VAN WERT – Former Van Wert distance runner Justin Dickman left the area after graduating from college.
Now, the 31-year-old attorney has returned to his home town, and is ready to give back to the community.
Dickman, who competed collegiately at both Youngstown State and Ohio Northern, is using his running connections to bring to Van Wert an elite four-mile road race – the Van Wert 4-Mile, which will take place this Saturday.
Justin’s wife, Rachel, also is an avid runner. She competed at both the University of Michigan and Ohio State. Rachel is a six-time winner of the annual Star Spangled Spectacular Freedom 5K. Her husband has won the annual 5K race three times. Both of them run for a club called the Playmakers.
This Saturday, the Dickmans are putting on a four-mile road race that will feature not only area runners, but a group of elite runners.
“I’ve always thought that Van Wert has had so many good runners come from it, and there’s no reason for Van Wert not to be able to put on one of the best road races in the area,” Justin said. “We have a lot of support for running in the community. With the money we have raised from our very gracious sponsors, it shows the community understands the importance and excitement behind it. I’m incredibly grateful for it. I just hope we can get numbers up and make this something special for Van Wert – something that can last for a long time. The main purpose is to raise money for trails in Van Wert County, and just to raise awareness for running and fitness in general for Northwest Ohio and Northeast Indiana.”
The flat, fast four-mile course runs through downtown Van Wert, and will run in conjunction with the Town Creek Live Festival. The race starts at 8 p.m. with registration beginning at 6 p.m.
The Van Wert 4 Mile will consist of post-collegiate runners, along with many high school runners and their families.
There will be prize money for both the top five male runners and top five female runners (who are not currently high school or collegiate runners).
There are several options for participants.
The “High School Mascot Dash” is designed for high school runners and their supporters. Each team will select a mascot (no outfit required). At the conclusion of the race, 10 seconds will be taken off the mascot’s time for every person finishing the four-mile or one-mile race who has indicated their affiliation to the mascot’s team. The team with the fastest time will receive a $500 donation toward their program. Any team with at least 30 individuals will also receive a donation.
The “Tri-State Border Battle” is for post-collegiate men’s and women’s teams (four to six runners). Teams with the total fastest times will win running gear and Great Lakes elite team bragging rights.
Runners are also encouraged to sign up and run the four-mile race, individually.
Also, there will be a one-mile fun run that will start at 8 p.m.
Highlighting the event will be the number of elite runners that will compete for prize money.
“We have around 30 elite runners coming from out of town – across Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Indiana,” Justin said. “So, I think it will be a pretty good field.”
Leading the list of notable elite male runners scheduled to compete Saturday night is recent Tiffin University alum James Ngandu, a Division II national champion in cross country. Ngandu’s personal-best in the 5,000 meters is 13 minutes, 46.63 seconds. His PR in the 10K is 28:45.96. Ngandu was coached by former Van Wert runner and coach, Brendon Moody.
Dan Joaskowak, a former NCAA all-American at Virginia Tech, comes into Saturday’s race with a PR in the 5K of 14:04.
Aimon Scullion, a cross country state champion from Salem High School and Mid-American Athletic Conference Champion at Kent State, is
scheduled to compete. Scullion has a 14:06 PR in the 5K and a 28:54 PR in the 10K.
Kenyans Julius Kiptoo (5K PR of 14:18) and Kiprop Mutai (5K PR of
14:15) out of Dave’s Performance Footgear, will also be in the hunt for prize money.
Dickman plans on running as well. During his college days, Dickman clocked a PR in the 5K of 14:55 and has a personal-best of 24:39 in the 8K.
Leading the women’s field, Kenyan Vicoty Chepngeno from Dave’s Performance Footgear, brings PRs of 15:56 in the 5K, and 32:24 in the 10K to Van Wert.
Emma McCarron (Capital University grad) comes in with a personal-best time in the 5K of 16:48.
Defiance High School and University of Toledo graduate Megan Vogelsong, has clocked 16:51 in the 5K.
Rachel Dickman looks to be in the hunt as well. Her PRs include a 17:02 5K, a 20:52 6K and a time of 35:24 in the 10K.
The Dickmans are hoping to attract runners from every level.
“We want to make it affordable and give people something to look forward to – like a good race for them to run and also be able to watch phenomenal athletes,” Justin said. “Most of these guys and gals who are coming are young professionals. They just go on the circuit and run races. There’s not a ton of support for competitive roadrunners after college. It’s few and far in between.
“Hopefully after this year, this race can spread and grow and give people something to look forward to.”
For more information, visit @VanWert4Mile on Facebook.