Stoltzfus, Magni run away with top honors in 35th Lititz Pretzel Twist

By on September 19, 2012

By: BRUCE MORGAN Record Express Sports Editor, Staff Writer

Photo by Preston WhitcraftMore than 200 runners and walkers leave the starting line in last Saturday's 35th annual Lititz Pretzel Twist.

James Stoltzfus had a unique perspective about last Saturday’s Lititz Pretzel Twist after crossing the finish line.

"It’s an automatic PR," he smiled.

It was a reference to the 3.5-mile course, an uncommon layout compared to the 5K and 5-mile distances with which runners are more familiar. But in celebration of the event’s 35th anniversary, race organizers decided to throw a twist into this year’s Pretzel Twist.

And Stoltzfus, a New Holland resident, set a PR which might be hard to beat, crossing the finish line in first place overall in a sizzling time of 17:23 in front of the Lititz recCenter in perfect fall conditions.

"It’s kinda different," Stoltzfus, 31, said of the course. "I kinda liked it actually. It’s like, you run a hard 5K and then just keep pushing for another four-tenths … I was very happy with my time."

So too was Brooke (Gelatka) Magni, a 2000 Warwick High School grad who earned first-place in the women’s race in 21:43, more than a minute ahead of runner-up Jessica Leddy, who finished in a time of 23:24.

"Today was beautiful, it was great," Magni, 30, said. "This is like old stomping grounds. We’ve run that 400 times with Mr. Nixdorf in high school (cross country and track)."

Stoltzfus and Magni were two of 174 finishers in the 3.5-mile run, while Aaron Boyhont (40:18) topped a field of 37 competitors in the 3.5-mile walk. A number of youths also participated in the Kids Fun Run. All proceeds from the race benefit the Lititz recCenter.

"We are very happy with the number of people that ran and walked and the number of kids that came out to run," Deb Smith, of the Lititz recCenter, said. "We had the most kids ever this year. It was a pleasure meeting Greta Arcudi and family that participated in celebrating the 35th anniversary of the race her father, ‘Red’ Wilson started."

Smith added that LrC officials heard many positive comments about the new 3.5-mile course.

"Our committee will be deciding if this is the distance we will continue for our 2013 Pretzel Twist," she said. "Our goal was to tie in the celebration of 35 years and to attract more participants to this event. We are so fortunate to have such great support of the community, neighbors, and friends in this race that benefits the Lititz recCenter."

The two winners, Stoltzfus and Magni, have more in common than just winning first-place honors last Saturday. Both are also currently training for a marathon, as Stoltzfus is preparing for the Wineglass Marathon in New York on Sept. 30, while Magni is getting herself ready for the Harrisburg Marathon on Nov. 21.

The Lititz Pretzel Twist proved to be a good sprint workout, and Stoltzfus seems to have his speed training right on target.

"I was hoping to go around five-minute miles, so I was just trying to hit that pace," said Stoltfus, a first-time Pretzel Twist runner. "I’d say it’s a fast course."

Darrel Weaver, who finished runner-up just 13 seconds behind in 23:36, helped him achieve that by setting the early pace, reaching the one-mile point in a sub-5:00 pace.

Stoltzfus trailed by only about five seconds, but later overtook Weaver for the top spot and held on as the runners crossed in front of Warwick Middle School.

"I just tried to stay with him as long as I could and then kick past him at the end, the last half mile or so," Stoltzfus said. "We were running together for maybe half a mile until about three and I passed him there."

Magni, meanwhile, led for the whole race in the women’s race, placing sixth overall, only 13 seconds behind Lititz’s Corey Lipisko, who was 1st in the men’s 30-34 year-old age group.

"I was just trying to stay ahead of the guys behind me," Magni said.

She also took first-place honors in a 10-mile run at the beach the previous Saturday, but she came away from the Pretzel Twist with a much more positive feeling.

"It was 97 percent humidity down at the beach and 30 mile an hour winds. My time was terrible — it was like four minutes slower than my last 10 miler," Magni laughed. "This was a beautiful refreshing afternoon."

Those conditions also allowed her to work on maintaining a consistent pace, which she was successful in accomplishing.

"I’ve been trying to keep my pace really even," Magni said. "I have a tendency to be really sporadic, like run the first mile in 5:30 and then the next ones in 6:30 or 7 minutes. I was trying to shoot for around 6:15, 6:20 for each mile, so finally that worked."

That will serve her well as she focuses on the Harrisburg Marathon. She is also working on trying to finish up her bachelor’s degree at Millersville University, in addition to keeping busy with her 3-year-old son.

On Saturday morning, though, she was able to squeeze some time into her schedule to check out her old stomping grounds again.

"It was a great run," she said. More PRETZEL TWIST, page B-4

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