The Highland Area Chamber of Commerce’s first 5k/10k walk/run on Saturday, Oct. 9, was not an easy course for many of its 115 participants.

Starting and ending at Arroyo Verde Elementary School in East Highlands Ranch provided a beautiful setting on a crisp cool morning, but the challenge of the course was the initial incline up Church Street heading toward Base Line.

Ten-year-old Julia Villegas is used to running as a member of the Northpark Elementary Runners Club, but even Julia said the incline was hard. She said her legs started getting tired, but that was not enough to stop her from finishing the race.

Julia was sponsored by the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Athletic Federation, which purchased her black running shoes.

Julia’s mother, Gina Villegas, said her daughter was one of 10 Northpark Runners Club students sponsored by the Athletic Federation.

Julia, who ran the 5k, enjoyed the early morning run.

“It was really fun,” she said.

That was the sentiment echoed by the 115 runners and walkers at the Highland Area Chamber of Commerce’s event.

The elementary school was the focal point of the race and they lined up bright and early before the official start of the race at 7 a.m. The course took them up Church Street to Base Line, right on Base Line, down toward Weaver Street, then south on Weaver to Greenspot, right on Greenspot and back up north to Church Street.

There were quite a few families participating in the race and one family was Terry Castaneda, 40, and her daughter, Isabelle Castaneda, 12.

Mother and daughter finished first and second in the women’s category of the 5K run.

Terry said she has been a runner since high school and also is a marathon runner. Saturday’s race was special because she raced with her daughter.

“I’m more excited that my daughter was right behind me,” Terry said. “I’m passing the torch on to her.”

Isabelle also loved spending the time with her mom. Isabelle has been running since she was 9.

She said she felt fine during the race and kept in close proximity to her mom.

“I was excited when I realized that mom was right there toward the end,” said Isabelle.

Jerred Besheer, 38, of Blue Jay, raced along with his daughter, Olivia, 7.

Father and daughter also were having the time of their life racing together. For Olivia, it wasn’t a big challenge.

“It was kind of easy,” Olivia said.

Jerred said he signed them up for the 5k. I do it ‘cause she thinks it’s fun,” he said.

John Echevaria, 43, of Colton, ran with his 18-year-old son Jacob.

Echevaria is a 20-year San Bernardino Police Department sergeant and also is a Colton City Council member, elected in December 2020.

Echevaria has to stay in shape with all of the stresses and demands of his law enforcement work.

“It keeps me healthy,” he said. “It keeps me energized.”

Molly Widdicombe, 51, of Highland, said she didn’t know about the race until she saw the road closure signs going up on Church Street.

Widdicombe decided to enter the race on behalf of her 20-year-old daughter Eliza, who has Downs Syndrome.

Widdicombe said she has not raced in 20 years and she was motivated by her recent 20-pound weight loss, which she has achieved with a personal trainer and swimming.

She found the course challenging, “It’s interesting mentally to start out on a hill,” she said.

Michael Vollkommer, 32, of Highland, was the overall 10k mens winner. His time was 41:14.

Vollkommer ran with his brother, Ryan Vollkommer, 29, president of the Highland Chamber of Commerce board of directors, and their father, Harold Vollkommer.

Michael said he generally runs three races a year, with longer distances.

He said he was having fun with his family and being there for a good cause.

“I’m just happy to come out and support the Highland Chamber of Commerce,” he said.

Race director Gail Shelton said that this event was the first time the chamber had tried to put on a 5k/10k and that they received a lot of compliments about their efforts.

The cost to race was between $35 to $45 per participant and that a portion of the proceeds will go toward The Unforgettables, a nonprofit organization founded by Tim Evans that helps families with burial costs when they have lost children.

Evans thanked everyone at the end of the event.

“The Unforgettables is very grateful to the chamber,” he said.

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