Teen Matthew Cashin advances up Grandfather Mountain toward the finish line of the Critter Crawl 5K.


LINVILLE - A 15-year-old from Tallahassee, Florida, won the third-annual Grandfather Mountain Critter Crawl 5K on Saturday.

Matthew Cashin finished the grueling uphill race in 23:07, followed by Paul Jones, Apex, in 23:49 and Matt Campbell, Matthews, in 25:40.

The top female finisher was Annette Bednosky, Jefferson, in a time of 25:56, good enough for fourth overall. She was followed by Emily Wolfe, Boone, in 26:24 and Sarah Jones, Apex, in 29:51. All three top female runners surpassed the previous women’s course record of 30:13.

Unlike traditional cross-country 5K runs, this race ascended up the mountain with a 1,000-foot elevation gain.

Cashin blazed up the mountain a full 42 seconds ahead of his closest competitor, but he was well short of the event record, set two years ago by Surry Central track coach Jason Bryant at 21:29.

A total of 70 runners ranging in age from 6 to 63 completed the 2014 Critter Crawl, an annual race hosted by Grandfather Mountain that funds projects for the betterment of the habitat animals. This includes black bears, otters, cougars, deer and bald eagles. Proceeds from the 2014 race are earmarked for otter habitat renovations begun this spring.

“We were really pleased with the race. It being our third year, everything went very smoothly,” said Emma Schlagal, assistant habitats curator for Grandfather Mountain. “It always impresses me the amount of people who come out here and do these events, especially running up a mountain like that.”

Cashin, a high school cross-country and track runner, said he and his father always look for a race to run while visiting his grandparents in Lenoir. With his father sidelined this year, Cashin took on the challenge alone.