Participants in the 14th annual Pumpkin Run & Walk at Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College were greeted with perfect weather conditions for the five-kilometer race and festive community event on Saturday morning in Cloquet. The October 19 race day temperature at 10:00 a.m. was 52 degrees with no wind and overcast sky conditions.
The field included 201 registered runners and walkers participating in the oldest Halloween-themed race in northern Minnesota. The race featured first-time winners in the overall men’s division and in the overall women’s division, plus two age-group records were broken.
Overall winner Scott Behling of Duluth led everyone to the finish line in a time of 15:49 for his first Pumpkin Run title. Behling finished second overall in 2018. Dave Hyopponen of Duluth finished second in 16:47 and Evan Walpole of Superior was third in 17:00. The 29-year old Behling set an age group record in the 20-29 category, improving on the same mark he set in 2018.
Once again, a first-time Pumpkin Run Champion was crowned in the women’s overall division with Kelly Pechous of Duluth crossing the finish line in 20:34 for the win, placing her seventh overall. Second place went to Leah Hammond of Cloquet in 22:18, followed by Alisha Bradley of Duluth in 24:04 for third place. Sara Cherne of Duluth set a record in the women’s 70 and over age group with a time of 29:30. Cherne also holds the Pumpkin Run age group record in the 60-69 bracket, established in 2016.
“With the nice weather, we had a large number of people who registered on race day morning and the conditions were fast for racing as we had two age-group records broken this year and lots of runners reported setting personal best times,” said Tom Urbanski, Director of Public Information at Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College and who also serves as the Pumpkin Run race director. “It was a pleasant change from last year when we had the coldest temperature at the official race start time in the history of the Pumpkin Run. As always, we saw lots of smiles and happy people having fun this year, so we’ll put this one in the books as another successful Pumpkin Run.”
The Pumpkin Run course is certified by US Track and Field and the results count for points in the annual Minnesota Runner of the Year standings.
Race participants helped celebrate the theme and season of the Pumpkin Run event by wearing costumes or orange and black clothing. Competition was keen for the coveted Best Costume awards, with the winners covering a range of characters including a seven-person group entry dressed as the complete cast of characters from the Scooby Doo cartoon franchise; a festive duo of pumpkins; another group entry of four Hydro Flasks; a scary Grim Reaper and a villainous character from the Assassin’s Creed video game; and a very small runner wearing a wildly orange piece of headgear.
Another Pumpkin Run tradition is awarding medals to the fastest Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College students in the race. This year, Peter Noffsinger of Esko repeated as the men’s division winner in 30:03, and Stephanie Keinanen of Willow River won the women’s division in 27:02.
This year’s Pumpkin Run & Walk finishers shirt featured an original design of artwork created by Marisa Schoen, a graduate of Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College who grew up in Cloquet and now lives in the Twin Cities and works as a professional graphic designer.
The race course started on campus and then followed 14th Street going south to the Valley View neighborhood and then turned around on Harner Lane and returned along 14th Street to the campus. The race was professionally timed by Gopher State Events using electronic chip timing attached to each participant’s race number bib, and individual results and a finish line photo were sent to each finisher immediately upon crossing the finish line.
Local businesses helped sponsor the race through prize and refreshment donations, including Super One Foods, Great Harvest Bakery, Duluth Running Company, Tortoise & Hare Footwear, Austin Jarrow, Mellin Promotional Advertising, Miller Vending, B&B Market, Premiere Theatres, Pine Knot News, Mocha Moose Coffee Cafe, SPORTea Ultimate Performance Products, and Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College.
Volunteers and race assistance were provided by Cloquet Police Department, Carlton County Transportation Department, FDLTCC Nursing and Law Enforcement program students, neighbors along the race route, friends of the college, and FDLTCC staff.
Complete race results are available at www.gopherstateevents.com and a photo gallery is posted on the college Facebook page.

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