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Palos Heights Half Marathon participants run for a good cause

Runners approach finish Sunday First Midwest Bank Half MarathPalos Heights. | Logan Malloy/For Sun-Times Media

Runners approach the finish Sunday at the First Midwest Bank Half Marathon in Palos Heights. | Logan Malloy/For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: June 6, 2014 6:27AM



Jamie Baltazar said she isn’t the most experienced runner. But that hardly mattered Sunday at the First Midwest Bank Half Marathon in Palos Heights.

Baltazar and a group of friends and family ran in the event to raise money and awareness for her father, Jim Angsten, a long-time teacher and coach at St. Rita who was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s Disease in April 2013.

Sporting red shirts with “Team Angsten” printed on the back, Baltazar’s crew raised about $8,000 for their cause. The group ran in the half marathon and newly established 10K.

“Prior to the diagnosis, my dad was the most physical, tough, amazing guy,” said Baltazar, a Tinley Park resident. “So to be able to do this for him when he can’t is just inspiring.”

Baltazar was one of many raising funds for various causes. The event has brought in more than $165,000 for local charities since 2008, including the American Cancer Society and Lake Katherine Nature Center in Palos Heights.

The race attracted about 1,600 runners, one of whom was Melissa Naegale, an Oak Forest resident competing in the event for the first time.

“A lot of my friends were joining, and I heard a lot of good things about the race over the last few years,” Naegale said.

She was happy she took part in the event.

“It was gorgeous. The trail was awesome,” she said. “The weather was perfect for running and everyone out on the trail was really friendly.”

The event ran smoothly thanks to a few hundred volunteers. Terry Gruns, a senior at Stagg, and Abbey Warke, a junior at Plainfield East, were among the high school athletes providing their services.

“Everyone here from Plainfield East is part of the Bengal Athletic Leadership Counsel,” Warke said. “It’s fun to come out, volunteer together and support the community.”

Gruns donned the Stagg Charger mascot at the start of the race. He also doled out water and medals to those crossing the finish line.

“Cheering on all the runners is the best part,” Gruns said. “The vibe was great. I’ve been here the last couple years and this was the best one. I think adding the 10K brought a lot more people out.”



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