Kelly regains his July 4th crown

Construction rerouted the 15k course at the Hollidaysburg YMCA’s July 4th Angie Gioiosa Memorial Race. It eventually returned to the route it has been on for years.

Just like the course, A.J. Kelly got back – on the winning path.

The Altoona native captured his sixth title at the annual race in the men’s division with a time of 54:03.00, one year after Kevin Doyle beat him.

“Winning for the first time felt really good,” Kelly said. “But winning today has to rank right up there, especially after losing it last year, and coming back.”

Kelly bested Kenny Goodfellow, who took second, and Doyle, who finished third.

On the women’s side, Sonja Hinish edged out Jayme Orr as Hinish captured her first win in the 15k race. She won the 5k when she was 13.

“It kind of kicked off my love and passion for racing,” Hinish, who is now a D.C. native, said. “And it’s been a long time since I’ve been back. It’s my only second time doing the 15k.”

“It’s very special. A lot of people here supported me through my junior high and high school career, to still see them out on the course and remember who I was and cheer for me, that’s probably the best feeling. Now when I run in D.C., it’s not the same.”

Altoona Area High School runner Brad Foust beat out teammate Dominic Stroh by less than a second to win the 5K race. Foust’s winning time was 17:30.95.

Leah Anne Wirfel, a Forest Hills graduate, won the women’s 5k race with a time of 19:15.13.

“I just kind of stayed patient and settled in to a pace,” Wirfel said of her race. “I started picking people off. At about a mile in and just tried to keep that and took my lead a little bit.”

Sam Freet won the 2-mile race walk.

While it was Wirfel and Foust’s first wins, Kelly winning ways continued, and while he runs in marathons and other races, the 4th of July race is something special to him.

“It’s a hometown race,” Kelly said. “It’s the biggest race in this area. I really like it. I take pride in trying to win it every year. I’m familiar with the course. I pretty much run portions of it on all my runs.”

Kelly said he trailed for most of the race, but slowly picked off opponents. He passed Goodfellow with one mile left.

“I felt pretty good today, but then the heat got to me probably around 7 miles,” Goodfellow said. “A.J. passed me. He’s amazing in the comeback. I had about a minute lead on him at the peak. He passed me.”

Much like Kelly, Hinish passed Orr late in the race. At the 8-mile mark, Orr led, but then coming over the 8th street bridge, Hinish once again pulled ahead.

“It was a tough race,” Orr said. “She’s looked really good for the last mile. It was a really good race. We definitely pushed each other.”