Half-Shell Hustle attracts a fast crowd

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Blessed with perfect running weather and lots of interested runners, the Oyster Cookoff’s annual Half Shell Hustle returned from its two-year hiatus with a burst of energy Saturday morning, as a record field took on the 5K race.

Under the able guidance of organizer Shelley Shepard and her crew of volunteers, the race had 116 finishers, and a couple dozen more who signed up but didn't complete the race,

Shepard said the field was not only bigger than any previous hustles, but was also larger than even the more established race, the Red Pepper Run, that accompanies the annual March chili cookoff on St. George Island.

Franklin County High School freshman Josiah Friddle, a standout long distance runner for the Seahawks, was the runaway victor, clocking a 19:48 time to finish close to 15 seconds ahead of runner-up Michael Martinez, 56.

Friddle, busy with basketball season, hadn’t competed in two months, and ran about 18 seconds slower than his personal best.

The top female, Kelsey Hanger, 31, of Asheville, North Carolina, finished sixth overall with a 22:41, well shy of her personal best when she was running for the Appalachian State Mountaineers but just a tad short of what she’ll need to qualify for next year’s Boston Marathon, which she is working to do.

She and her husband, Ian Flanegan, were visiting his parents on St. George Island, and as it turned out, he ran a personal best 32:31 to finish 24th overall.

“He runs with me,” she said.

“But she runs twice as fast,” he noted.

Among the younger set, the top male was Marcus Sexton, 14, who ran a 25:05 to finish 11th overall, and top female was Emma Bassett, 9, who ran a 40:21 to finish 57th.

Among the older runners, Mary Stutzman, 73, ran a blistering 33:43 to finish 33rd and Mike Howell, 77, completed the course in 34:18 for a 36th place finish.

The top local runners were Dan Fortunas, 61, who ran a 22:37.5 to finish fifth, and Eden Keene, 39, whose time of 23:54.7 placed her eighth overall.

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