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One colorful weekend: St. John Catholic School holds annual Mighty Eagle 5K & Fun Run

Technically, this was a scheduled off day for St. John Catholic School employees Charlene Lesniak and Sharon Daigle.

Worse yet, it was raining hard enough that water droplets were cascading off the school's roof and slipping down a nearby tent, drenching those without umbrellas.

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It was a Saturday morning for coffee indoors. Despite this, Lesniak and Daigle were outside and at work — willingly.

Lesniak, a sixth-grade teacher, and Daigle, a kindergarten instructional aide, launched tiny green and gold chalk bits at runners during the Mighty Eagle 5K & Fun Run at St. John's Westminster campus April 23.

This year's run attracted a record 50 entrants. Proceeds will benefit St. John Catholic School's general fund and will be used for additional playground equipment.

The fundraising is important, event organizer Anne Markulis said. But so is the messy fun.

When a jogger approached Lesniak and Daigle, they loaded up plastic containers and unleashed gobs of color. A great way to spend a Saturday morning, Lesniak said.

"When they say it's time for the color run, oh, we're always in," said Lesniak, wearing a green jacket and a lime-colored boa.

Volunteers were amused, especially once the rain abruptly stopped just after runners began their winding 5K trek around the St. John campus and Dutterer Family Park.

Participants had a choice. They could run or walk around the course and avoid getting covered in chalk bits representing St. John's school colors. Or they could run in the lane closest to school staff volunteers. That would guarantee they would leave with green and gold hair, T-shirts, socks and shoes.

Adding color was a near unanimous choice for the event's preteen and teenage runners.

"It's not every day when you can run with your friends and be greeted by a billowing cloud of color," said Erin Coyne, a Maryvale Preparatory School student whose white T-shirt became green and gold chalk art.

Some took it one step further.

"I put my head in the bucket," said St. John student Dominic Bechtel said, the green and gold streaks in his hair providing adequate confirmation of his claim.

Markulis organized the Mighty Eagle 5K because it brought together three of her passions: running, St. John Catholic Church and the nearby school. When rain dampened the event's set up, Markulis worked through it. No umbrella. No hood. Her hair was damp, but she did not care.

"I'm an all-everything runner," she said. "I'll run in the rain. I'll run in the snow. It just doesn't matter."

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Just not during the Mighty Eagle 5K. She was busy getting drink and breakfast stations ready and making sure volunteers understood their roles.

After the race ended, she handed out trophies to the top male and female finishers.

North Carroll Middle's Morgan Kresslein, 13, was the overall winner with a time of 24 minutes, 37 seconds. Jeff Lagasse, 49, of Mount Airy, was the top male finisher, sprinting to the finish line just 3 seconds ahead of his son Nick, 16.

"I won," Jeff said to Nick.

When Nick pointed out that he was briefly unsure about where to turn for the finish, Jeff added another playful taunt.

"Doesn't matter," Jeff said. "That's still a win."

This was the third of 10 5-kilometer races Jeff plans on running before his 50th birthday in August. After joining a gym and getting serious in his training, he has shaved five minutes off his time. He finished in 26 minutes, 51 seconds.

The color run was family bonding time. After catching his breath, Jeff cheered on his daughter Nadia, who also ran in the event.

Many of the morning's participants were St. John students involved in the school's Running Club. The students meet weekly for jogs and are easy to spot at community distance running events. They wear St. John T-shirts at the Main Street Mile, the Westminster Fallfest Fun Run and more.

"It's a real self-esteem booster for a lot of the students," color run volunteer Shirley Lang said of the school's running club.

Thus, students were prepared for a 5-kilometer run and willing to take as much chalk as Lesniak and Daigle could fling at them.

"Thank you," St. John seventh-grader Lauren Watson said after running through a gold and green cloud. She ran with friends and classmates Sara Stromberg and Jillian Pumputis, who attracted similar color explosions.

"Did you hear that? She thanked us," Lesniak said. "She actually said 'thank you.' Do we have polite students or what?'"

Lesniak smiled and looked to her right, seeking more runners daring to enter her path and proving weekend work can be a lot of fun.

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