Memorial markers

Published 9:40 am Monday, July 9, 2012

The finish line of the 5th annual April Sorensen Half Marathon. The race started in front of Country Inn & Suites in Albert Lea and ended on Main Street in Hayward. -- Colleen Thompson/Albert Lea Tribune

By Colleen Thompson, staff writer

HAYWARD — One hundred eighty determined runners lined up at the starting line. With heavy cloud covering and 65 degree weather, the clock struck 7:30 a.m. and the 5th annual April Sorensen Half Marathon was under way.

Benjamin Sathre, 22, of Chaska, wins the 5th annual April Sorensen Half Marathon with a time of 1:09:03. This was Sathre’s first year competing in the run.

The 13.1-mile foot race began in front of the Country Inn & Suites in Albert Lea and ended on Main Street in Hayward to kick off Hayward Days.

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To the crowd’s surprise, it was not three-time winner Ben Merchant who crossed the finish line first. Instead, Benjamin Sathre, 22, of Chaska wowed fans by taking first-place with a time of 1 hour, 9 minutes and 3 seconds, the fastest the race has seen.

The July 7 race commemorated April Sorensen, an Albert Lea High School graduate, who was murdered in the upstairs of her Rochester apartment on April 17, 2007. Although her killer has never been found, her case is still at the forefront of not only the law enforcement’s minds, but her family and friends as well. Sorensen had a passion for sports, especially running, and her family believed that this was the best way to remember their loved one.

“We feel this is a great way to keep her memory alive,” said Josh Sorensen, April’s husband of four years at the time of her death.

Family, friends and fans gathered around the finish line to help cheer on the finishers. Volunteers had aid stations at every odd numbered mile marker and water stations at every even numbered mile marker.

Sorensen was at the finish line with medals for every finisher. He congratulated each runner with a big smile.

Runners included a wide age range and travelers from near and far. Some ran because the cause was close to their hearts. Jon Larson, April’s father, 56, has run all five years. Others came because of their shared passion with April — running.

“I like to support local events,” said Jeff Miller, an avid marathon runner and four-time participant in the half marathon. “The hometown course feeling is the best part.”

Miller came in fifth-place for the men and sixth overall. He was pleased with his time and thanks the weather for his results.

“It was an absolutely gorgeous day to run,” Miller said.

At 10 a.m., Sorensen thanked the crowd for making it out to the race, and awards were presented to the top three finishers in each gender division for the half marathon along with the top male, female, and co-ed relay teams.

“This was the biggest crowd we’ve had,” Sorensen said. “There’s just so much support and it’s wonderful.”

As long as people continue to come out and participate, Sorensen believes this half marathon will continue.

“We hope to keep doing this as long as possible,” Sorensen said.

Male Top 5 finishers and their times included: Benjamin Sathre, 1:09:03; Erik Teig, 1:11:32; Ben Merchant, 1:17:19; Christian Folken, 1:22:16; Jeff Miller, 1:26:50.

Female Top 5 finishers and their times included: Kelly Brinkman, 1:21:14; Elizabeth Frick, 1:35:46; Casey Schwarz, 1:38:06; Gretchen Clevenger, 1:41:15; Therese Shumaker, 1:47:02.

The Top 3 male relay team finishers were: Randy Porter/Riley Portner, Dan Schumaker/Caleb Schumaker and Jamie Jensen/Clint McGill.

The Top 3 female relay team finishers were: Shanna Drescher/Alyssa Bangert, Emily Nelson/Fallon Lorenzen and Jill Jensen/Amber Jensen.

The Top 3 co-ed relay team finishers were Alicia Traut/Jason Mansur, Angie Gaskill/Caleb Claussen and Dustin Barr/Melissa Barr.

To view a full list of participant finishes visit the Tribune’s website.To search by individual or for detailed statistics visit