by Josh Lanier
Organizers said the turnout was heavenly as more than 180 runners took part Saturday, March 19, in the first ever Angels of ’97 5K.
“It was just awe inspiring,” said Jane Bolton, secretary and treasurer for Angels of ’97. “It was just amazing seeing so many people turn out for the first year event and so much support for the community. … That’s something we’ve come to expect for the Huntersville community, though.”
The annual dinner and now race began as a way to honor five students from North Mecklenburg High School’s class of 1997 who died in a three-year period. Other students who passed away since have been added to the list of “Angels.”
Since its founding, the Angels of ’97 organization has raised thousands for scholarships through the annual spaghetti dinner. This year, volunteers between 700 and 800 plates of pasta. An exact number wasn’t immediately available.
The group’s board decided to add the 5K last year at the suggestion of former Huntersville Commissioner Charles Guignard, who serves on the Angels board of directors, said Avis Lewis who organized.
“He came in and said he had a crazy idea, and after he told us we were all immediately on board,” she said. “It was such a great way to reach people.”
Many of North Meck’s 1997 graduates have come to the spaghetti dinners over the years, and several turned out to run in the 5K. The entire women’s cross-country team from 1997 ran and former North Meck Principal Jimmy Poole sported his class of ’97 T-shirt for the run, Angels officials said.
Bolton, whose daughter Laura Barnette was one of the five teens who inspired the event, called participating in it “bittersweet.”
“The whole day to me is so phenomenal and satisfying,” she said. “The worst nightmare for a parent who loses a child is that your child will be forgotten. This has really helped me through a lot of that.”
Several organizers said they were still recuperating early this week from finishing such a mammoth undertaking, but many said the support from the community made it worth it.
“I’m so exhausted from everything this weekend,” Lewis said Monday, “but I’m still smiling.”
Winners of the 5K
• First place: Sarah Keen, 32, Huntersville (21:58)
• Second place: Melissa Orr, 32, Charlotte (22:57)
• Third place: Stacy Hensley, 43, Huntersville (23:56)
• First place: Todd Mayes, 28, Cornelius (18:13)
• Second place: Gil Gilreath, 14, Kannapolis (18:47)
• Third place: Tony Rao, 17, Charlotte (19:32)
For more on the race, visit www.Angels5k.com. For more on Angels of ’97, visit www.angelsof97.com.