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All ages turn out for 20th annual Cheerios Challenge in Covington
Cheerios Challenge1
Participants in the Cheerios Challenge 5K race leave the starting line Saturday morning. (Special | Covington Family YMCA)

COVINGTON, Ga. — Hundreds of runners of all ages filled the streets surrounding the Covington YMCA and Legion Field Saturday for races in the 20th annual Cheerios Challenge.

Some local runners shone in the 10K and 5K races before mostly younger runners competed in the one-mile fun run and Trix Tot Trot. 

Cheerios Challenge helps support a YMCA financial assistance program that provides access to Y programs for individuals and families who otherwise could not afford to participate.

Executive Director Louly Hay-Kapp said the Covington YMCA was “proud” to host the event, which included the Truist Post Race Festival at Legion Field.

“The funds raised through this event enable the Y to continue to support children and families in need in our community,” Hay-Kapp said.  

“It was especially meaningful to gather as a community after this challenging time,” she said, in reference to postponement of the 2020 event scheduled in April 2020 because of the pandemic. 

“We are so grateful for the support of the work of the Y,” Hay-Kapp said. 

The races, which are official qualifiers for the Peachtree Road Race, centered on the Covington YMCA building at 2140 Newton Drive, with races beginning at the Y and ending at Legion Field behind the Y on Mill Street.

Henry Meller, 14, of Covington was the overall winner out of 264 participants in the 5K race, according to results posted by Orion Racing.

Meller, who is a member of Eastside High School’s cross country team, won with a gun time of 19.49.

Gabe Ferguson, 16, of Social Circle, finished second at 20.13. Mark Peace (20.18) and Richard Pennington (20.44) finished third and fourth, followed by another local teen, Henry Ferguson, 13, of Social Circle, at 21.08.

Others in the top 10 included Eric John, 50, of Covington (21.10); Richard Jackson, 55, of Social Circle (22.43) and Hudson Ferguson, 12, of Social Circle (22.48).  

In the 10K race, Blake Brashear of Atlanta was the overall winner with a gun time of 37.10 minutes. Tyler Shelton, 48, also of Atlanta, placed second and topped the 45-49 age group with a time of 42.05.

Robert Meller, 48, of Covington was the top local finisher in the 10K with a third place finish and a gun time of 45.00. Meller finished second in the same event during the 2019 Challenge, which was the last in-person race in the series.

Joyce Zhang, 18, whose hometown was not listed, was the top female finisher. She also led her 15-19 age group and earned fourth place overall with a gun time of 45.57.

Richard Jackson of Social Circle placed fifth overall and was the top finisher in the 55-59 age group with a gun time of 45.58.

Others in the top 10 included four Covington men, Donny Hartman (48.29), Tim Kirkland (49.39), Brian Patrick (49.56) and Luke Smith (50.57). A total of 70 participants were listed.

Cheyanne Britt, 7, of Monroe, and Jayden Wagstaff, 5, of Covington, were listed as the top finishers in the one-mile fun run which drew 68 participants.

Kellan Von Broembsen, 7, Jackson Dobbs, 11, and Nathan Thomas, 12, all of Covington; and Wesley Penley, 7, and Cade Conyers, 6, both of Oxford, were also in the top 10.

The Cheerios Challenge began in 2001 in conjunction with the Y’s Healthy Kids Day and has grown from 45 kids running the one-mile race to more than 1,300 adults and children of all ages in four different races.