Gioiosa holiday race returning

By John Hartsock

The late Angie Gioiosa was one of the pillars of this area’s running community, and for the second straight year on Thursday, the Hollidaysburg Area YMCA’s July 4 Race that he had a hand in creating will do its best to keep his memory alive.

Gioiosa, whose accomplishments as a distance runner and coach earned him a selection into the Blair County Sports Hall of Fame, passed away in 2011.

The Hollidaysburg YMCA’s July 4th Angie Gioiosa Memorial Race – which again will feature a 15K (9.3-mile run), 5K (3.1-mile run), 2-mile walk, and a Lollipop Run for children ages 6-and-under – will be held in Gioiosa’s honor and memory for the second straight summer.

“He was legendary,” Hollidaysburg Area YMCA Executive Director Tom Kopriva said of Gioiosa. “He was one of the founders of this race, he was running before running became regarded as one of the major health activities, and he was very active in coaching this area.”

Gioiosa was one of a small group of individuals who originally pitched the idea of the July 4 race to officials of the Altoona Area YMCA four decades ago. Thursday’s event will mark the 39th edition of the race.

The Altoona Running Club, of which Gioiosa was a member, had a big part in launching the race and helping generate community and even national interest in the event. The Hollidaysburg Area YMCA took over sponsorship of the race back in 1993.

“This race is what it is today because of the Altoona Running Club,” Kopriva said. “When [the Hollidaysburg YMCA] took it over, we wanted to keep it going. It’s been a terrific community event. We believe we’re going to have 1,000 runners involved this year.”

The races will again begin at 8 a.m. Thursday in front of the Mishler Theater on 12th Ave., with the finish line near the Heritage Plaza on 11th Ave.

Community involvement has been as much a staple of this event as the runners who have returned to participate in it year after year.

Kopriva noted that the Hollidaysburg Area High School drum corps will lend its talents at the start line, and that additional musical entertainment from any music groups or bands who are interested in plying their craft along the race course will be welcomed.

From area families and individuals who provide water along the course for the runners, to the superb job done by the Altoona Police Department of monitoring the course and keeping it safe, the races have truly been a cohesive community event.

“It’s a family affair,” said Bill Bravin, Hollidaysburg Area High School’s former long-time cross country and track coach, who ran in the July 4 race for years with his wife and two daughters, and who will serve as a starter for this year’s race. “A lot of families run in the event together.”

Bravin is also part of a group of Gioiosa’s running friends who this year will be celebrating the memory of Gioiosa’s life beyond just the day of the race. On Saturday, July 6, Gioiosa’s friends and their families will attend a get-together from 11 a.m. until dusk at Legion Park in Hollidaysburg to honor Gioiosa’s memory and raise money for the Angie Gioiosa Scholarship Fund.

Each spring, money from the scholarship fund goes toward the future college expenses for a deserving senior boy and girl track and/or cross country athlete from Altoona Area High School.

Admission for Saturday’s Legion Park event will be $5 for adults ages 18 and over, and $10 for each family.