Three of the last four winners will be missing.
That opens the door for a new 5-mile champion in Eau Claire’s Labor Day weekend tradition, the Buckshot Run presented by WIN.
Step up, Adam Condit.
The former UW-Eau Claire runner takes over the role of favorite for Saturday morning’s 36th annual event at Carson Park.
The 5-mile begins at 9 a.m. followed by the 2-mile at 10:30 with the start and finish of both races in the heart of the park.
Returning as a women’s favorite is three-time winner Rebekka Dow, who put 14 years between her victories.
First-year Special Olympics director of development Karina Tomei said there are some strong runners to make for exciting racing but added that the race is geared toward a family event that raises funds for the program.
Condit tuned up for Saturday’s race with a record-setting performance in the Tuesday Buckshot, winning the 2-mile in 9 minutes, 24 seconds.
“I love the race, it brings out runners of all abilities in a community event that benefits Special Olympics,” said Condit, whose only other appearance in the race was 2004 when he was attending UW-Eau Claire.
Recent winners Aaron Hass and Scotty Hayden are sidelined with leg injuries and defending champion Brent Wathke, in marathon training, will be out of town.
Condit, the owner of Blue Ox Running in downtown Eau Claire, is an elite runner. As an example, the La Crosse native exchanged victories in 10K and 5K events this spring with Brent Kann, a multiple winner of local and area events, and in May placed second in the Eau Claire Marathon.
“I’d like to do the 5 in 25 or 26 (minutes),” Condit said.
That would put him well ahead of recent winners, although there could be walk-on challengers.
Contenders in last year’s event who are expected back are Tim McManus, Jason Voelker and Cole Cloutier among others.
On the women’s side, Dow won the 5-mile in 2001 and 2002 as Rebekka Lundquist and returned in 2016 to win under her married name of Dow.
The former Eau Claire Memorial runner won in 2016 in 31:29, although she went under 30 in 2002.
“It’s a great community and fun family event, we plan to run with our two daughters,” Dow said. “I’m hoping to finish in about 30 minutes and I would be happy with that.”
Defending champion Stephanie Cloutier, who won last year in 30:28, is reported to be injured. Mandi Risler of Eleva is another former winner, while the leader among area races over the past year or two has been Colfax’s Lisa Tavares.
Menomonie’s Becca Mallon was second last year and Eau Claire’s Beth Rithinen was third.
In the 2-mile, Voelker finished ahead of Cody Buckli and Wathke last year to win after Buckli won his sixth straight Tuesday 2-mile.
Heather Davel-Langreck of Neillsville scored her second straight 2-mile win and was fifth overall in 11:54 last year but has moved to Mineral Point and will not be running. Jennifer Reeves was the Tuesday 2-mile winner last year and finished a close second to Rebecca Holman on Tuesday.
Tomei, working with race director Mike Salm, is hoping the event draws a total turnout of up to 1,000 participants.
“It’s been a busy time but enjoyable,” she said.
Race packet pickup and registration will be from 4 to 7:30 p.m. today at America’s Best Value Inn, 809 W. Clairemont, across from Sacred Heart Hospital.