Saturday, June 24, 2017

It's Justin Keefe with a new course record at the Paul Hoover Freedom 5K

On Saturday morning, 24 June 2017, Justin Keefe happened to be in Florida's Wakulla Springs State Park with his girlfriend, Rachel Gilbert, for her annual family reunion. As they strolled around the park, they noticed a couple hundred athletes assembling for what looked like a race. That looked like fun, so with just five minutes to spare before the start of the event, the pair registered and headed for the starting line. A little over a quarter of an hour later, Keefe had won the Wakulla High Cross Country Boosters' fifth annual Freedom 5K, setting a new course record of 16:32.

Justin Keefe
Justin Keefe

However, Keefe was no running neophyte. "We both ran cross-country in high school," explained Gilbert.


"I ran cross-country and track at the University of Richmond," elaborated Keefe. "I finished there in May 2016. I live in Greater Boston now."


The course for the Freedom 5K starts on the paved drives in the main area of the park, then quickly crosses State Road 61, taking the athletes onto the Cherokee Sink Trail. After a loop near Cherokee Sink, the runners returned the way they came.

Justin Keefe
Justin Keefe

"It was an awesome course," said Keefe. "I liked getting off the road and onto the softer trails; it's easier on the body. It brings me back to high school cross-country."


By the time Keefe reached the Cherokee Sink Trail, he was alone out front. His lead only grew on the sandy trail, and when he finished in a winning 16:32, Keefe was more than half a kilometer ahead of the next runner. Wakulla High alumnus Travis Parks was second in 18:30. Scott Lloyd, a senior on the Wakulla High cross-country team, edged sophomore teammate Mason McCord for third, 18:37 to 18:43. Michael Martinez of Tallahassee, Florida was the top master runner in the race, placing tenth overall in 20:26.

Travis Parks
Travis Parks

After years of cross country and track at Newton North High School and the University of Richmond, Keefe is picking up another running sport.


"I'm running the Boston Triathlon in July and a half-Ironman in Maine," said Keefe. "I'm more into triathlons now."


Haleigh Martin, an alumna of the Wakulla High cross-country team, was on the starting line of the Freedom 5K. Martin hadn't had many opportunities to run the race before her graduation in 2017.

Haleigh Martin
Haleigh Martin

"I've run it only one other time and that was last year," said Martin. "I usually work the race."


Martin made the most of her run in the 2017 Freedom 5K, finishing as the first woman and seventeenth overall in 21:52.


"I ran the first half or three-quarters of the race with this one woman," said Martin. "After that I pulled away and worked on passing guys I recognized from other races."

Rachel Gilbert
Rachel Gilbert

The woman that Martin had left behind was Rachel Gilbert, who finished the race second in the women's standings and 27th overall in 24:01. Cora Atkinson held off Connie Lewis for the third woman's spot, 24:19 to 24:22. Paula O'Neill was the top woman master and seventh female finisher, 36th overall in 24:38.


This fall Martin will begin her competitive career on the Truett McConnell University Bears cross-country team, where she joins former Wakulla teammate Margaret Wiedeman. Wiedeman, by the way, was the sixth woman in the Freedom 5K, placing 35th overall in 24:31.

Cora Atkinson
Cora Atkinson

After four years as the Freedom 5K, the race became the Paul Hoover Freedom 5K, honoring Wakulla High Cross-Country Coach Paul Hoover who was tragically killed in a hit-and-run collision this year. The race is the primary fundraiser for the Wakulla High Cross-Country Boosters. 183 athletes finished the 5K, which was chip-timed by Gulf Winds Track Club.


Top Ten Men, 2017 Freedom 5K
  1. 16:32, Justin Keefe (M, 23)
  2. 18:30, Travis Parks (M, 21)
  3. 18:37, Scott Lloyd (M, 17)
  4. 18:43, Mason McCord (M, 15)
  5. 19:16, Paul Guyas (M, 39)
  6. 19:35, Daniel Wiedeman (M, 15)
  7. 19:45, Hunter Phillips (M, 22)
  8. 19:54, Eric Godin (M, 33)
  9. 20:16, Caleb Wiedeman (M, 17)
  10. 20:26, Michael Martinez (M, 51)

Top Ten Women, 2017 Freedom 5K
  1. 21:52, Haleigh Martin (F, 17)
  2. 24:01, Rachel Gilbert (F, 23)
  3. 24:19, Cora Atkinson (F, 23)
  4. 24:22, Connie Lewis (F, )
  5. 24:26, Kyla Hennigan (F, 24)
  6. 24:31, Margaret Wiedeman (F, 21)
  7. 24:38, Paula O'Neill (F, 56)
  8. 25:40, Kory Skrob (F, 46)
  9. 25:50, Amelia Wilson (F, 27)
  10. 26:28, Jessica Deneen (F, 26)

Freedom 5K winners, 2013 - 2017
DateMenWomenFinishers
29 June 201317:33, Stanley Linton21:12, Madison Harris107
28 June 201419:23, Reikan Lin20:12, Madison Harris82
27 June 201517:36, Zack DeVeau19:51, Katie Sherron173
25 June 201617:48, Wright Calhoun20:00, Madison Harris138
24 June 201716:32, Justin Keefe21:52, Haleigh Martin183


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