Two-time national cross-country champ Lukas Verzbicas wins the 2011 Foot Mechanics Memorial Day Main Street Mile in St. Charles. Photo by Matt Dula

Foot Mechanics Mile Makes Big Strides

Two-time national cross-country champ Lukas Verzbicas wins the 2011 Foot Mechanics Memorial Day Main Street Mile in St. Charles. Photo by Matt Dula

It’s not every day that hundreds of runners—some of them four-legged—sprint a mile down the middle of Main Street. And it’s certainly not every day that an Olympic hopeful clocks a sub-4-minute mile on Route 64.

But that day was Monday.

The 2011 Foot Mechanics Memorial Day Main Street Mile in St. Charles attracted more than 400 runners, including the day’s fastest male, elite runner Lukas Verzbicas, 18, of Orland Park, who posted a speedy 3:59.

“It’s a fun downtown road race—it’s a very fast race,” Verzbicas says of the largely downhill course. “It’s definitely a [Personal Record] course. The competition is tremendous. It’s also a tune-up race.”

Verzbicas, also an elite triathlete, holds the National 3A cross-country title for the past two years and was named Gatorade National Cross-Country Runner of the year in 2009 and 2010. In Monday’s Mile, he topped other elites including last year’s winner and course record-holder Moses Waweru, 33; Loyola Rambler alum Shawn Lucas, 27; Wheaton College standout Parker Thompson, 20; as well as Master’s champion and York Community High School coach Charlie Kern, 41.

The fastest female of the day was elite runner Mason Cathey, 29, of Indianapolis, with a time of 4:37. Formerly a member of the University of Florida cross-country and track-and-field teams, Cathey is currently an assistant coach at Butler University. She held off other elite females Kelly Whitley, 18, and Mariana Trejo.

“We’re excited to bring an event to St. Charles that showcases the town’s historic and natural beauty as well as the extraordinary talent this community has on board,” says Race Director Shelley Simmering. “This race helps put St. Charles on the radar of national athletics and the media. When a city becomes known for yet another great attribute like 'a great racing community,' it draws a different consumer to our downtown, which can only serve to further strengthen it. We need to keep the downtown exciting and viable.”

The Foot Mechanics Mile actually features seven different waves for all types of runners, including the Pet Pals Dog Wave, the Open and Dick Pond Challenge Wave, the Masters Wave by Wine Sergi, the New Balance Tribute Wave for veterans and their families, the Junior High and High School Wave with the Colonial Challenge, the Family and Youth Wave, and the Elite Wave by NationAir.

The Colonial Challenge Kitchen Sink Trophy, crowning the fastest high school, went to Batavia High School. Meanwhile the Zimmerman Ford Fastest Miler was Elena Shemyakina, 52, of Geneva, with a time of 5:29; the fastest racer is computed by formula based on an age- and gender-graded field.

New this year, canine companions were invited to run with their humans in the dog wave—and 30 doggies happily did, from Great Dane to Daschund. The day’s Top Dogs—Dusty, Versace and Kiku—were partnered with human runners Jim Webb Jr., Jay Bastian and Lynton Karfor, respectively.

Also new this year was the Foot Mechanics Mile Soul Surfer Award, nicknamed “The Lexi,” which was inspired by and named for 2011 Wheaton Academy Graduate and St. Charles resident Lexi Youngberg, 18, who triumphantly returned to competitive sports after a lower-leg amputation resulting from a boating accident.

“This race is about inspiring those who've never run a race, those who've stopped running for whatever reason and those who thought they'd never run again,” Simmering says. “Young, old, beginner or elite—it doesn't matter. We all need hope and want to be inspired to better things.”

The 2011 Lexi also was awarded to Kevin McDowell, 18, a 2011 Geneva High School graduate, silver medalist at the inaugural Youth Olympic Games in Singapore and bronze medalist at the World Junior Championships in Budapest. In March, McDowell made his debut on the professional triathlon circuit. He ran Monday’s Mile despite his ongoing battle with Hodgkin's lymphoma, a cancer of the lymphactic tissue. Though currently undergoing chemotherapy, he placed fourth among males 15-19 with an impressive time of 4:27.

“Running has given so much to me as both a high school and adult athlete, and if this race can give someone the beginnings of hope, health or happiness, I will feel as though I have passed on something that has meant a lot to me,” Simmering says. “This award represents just that, and I am grateful for the inspiration of souls like Kevin and Lexi. I think we have a lot to gain from their stories.”

The Foot Mechanics Memorial Day Main Street Mile raised funds for Salute, Inc. (saluteinc.org), which supports military service members and their families, and Save-A-Vet.org, which rescues military service dogs. For complete details and results, visit www.footmechanicsmile.com.