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Saturday, May 2, 2009 -- Kingwood, WV / Preston County Country Club
Cheat Fest 5K Run & Walk (iPO Event Id#: 11937)

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Cheat Fest 5K Continues to Please

Article and photos by Julie Black

The Cheat River Festival has been a local area attraction for many years, yet it was just 5 years ago that the Friends of the Cheat introduced the Cheat Fest 5K run/walk.

Cheat Fest 5K photo by Julie Black
Friends show up to race together
The festival attracts all walks of life thanks to a variety of weekend activities including: mountain music, an art market, a downriver race, raffles, kids area complete with climbing wall, vendors, booths of all sorts, and of course the 5k race. No, it's not just for "hippies and river rats" anymore.

Caravans of families, happy paddlers, musicians, and other outdoor lovers flock to local campgrounds as early Wednesday evening to map out the best spot. These days the 5K attracts over 100 racers, some with strollers, some who are sore from racing the downriver event the night before, and some who took a break from work.

"Most of these guys I'm here with are from North Carolina." said Andrew Morris. "We're working over there at the camp and we decided to race together today." he grinned. "Hey, do you know of any good mountain bike trails?" he asked me. Of course I did, and after taking their photo I politely directed him to the area's many "sweet spots" and single-track jaunts.

Making the drive from beautiful Aurora, West Virginia was 21 year old, Travis Mersing. Mersing, a former high school track star, kept a fast pace on the rolling trek to finish first in 17:11. owner, Josh Weekly, took some time away from the computer to finish second with a time of 17:48.

Cheat Fest 5K photo by Julie Black
Chris Reber flashes a smile
Young local runner, Peter Schwarzenberg, age 14, proved that he could run with the veterans by claiming third in 17:54.

The first woman to finish was Heather Parks of nearby Bruceton Mills, who most recently finished as the 35th overall woman and was the 20th U.S. woman runner at the 2009 Boston Marathon (marathon time: 2:52:45). She finished the 5K as 7th overall, cruising to the line in 19:55.

Jen Sober of McHenry, Maryland was second with a time of 20:36, and Debbie Conner (21:05) of Dunbar, Pennsylvania was third.

Honorable mention goes out to buddies Noah Nichols and Ryan Daly who claimed one and two in their age group, men 14 and under.

At post-race time, beautiful ceramic dyed EnvironOxide medallions were awarded to age group winners while the overall awardees received sculpted plates. The special awards were crafted by a local potter, Gail Vincent. View her works online at

Racers were also given free festival passes. Many could be seen throughout the day enjoying the bluegrass music and art booths.

All profits from this year's race went to the Preston Rail Trail Committee, a local group of citizens dedicated to converting abandoned rail road corridors into safe walking/biking trails in Preston County.