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Fransen, Sample win Turkey Day 10-K titles

WORTHINGTON -- Running on a cool, blustery morning, former Edgerton runner Bret Fransen pulled away in the last two miles to win the 28th annual Turkey Day 10-K Saturday morning.

While it was Fransen's first victory in the prestigious event, Marshall's Marie Sample won the women's individual title for the fourth time, breaking away from two-time winner Connie Houlhan late in the race.

A total of 647 runners completed the 6.2 mile distance, which starts downtown, circles the five miles around Lake Okabena and finishes back on 10th street in front of a large crowd of cheering spectators.

"I felt good today," said Fransen, who has been bothered by various injuries over his successful running career. "The wind was against us the first half of the race, but was at our backs most of the last three miles. I was able to take the lead myself at about the 4-mile mark."

Fransen, who finished seventh last year with a time of 33 minutes and 20 seconds, shaved 86 seconds off his 2006 time as he ran the distance in 31:54.

"Last week, I ran the Sioux Falls Half-Marathon (13.1 miles) in an hour, eight minutes and 50 seconds." said Fransen, who recently moved to Sioux Falls and will turn 26 Thursday. "So this is two good races in a row for me."

Fransen's best-ever 10-K time has been 31:11, which he ran as a collegiate runner for the University of South Dakota at Vermillion, S.D.

Fransen and Mark Schamberg, also of Sioux Falls, started fast and the duo had already opened up a 200-yard lead just over a mile into the race.

Schamberg, who raced against Fransen in college while competing for Augustana College (Sioux Falls), stayed right with Fransen over the next three miles as the two elite runners stretched themselves from the rest of the pack.

But Fransen, who won many high school cross country races for Edgerton High School, in the late 1990's, broke away in the last two miles -- winning the race by 27 seconds.

Schamberg's second-place place time of 32:21 was nearly two minutes ahead of the third-place time of 34:07 run by Brad Peter of Arnold's Park, Iowa.

Meanwhile, Sample, Houlhan and Mountain Lake's Kelly Brinkman were each turning in sparkling performance's in the women's division -- as all three finished in the top 20 overall.

Sample, 31, who coaches cross country at Marshall High School, ran a sizzling 37:01, finishing 17th overall and 30 seconds ahead of Houlhan (Sioux City, Iowa), who at age 49 ran a remarkable time of 37:31 -- setting a new age-group record.

Sample's previous 10-K wins were in 2000, 2003 and 2004. Houlhan won previously in 1988 and 1991.

Brinkman, a former Minnesota state high school champion (from Hutchinson) in the 800 meter run and a standout collegiate cross country runner at Iowa State, finished 20th overall and third among all women with a time of 38:13.

"That's the first time that we have ever had three women finish among the top 20," meet director Jerry Fiola said. "While the overall number of high-caliber runners was down somewhat, we were really pleased with the high turn-out of local runners, who braved weather conditions that were not the best."

Worthington's top individual male finisher was Keith Abels, 45, who was eighth with a time of 35:47, while winning the men's 45-49 age group.

Nancy A. Koskamp, 26, was the first Worthintgon woman to enter the chute, clocking a time of 46:07 -- averaging 7:06 per mile

Runners ranged in age from 10 to 81.

The oldest finisher was 81-year Reed Hart of Egan. S.D. who ran the course in an hour, 14 minutes and 59 seconds.

A total of six 10-year olds completed the course, with the fastest time of 50:21 (8:07 per mile) being clocked by Matthew Jirele of Worthington.