There were 14 scholarship winners in this year's Classic at Mastic 5k race. Pictured front row (L-R): Anna Knight (Avon Lake), Sam McClain (Bay) and Linda Morales (Avon); second row (L-R): Matt Koval (St. Edward), Adam Geyer (Valley Forge), Natalie Vidacs (North Royalton), Madison Connelly (Rocky River), Brendan Kilbane (Fairview) and Hanna Moore (North Olmsted); third row (L-R): Benjamin Nortz (Bay), Tim Donohue (North Olmsted), John Nakel (race coordinator), Gary Fix (president and CEO of First Federal of Lakewood), Adam Smith (Rocky River), Jonathan Albaugh (New London) and Katie Kerr (Magnificat). (Photo courtesy of Pam Arra)
North Olmsted High School's Hanna Moore, left, and Avon High School's Linda Morales are two of 14 student-athletes who won 2012 Classic at Mastic scholarships. (West Life photo by Stefanie Kilnapp)
By Stefanie Kilnapp
The Classic at Mastick 5k run has initiated the beginning of each cross country season for 20 years now, and the scholarship awards ceremony marks the end of the season.
The race was started by former North Olmsted High School cross country coach Ken Neuzil in memory of his late wife. The race initially drew 225 runners. After 11 years, Neuzil retired and passed the event on to North Olmsted alumnus and Avon Lake fireman John Nakel, who has made “The Classic” a very popular and successful annual run.
“I had no expectations of the event going to about 450 my first year, and over 500 almost every year after. 2012 had almost 600. The event exceeds the capacity every year, and often, people are turned away who wait to register,” Nakel admitted. “A lot of the credit goes to First Federal of Lakewood, who goes above what I have ever seen from any sponsor in 30 years of running races.”
Gary Fix, CEO and president of First Federal of Lakewood, has had a great experience with this event. He glows when asked why the bank sponsors it.
“We sponsor it because we’re a community bank and our philosophy is that we want to get involved in each of the communities that we serve,” Fix said. “But certainly in Lakewood, we’ve been really proud to be the sponsor of this Classic at Mastick and be in a position to award scholarships to student athletes.
“We want to be a good corporate citizen and we want to be a good neighbor … by giving back to the community. Many of our customers are involved in many of the various (local) organizations and we, as a corporate citizen, want to also be a part of the community.”
First Federal has been the proud main sponsor of this race for nine years, along with Second Sole in Rocky River and TGI Fridays which have been sponsoring this race since 2005. The goal for 2013 is to get additional sponsors.
“Each year we’ve increased it, and this year we gave out 20 scholarship checks totaling $12,000-$600 for each recipient,” Fix added.
Hanna Moore, from North Olmsted, and Linda Morales, from Avon, are more than happy to have received their scholarships.
“It means a lot to receive this scholarship because I’ve ran the Classic at Mastick for the past six years, so it’s nice to have some recognition for doing all the hard work,” Moore stated.
Morales continued, “I’m very honored and grateful for it, and I appreciate it.”
Not only are the student athletes thankful for this event but the parents are as well. Hanna Moore’s mother told of how pleased she was that, first or last, all runners are recognized. Moore went on to say, “It’s still a big deal.”
“Students are nominated by their high school coaches based on factors like academics, being a role model on and off of the field and how they represent their community,” Nakel concluded.
Athletic ability does not play the lead in these scholarships, and these students have earned every dollar by exclusively being themselves.