Each of the 962 runners and walkers who took times in the July 4 Firecracker 5K had their own motivation.

 

Be it a tentative first step or a training run, a enjoyable stroll or a sweat-fest or a personal best or a refreshing post-race popsicle, everyone had a reason for shrugging off a Saturday morning sleep-in to show up at the starting line.

 

The Firecracker kicked off the 2015-16 season for the Running Zone Foundation Race Series, which will run six more events culminating in the finale in May.

 

For Firecracker women’s winner and U.S. Olympic Triathlon Team hopeful Kaitlin Donner the morning was a mixed bag.

 

“My plan for the race was to have a good, solid tempo run,” said Donner who outpaced runner-up, Vanderbilt University runner and former Melbourne High cross country and track star Vanessa Valentine.

 

“It’s always easier to tempo with friends than out there solo. Vanessa and I ran together until about the 2.5-mile mark when I put in a slight surge. She’s a very talented – and super nice –  runner, it was nice to have her set the pace out there.”

 

Donner finished in 18 minutes and 33 seconds to 18:46 for Valentine.

 

The race also continued a new direction for Donner who recently switched coaches to Cliff English.

“I have been with my new coach for about two weeks now,” Donner said. “Open communication has been key so he knows what I have been doing and what works well for me. His workouts and training is slightly different but my body seems to be responding well to it.”

 

Next up for Donner is a World Triathlon Series event in Hamburg, Germany on July 18 as she draws ever closer to the first Olympic Triathlon Trial on Aug. 2 in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil.

 

Just as Donner defended her title as the Firecracker’s overall female winner, Florida Tech graduate student Chris Cacciapaglia defended his race championship – and more.

 

Cacciapaglia, the defending series champion won every series race he entered last season, kicking things off with a 29-second victory in last year’s Firecracker.

 

This time around his margin was victory, this time over 17-year Garrett Camps was Melbourne Beach, was narrowed to 21 seconds – 16:54 to 17:15.

 

Cacciapaglia took a laid back approach but didn’t lay off the accelerator.

 

“I really wanted to try and have fun, and it was a great race for that,” he said.

 

“Second place was right on my heels for the first two miles, I couldn’t see who it was, and you never know what will happen so he definitely was pushing me.

 

“My time in this was slower than last, but there was is a lot different in the race and in my training right before. I think if I maintain focus on training I will be able to run smarter, and improve a lot.”

 

Focus is the key for Cacciapaglia.

 

“I don’t always stay focused, I try, but sometimes you have to pull yourself back into the race and tighten up your form,” he said. “The longer the race the easier it is to lose focus for me.”

 

Michael Wilson, 16, of Malabar, was third among males in 17:22. Satellite Beach’s Sara Trane, 29, a former Florida Tech running standout, was third among women in 19:23.

 

Viera’s Shane Streufert, 43, was the Male Master’s winner in 17:39while Melbourne’s Tracy Dutra, 42, took the Female Master’s crown in 20:18.

 

The team title went to Long Dogger’s Club of Cacciapaglia, Streufert, Ian Reesh, Trane and Angela Cobb in a combined time of 1:32:30.  Team Running Zone of John Cacciatore, Jonathan Howse, Joseph Lento, Doug Butler and Melissa Taylor was second in 1:34:34. Health First of Valentine, Bryan Sims, Chi Cam, Keith Snodgrass and Randy Dowdy was third in 1:38:20.

School participation awards went to Manatee Elementary, 4; Indian Harbour Montessori, 3; and Meadowlane Elementary and

Viera Charter, 2.

 

Patrick Air Force Base’s Joel Fenlason, 41, the defending series Male Masters champion, won the Hero category in 18:58. Forty-six Heroes took times.

 

Next up in the Series is 7 a.m. Aug. 8 I Run for Pizza Football Kickoff 5K at the Avenue at Viera. For complete information visitwww.runningzone.com/series/