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Familiarity with course helps Sarah Biehl place 1st

August 21, 2022
News and Sentinel Half Marathon

PARKERSBURG - A pair of 2012 high school graduates crossed the finish first here Saturday morning during the News and Sentinel Half Marathon.

Former Fort Frye Cadet Sarah Biehl, who now resides in Columbus, grabbed the top prize of $1,000 after finishing the 13.1-mile course in a time of 1 hour, 17 minutes and 39 seconds.

Jenny Brewer, a former St. Marys Blue Devil who ran cross country at Alderson Broaddus before going to West Virginia University to become a physical therapist and now works at Camden Clark, earned $500 for her runner-up effort of 1:32:10.

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"It's kind of a home race for me. I'm from Lowell. It's nice to come home and win a race at home," admitted Biehl, who also claimed the Road Runners Club of America Regional Championship. "I know this course.

"It's the third time I've ran it so just kind of trying to stay strong on the hills and pace myself and not over do it in the beginning because I knew what was to come later in the race."

After graduating at FFHS, Biehl competed at Shawnee State in both cross country and track. She earned two degrees and is now a physical therapist at Riverside.

"I'm running ultra marathons, which is 31 miles and above," Biehl added. "I'm getting into the longer stuff. I think I ran a few minutes faster than I did the last time. That was kind of the ultimate goal was to run faster than I had in years past.

"I was really excited when I saw the time more than anything, honestly. This is the first race this fall. I was supposed to run my first 100-mile race a month ago, but I unfortunately got COVID, so I had to sit that out."

Biehl said she's currently focused on running a couple of 50-mile races and perhaps the upcoming Columbus Half Marathon in October.

"I kind of ran by myself for the most part. It was lonely out there," Biehl said. "I was a little congested from some of the allergies going on. I was a little worried about that. Actually, I had a nose strip on, and it fell off after the first mile.

"I was so sweaty. I was a little worried about that, but it didn't seem to bother me too much. It went smoothly. The last two miles, like that last hill, woo, that was a little bit of a killer. After that I was just ready to see the finish."

Brewer was running in the event for the third time.

"I'm kind of in the middle of my marathon build for Columbus," said the ex-Blue Devil. "I was pretty happy with it because it was about the same time I ran a couple years ago, and it was pretty hot out there.

"Very happy with today. Sarah pulled away really quickly, and so did everyone else. I just found myself in no man's land, but I tend to do that. It was OK. I made it."

Tackling the course is always a challenge for Brewer, but she had a plan.

"Focus on the water stops," added Brewer, who didn't start running until her senior year. "I normally stop at every couple so you can kind of get used to that rhythm and look forward to a little bit of Gatorade and keep going. I've run these hills a million times, and it's still just as tough every time. I was excited to place and get some money, but no specific expectation.

"I just wanted to get out there and have a good workout, at least in preparation for October and the marathon. My mom has run for a million years, and she kind of let me find it, and I loved it and slowly climbed up the ranks and here I am now. I'm a runner for life."

Tammy Slusser, a veteran of more than 20 races in Parkersburg, came down from Monroeville in the Keystone State to compete. She cashed $500 for her third-place effort which featured a clocking of 1 hour, 37 minutes and 17 seconds.

"It's just hot and humid," Slusser expressed not long after crossing the finish line. "The whole week was nice and cool except for today. I don't like hot and humid anymore at my age. When I was younger I could handle it, but once I turned 50 I can't handle the heat anymore.

"The second half, my time went out the window. I was on pace the first 10K. I was just looking at the guy in the green shirt in front of me. Just like stay with the green shirt. I'm 57 now. It just gets harder and harder each year. "

Rounding out the top five was master champ Nikkol Zanes of Rayland, Ohio and senior grand master victor Leisa Villani of Virginia Beach. Zanes crossed in 1:41:05 and Villani finished in 1:45:53.

The rest of the top 10 featured Winfield's Contessa Kennedy (1:47:02), Bridgeport's Brenna Goodson (1:48:03), North Carolina runners Kayla Blevins (Spruce Pine, 1:40:05) and Alexa Anders (Durham, 1:48:14) and Moundsville's Candace Kesselring (1:48.18).

Parkersburg High School science teacher Katherine Vickers won the competitive race walk title with a time of 2 hours, 34 minutes and 33 seconds.

"I've ran the Parkersburg Half before, but I hadn't walked it. This was my first time walking it though," Vickers said. "It was tough out there. It was pretty hot. Probably about mile eight, I started really feeling it, but I kept telling myself to keep going."

Vickers admitted the decision to change to walking was because "in December I got plantar fasciitis in my left foot, so I was trying to kind of not make that any worse. Plus, my fiancee Jason Mader is a race walker and kind of helped me get into it."

McMechen's Tereasa Danford, who was the grand master walk champ, crossed in 2:48:51 to claim runner-up honors.

Vienna's Ashley Gates (2:53:31) took third. Washington's Vicki Johnson (2:56:33) and Kelly Toothman (2:57:46) rounded out the top five.

Belpre's Amy Honeycutt claimed the master walk title with a time of 3:10.5, and Vincent's Carol Dodge was the senior grand master winner after crossing in 3:08:34.

Contact Jay Bennett at



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