Taylor college-bound runner wins first Happy Soles 5K at Heritage Park

As a Boy Scout with Troop 815 at St. Alfred’s Parish in Taylor, Michigan, Aaron Moore remembers volunteering to sort food items at the Gleaners Food Bank on Northline Road, which supplies products to the Fish and Loaves Community Food Pantry next door.

On June 27, Moore earned a plaque and a medal - not for being a good Scout, but for winning the first Happy Soles 5K Run and Walk - an event that raised thousands of dollars to feed the hungry.

Moore, 17, literally ran away with the event that started and finished in Heritage Park. He jetted away from the pack at the start and finished in 18 minutes, 12.7 seconds - nearly 1:17 ahead of runner-up Masayoshi Ichihara, 41, of Canton Township. Moore averaged 5 minutes and 52 seconds a mile.

Not that Moore is a stranger to running. Until his recent graduation from Divine Child High School, he competed as a member of the school’s track and field team. After running the mile, two-mile and 800 for the Falcons during the regular season, he joined teammates in the 3,200-meter relay in the Class B state finals in June.

Moore will continue running as a freshman at Grand Valley State University.

“My mom found a poster for this race,” he explained. “I needed to get into shape for college next year.” The victory was a nice bonus.

Moore said he enjoyed running on the flat course, which saw competitors travel on the mile-plus road that traverses much of the park, onto Racho Road, back into the park, in and out of a wooded area before returning to the park road to the finish line.

The first-time Happy Soles event kicked off the summer running season in the Downriver area. The race was set up as a fund-raiser for Fish and Loaves, which provides food year-round to hungry people in Taylor and five surrounding communities.

Males and females competed together - and men had the five fastest times. Ichihara, the overall masters winner, was the only other runner to finish in less than 20 minutes (19:29.1).

Rounding out the top five were 43-year-old Irani Hassan (20-35.6), 14-year-old Blake Harrity (21:17.7) and another 17-year-old Taylor resident, Robert Fountain (21:36.5).

Melissa Armatis of Wyandotte was the overall female winner and took sixth among all runners in 22:29.7.

Armatis, 36, is vice president of operations for Daly Merritt Inc., a Wyandotte-based insurance company. She said she trains at Fighting Fit, a Wyandotte gym, but the Happy Soles 5K was only her third competitive race - and her first win.

“It feels wonderful,” Armatis said. “I like to run. If you can do something you enjoy and benefit a local charity, it’s definitely a win no matter what happens.”

Armatis said she plans to enter the next 5K in Taylor’s Heritage Park, the Rollie Hopgood Midtown Taylor 5K Run/Walk on July 10.

Rounding out the Happy Soles top 10 were 20-year-old Kelsey Bartoloni of Southgate (23:02.1), 53-year-old Mark Marcucilli of Brownstown (23:03.8), 14-year-old Jordan Powell (23:33.8) and 34-year-old Jason Peer (23:48.3).

Amanda Fowler was the overall female masters winner. The 41-year-old Allen Park runner finished in 24:50.3. She was 16th among the entire field.

The Rev. Dr. Geoffrey Drutchas, the president of Fish and Loaves and pastor of St. Paul United Church of Christ, praised the runners and walkers for being part of something special - and for raising money to help feed the hungry.

He joined Race Director Mary Beth Jakubowski in thanking the volunteers and sponsors of the first race, which they plan to make an annual event. Sponsors included Walmart, Shwedel Dentistry, Arrow Uniform, the City of Taylor, Gleaners, Meijer and Sam’s Club. Everal Race Management of Taylor timed the race.

“We had quite a great turnout,” Jakubowski said. “This is a community event and I’m very pleased the community came out and supported it. I hope next year this will be even bigger. Our goal was to make this a fun event and I think it was.”

Complete results of the race and information on the upcoming Rollie Hopgood Midtown Taylor 5K can be found on the website www.everalracemgt.com. For more information on Fish and Loaves, visit www.downriverfishandloaves.org.

Aaron Moore (right) of Taylor bursts away from the pack at the start of the Happy Soles 5K in Heritage Park. He led the entire race.

Overall winner Aaron Moore of Taylor.

Overall female winner Melissa Armatis of Wyandotte.

Female masters winner Amanda Fowler of Allen Park.

Male masters winner Masayoshi Ichihara of Canton.

The Rev. Dr. Geoffrey Drutchas, director of the Fish & Loaves Community Food Pantry and pastor of St. Paul United
Church of God in Taylor, leads runners, walkers and volunteers in prayer after the Happy Soles 5K.