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2023 Cheerios Challenge: Covington Family YMCA sees largest turnout since before pandemic
Cheerios Challenge
Runners for the 1K race at the 22nd Annual Cheerios Challenge hosted by the Covington YMCA get set to take their positions Saturday. - photo by Jason Mussell | The Covington News

COVINGTON, Ga.  — With a mild breeze and hint of sunshine, over 1,100 families, friends and athletes took to the course at the Covington YMCA’s 22nd annual Cheerios Challenge road race Saturday morning.

According to Covington Family YMCA executive director Louly Hay-Kapp, the turnout for Saturday's event was the largest "by far" since the pandemic shuttered things back in 2020. 

"Before the pandemic, we had gotten up to as many as about 1,600 participants," Hay-Kapp said. "And before today, maybe 600 was the most we'd had." 

The event started with the 1-mile run where 12-year-old Lincoln Muldoon finished in first place at 8:19 and 8-year-old Cade Robinson finished in second place with a time of 9:50.

Both young men were given water bottles from the Newton County Water & Sewage Authority and electrolyte popsicles from Piedmont Newton Hospital. 

While the first wave crossed the finish line, the 5K and 10K racers started their journeys.

With only seconds apart, first place winner Virat Vishwanadhula, 18-years-old, finished the 5K at 16:48, and second place winner Timothy Park, 19-years-old, finished at 16:51.

Cheerios Challenge1
Lincoln, left, and Cade won first and second place, respectively, in Saturday's 1K race at the 2023 Cheerios Challenge hosted by the Covington Family YMCA. - photo by Hunter Terrell

Vishwanadhula and Park are both freshmen on Oxford University’s cross-country team.

“One thing to remember when running, is that slow is fast,” Vishwanadhula said. 

Shortly after, 18-year old Joshua Barber took first place finishing the 10K at 37:24 and Ryan Gurgel, 24-years-old, finished second at 38:38.

 But even those who did not place, enjoyed supporting their community and their families’ active lifestyle. 

Jayson Shaifer, an occupational therapist and soccer coach for his 5-year old son Carter, said that this is his family’s second year participating in the YMCA’s Cheerios Challenge.

“I just want to help promote an active lifestyle for my children and give back to the community where I can,” Shaifer said.

After crossing the finish line, participants could stick around for a free concert, face painting and popcorn from Oxford University, snacks and sports drinks from the YMCA and Ready Nutrition and entertainment from other vendors like General Mills, Takeda, Jaco Construction and the Covington Police Department.

Other top five finishers in the 5K were Alex Lucas of Needham, Massachusetts (18:22); Hudson Harris of Covington (19:06) and Henry Meller (19:19) 

Additionally, Gallardo Moses of Conyers (40:51), Ian Steele of Porterdale (41:28) and Pedro Vazquez (44:16) rounded out the top five in the 10K.

In the 1K it was Madilyn Gray, age 13, of Social Circle finishing third with a 9:24 time and 7-year old Avery Fuller (9:29) of Oxford and 10-year old Isabelle Patrick (9:41) of Covington finishing fourth and fifth respectively.