participating in these events is a way for me to keep working on lowering my race times," she said. "This [race time result] may be fast enough to have gotten me on that team. But I'll keep training and seeking out racing events in Anchorage and you never know what might happen."

It was action-packed competition for first-, second-, and third-place finishers, but the crowd gave the largest round of applause when Dave Valdez of Anchorage knelt down, diamond ring in hand, and proposed under the finish line to his girlfriend, Amanda Fitzgerald. It's believed to be the first proposal in the 35-year history of the Spit Run.

Fitzgerald rounded the last corner of the race, trailed by friends holding poster boards reading "AMANDA FITZGERALD WILL YOU MARRY," to find Valdez holding the final placard [ME], on his bended knee beneath the finish line awaiting her arrival and answer. Valdez stationed friends along the last leg of the run, each holding a placard that contained another word of his proposal. As Fitzgerald reached each new poster, the sign-holders ran alongside her until she reached Valdez holding the final word of his romantic marriage proposal.

With shock and bliss etched across her face, she accepted while admiring her ring, and after wiping the sweat from one another's brows they kissed to the wild applause, flashing cameras and coos of the surrounding crowd.

"I've had this planned out for about a month," Valdez said. "It was hard to keep a secret, she has great women's intuition!"

"I had no idea what was going on until I saw the "marry" sign," Fitzgerald said. "Then I was in total shock and just really hoping to find Dave at the finish line!"

The 2010 Homer News Spit Run was co-sponsored by South Peninsula Hospital and Homer Senior Citizens Inc. Crew from the Coast Guard cutter Hickory, as well as a variety of other volunteers, also helped.

All types of people tested their endurance at the race from children to seniors, mom-and-daughter teams, barefoot runners, costumed runners, stroller-pushing participants and entrants accompanied by their dogs. Vacationers from Florida and California planned their trips around making the Spit Run. Even Kari Deadrick, who was soon to become Kari Mauzy, began her wedding day with the run.

"It makes for an especially memorable day," Deadrick said. "Now it's off to celebrate; bloody marys with mom. Gotta replenish that salt!"

See complete race results at www.homernews.com.



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