Runners join MAYC to provide programming for kids


Advertisements are designed to catch a person’s attention and then produce a result or a reaction.

Champaign’s Joseph Irudayaraj illustrated the principle on Saturday as he and his son ran the 5-kilometer race in the 22nd Mahomet Half-Marathon event.

One week earlier, Irudayaraj wasn’t aware of the race.

“My son had a playdate out here last week with a friend,” Irudayaraj said. “I went to the library.”

While there, he noticed something.

“I saw the 5K flyer,” Irudayaraj said. “I used to run. Fifteen years ago was my last race.”

The advertisement secured two more entries.

“I wanted him to run,” Irudayaraj said. “I ran with him.”

Eight-year-old Daniel Irudayaraj — in his first race — wound up taking home the third-place prize in the male 10-and-under age group. His time was 28 minutes, 44 seconds.

“I ran the whole way,” Daniel Irudayaraj said. “Well, I walked a little bit.”


The 5K race was pretty much an equal opportunity event.

Two of the top five overall finishers — out of 200 who crossed the line on the M-S track — were women.

The overall individual runner-up was Carina Tollet, a 19-year-old from Verona.

A sophomore-to-be at Iowa’s Wartburg College, Tollet declined the prize money in order to maintain her amateur status. She runs cross-country and track in college.

“My coaches wanted me to do a time trail to see where I’m at with my training,” Tollet said.

Though her goal was for a time under 18 minutes, she finished in 18:05.5 and was just five seconds behind the individual winner while earning the women’s title.

“I would have appreciated a cloud cover,” she said. “It was a little humid.”


The men’s 5K winner was also a teen-ager who didn’t accept the monetary award that was available.

Richard Oakley, 16, is an upcoming junior at Danville High School.

“I’ve been training hard for cross-country,” Oakley said. “I’m an avid runner.

“I try to run 5 to 8 miles every day.”

His time was 18:00.9, a pace of 5:48 per mile.


Mahomet’s Denny Hatcher had a role in the winning effort of half-marathoner Jeremy Johnson, from Austin, Ind.

Johnson sprinted to the lead from the outset, but never had to wonder where to go.

“I was racing him,” Johnson said, pointing to Hatcher, who was driving the pace golf cart.

Hatcher was happy with his position.

“It’s the only race I’ve ever led,” he said.

A former collegiate runner at Berea (Ky.) College, Johnson has his sights set on the future.

“I’m trying to hit the Olympic Trials standard (2:19) for the marathon,” Johnson said.

Earlier this year, he posted a 2:21 time while winning a marathon in  Louisville, Ky.

“With a little more training, I can get it,” Johnson said.

The 24-year-old will try again at the full 26.2-mile marathon distance in the October Chicago Marathon.

For Saturday’s 13.1-mile race, Johnson ran a 5:36 pace. He won by more than three minutes.


The men’s second- and third-place finishers in the half-marathon are individuals who know each other well.

They are brothers and former Mahomet-Seymour runners.

John Butcher, 24, was second in 1:16.53.7 and Brian Butcher was third in 1:17.37.5.

“We did about 4 miles together, then he pulled away,” Champaign’s John Butcher said. “I caught back up around Mile 10.

“The heat was pretty brutal, but we settled into a rhythm.”

Brian Butcher, 19, appreciated the opportunity that the race afforded.

“It’s fun to race on roads you train on,” said Brian Butcher, a University of Illinois sophomore who runs on the school’s club cross-country team.

The half-marathon was the third for Brian Butcher, who would like to join his brother at longer distances.

“Eventually, I’d like to work up to the full (marathon),” Brian Butcher said.

John Butcher is hoping to do two more marathons this year, Chicago in October and one in California in December.


Tuscola native Rachael Brewer, 27, was one of two individuals to repeat as champions in their races.

She won the women’s division of the half-marathon in 1:23.09, just off her winning mark from 2017 (1:22.29).

“I was hoping to go under 1:20, but maybe I’m not as fit as I thought,” said Brewer, who will start her duties as a P.E. teacher and assistant cross-country coach at Urbana Uni High later this month.

Brewer is a devoted runner who will “take a day off,” she said, “every fourth week.”

She likes that the Mahomet event is a fundraiser for the Mahomet Area Youth Club.

“There’s not a better race where you can impact change,” Brewer said. “I like that it gives back to the children.”


Ivesdale teen-ager Luke Brewer captured his second successive championship in the men’s 10-kilometer race.

The upcoming Bement High School senior triumphed in 37:49.9, just shy of his 37:21.1 mark from the previous year.

“From where I’m at, there’s hardly any hills,” the 17-year-old Brewer said. “These hills are tough, but I like the course.”

Brewer triumphed by more than 5 minutes over runner-up Dustin Gentry.

“My goal was to finish,” Brewer said. “The conditions were brutal.”


The heat and humidity weren’t a deterrent for Mahomet’s Tonya Nunn.

She had the time of her life, completing the 5K course in a personal-best 19:35.6.

Nunn was not only second in the women’s division, but also fifth among all competitors in the 5K.

Her status now is a lot different than when she started competing.

“My first race ever was in the Mahomet Half,” Nunn said, “and I said I’d never run another one again.”

She enjoyed  a change of heart.

“I started leisurely running a few years later and decided, properly trained, I’d give it a go again,” Nunn, 44, said.

Saturday’s event was an exception for Nunn.

“I usually do longer distances,” she said, “but I was injured and got into shorter distances.”


The Master’s division is open to runners 40-and-over.

Mahomet’s Dan Lillyman showed it’s not necessarily a benefit to be a newcomer in that age grouping.

The 62-year-old  Lillyman won the master’s title in the 5K race and secured a top 10 finish overall by 16 seconds.

His final time was 20:37.0.

“Races are my best training,” Lillyman said.

He tries to compete frequently.

“I’m out more often than not,” Lillyman said. “Maybe three of out four weeks.

“I like to travel.”


The two men who have participated in all 22 MAYC running events, spoke briefly to the crowd on Saturday and then made their way to the starting line for the 5K race.

Mark Kesler, from Dewey, and Alan Singleton, from Mahomet, didn’t spend a lot of time together after that.

“He left me in the dirt,” Kesler said.

At the awards ceremony, Kesler earned a measure of revenge.

He placed first in his age group (60-64) while Singleton settled for a runner-up finish in his age group (50-54) despite a quicker time by about 7 minutes.

Kesler anticipates running the race again in 2019.

“I’ll always support the (MAYC) program,” he said. “Now that it has become more publicized, it would almost be a crime if I didn’t show up.”

Singleton ran with his daughter, Melissa, who will soon start her freshman year at the University of Illinois.

In high school, Melissa Singleton did her running on the soccer field.

Despite her status as a novice distance runner, Melissa Singleton took home some hardware, placing third in the women’s 15-19 age division.

Her time was 28:08, just a half-step off the pace of her father, who was timed in 28:07.6.

This year’s race was the third time that the Singletons ran together.


Noah Lukach needed some help to get around the 5K course.

Unable to speak, and confined to a wheelchair, Lukach has nonetheless participated in nine of the Mahomet Half-Marathon events.

Thanks to the ability of his pusher, father Greg Lukach, Noah was the runner-up in the men’s 20-29 division of the 5K. His time was 50:23.6.

His father was easy to identify, sporting a blue “TEAM NOAH” shirt.

Though there are additional struggles pushing a chair, Greg Lukach took note of the upside.

“He pulls me down the hills,” Greg Lukach said.

The family has competed at a number of locations and under a variety of conditions.

“We’ve run when it’s 8 degrees and when it’s 106,” said Noah’s mother, Licia. “You prepare.

“You hydrate him (when it’s warm) and bundle him up (in the winter).”


Tecia Mills was among the runners who were hometown proud on Saturday.

“We live here and I work in the school,” she said. “I enjoy being with the people.”

She recruited a running partner, her 9-year-old daughter Taylor.

It was the third time they ran a 5K race together.

“I run every day and she runs periodically,” Tecia Mills said.

About the time her daughter wanted to walk on Saturday, Mom was there to encourage her for the final steps.

“She wanted to stop (as they neared the track and the last 300 meters of the race) and I said, ‘No. Keep going. We can’t stop now,’ “ Tecia Mills said.

“We kept going.”

Their reward was recognition in the post-race awards ceremony.

Taylor Mills (time off 28:06) was second in the women’ 10-and-under division. Tecia  Mills (time of 27:43) was third in the women’s 35-39 division.

Her daughter supplied a one-word answer for the race.

“Hard,” Taylor Mills said.


A parking lot check, 30 minutes before the first race, revealed vehicles from nearly one-third of the states (16, including Illinois).

While some competitors drove long distance, for Mahomet’s Margaret White, it was simply a long day.

A race volunteer, she arrived at the high school at 5:30 a.m. to help with packet pickup.

White had enough energy left to participate in the 5K with her sister, Mary Young (from Champaign) and friend Judy Yost (from Seymour).

The women followed a pre-race strategy.

“We walked it, but ran the track,” White said.

Yost’s time (47:57.0) was good enough to capture first place in the women’s 70-and-over division.

White and her husband, Ron, are long-time advocates of MAYC.

“Ron and I believe in MAYC and have supported it for 23 years,” Margaret White said. “We know the difference it makes for all kids.”


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One Comment

  1. Thank you Fred for sharing MAYC runners’ stories, Thanks to all of our runners, walkers, sponsors, and volunteers for supporting MAYC’s outstanding programming. Hope to see everyone next year!

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