Independence Day 5K

John Mayer carries an American flag across the walking bridge over the Chena River during Thursday’s Independence Day 5K.  Photo by Ken Abramowicz

“Dude, you’re still in high school?”



That was the conversation that took place seconds after the finish of the Independence Day 5k, between winner Koen House, a rising sophomore at West Valley High School, and second-place finisher Sean Fontaine, a sprinter on the UCLA club track team.

The Thursday race started and ended at the east entrance of Pioneer Park and ran along sidewalks and side roads on both sides of the Chena River. Koen completed the course in 18 minutes and 19 seconds. Fontaine finished a second later.

House ran close behind Fontaine the first three kilometers before House picked up the pace to get ahead. “Trying to run with that guy, holy cow, he’s hard to run with, but I just kept in the game and tried my best,” said the first-time winner, who was sporting a pair of American flag shorts.

Fontaine, who was visiting Fairbanks as part of his summer vacation, was caught off guard by the high schooler’s endurance.

“I thought this would be a good opportunity to stay in shape, but I didn’t think I’d get beaten like that,” he said laughing after the race.

“I’m a sprinter so I decided to pace it off one guy who took off really well.” That one guy was House. “I thought I could stick with him to the end and then get him in the sprint, but he was actually really speedy.” The pace was good enough for a PR for Fontaine. 

Trevor Chrzan (20:07), Tommy Dahill (20:15) and Wyatt Rutherford (20:46) were the next to cross the line for the men.

Deborah Herzog crossed the line first for the women with a time of 22:40.

Herzog lives in Hawaii and credited her quick time to her fitness from being in the Army. Anne O’Hara (24:00), Sunny Park (24:10), Jane Lanford (24:46) and Hannah Lynne (25:40) rounded out the top five places for the women.

Sixty-one runners entered the race in total. The race is in its 34th year and all proceeds from the race go to supporting the West Valley High School cross country team.

“It is a fundraiser for us,” said West Valley head cross country coach Dan Callahan. “There are no funds from the school district for any athletic travel so the team has to pay its own way.”

“It’s a special race because it’s on the Fourth of July. It’s not part of a running club series. We get a lot of out of town people who come,” added Callahan. “It’s just a low key fun thing for people to do on the holiday.” 

Contact News-Miner sports writer Laura Stickells at 459-7530. Follow her at