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Rocks honor Oulu's finest

Pat Moreland wasn't running for the roses Saturday. He was running for a rock. The Lake Nebagamon man, who has been competing in local races for 25 years, received a peculiar award -- a rock painted white and blue -- for crossing the finish line ...

Pat Moreland wasn't running for the roses Saturday. He was running for a rock.

The Lake Nebagamon man, who has been competing in local races for 25 years, received a peculiar award -- a rock painted white and blue -- for crossing the finish line of the Oulu Rock Run 5K.

"It kind of describes Oulu," said Barbara Lahti, who lives in the small community of approximately 600. "It's a unique experience when you come to Oulu."

The race wound through the woods and an old cow pasture behind Oulu Pioneer Memorial Park. The cross country aspect set it apart from other summer runs, said David Lindelof of Oulu.

"It's a trail course," agreed Moreland.

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The 1K walk/run was even more exotic. Four of the participants were accompanied by llamas.

"They are wonderful, wonderful animals," said Lahti, who led one of the llamas through the course. "Very inquisitive, very gentle."

The quartet was entered by owner Janet Cismoski of Brule.

Lahti said she enjoyed meeting her walking partner "up close and personal."

"We became very good friends by the time it was done," she said.

In all, 30 entrants walked or ran through the Oulu woods Saturday. For many, it was a family event. Mike Ostrenga of Maple won the 5K with a time of 18:37. His daughter, Emma, placed first in the female division of the 1 mile with a time of 13:04. Both hefted their rocks for photos after the event.

Moreland wasn't the only one in his family to snag a rock. His son Bear won the third place trophy and daughter Shari Olson placed first in the women's division with a time of 23:26. Moreland's was an honorary trophy for his dedication to running.

They join his grandson, Rett, who won a rock three years ago during the first race in Oulu, a part of the town's centennial celebration.

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"Now his dad, Keith, says it's his favorite trophy," Moreland said.

Race coordinator Duane Lahti of Oulu said he hadn't anticipated the four-legged competitors.

"We didn't have awards for the llama division this year," he said. "Maybe next year."

Lahti plans to make the run an annual event.

"It's important to get people together as a community," he said, "keep the community alive."

Pencil it in your calendar for mid-July next year, Lindelof said.

"Get there early," he said. "We'll save you a spot."

Top finishers for the 5K were Mike Ostrenga, Joe Weyers with a time of 20:19 and Bear Moreland, 21:44, in the men's division and Olson, Marsha Sherz with a time of 24:35 and Britta Smith, 26:46, for the women's division.

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Winners of the 1 mile men's division were Cannady Thomas, 13:01, Lindelof, 22:37, and Eric Pohjonen, 24:57. Top finishers for the women's 1 mile were Emma Ostrenga, Samantha Clark, 14:55, and Talia Martens with 15:07.

For a complete race results, look it up on the Web at www.northlandrunner.com .

Maria Lockwood covers news in Douglas County, Wisconsin, for the Superior Telegram.
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