Zwerlein, Armand pace Flat Five on the 4th

ROCK HALL — The third time was the charm for Cody Zwerlein, who won this year’s Flat Five after placing second last year and fourth the year before that.

The 39-year-old Philadelphian stopped the timer in 29 minutes, 48 seconds to lead the field of 65 finishers on Thursday, July 4.

Zwerlein’s stiffest challenge came from married couple Gwynne and Jack Armand, who followed in 30:22 and 30:23, respectively.

Gwynne Armand, 26, established a course record for women, bettering the mark of 32:04 that Natasha Bliss set in 2015.

An Iowa native, Armand lettered in cross country, indoor and outdoor track at Iowa State University. This was her Flat Five debut.

Conditions were less than ideal at the 8 a.m. start as the National Weather Service had issued a severe weather alert for the region.

“It was really warm,” Zwerlein said, underplaying the forecast of a heat index in triple digits.

Valerie Reihl of Rock Hall, a veteran of seven Flat Fives, said the weather was “very bearable” — better than in years past “when you feel like you’re running under a blanket.”

Zwerlein and Reihl, like many others, keep coming back because of the low-key and festive atmosphere of the race.

“It’s a blast,” Zwerlein told The Evening Enterprise

“We come here for the week … our vacation of the year,” the father of two young sons added.

Reihl was equally enthusiastic.

“It’s local, it’s so fun and I like to support the town,” she said.

This was the 41st edition of the Flat Five, which is one of the signature events of Rock Hall’s extended Independence Day celebration. The race was put on pause in 2020 and 2021 because of the COVID pandemic.

July 4 was sunny and humid with an air temperature in the high 80s when runners took their mark on Main Street in front of the former Municipal Building.

While teenager Noah Smith of Nashville, Tennessee did not return to defend his title, 2023 women’s winner Erin Thomson came back for the third year in a row.

Thomson, 32, of the Baltimore area placed eighth overall and second among women in a time that was nearly a minute faster than last year.

The Flat Five, which Dennis Herrmann founded in 1982, initially was a 5-miler, but in 2014 the course was shortened to 4.7 miles when Herrmann moved the finish line from the center of town to alleviate the traffic tie-up that was becoming common as the race grew in popularity.

Charlie Scales, then 18, of Newtown Square, Pennsylvania established the “new” course record of 26:58 in 2016.

Now, Gwynne Armand owns the “new” record for women.

Herrmann, now retired after decades of teaching and coaching at Kent County High School, said it is heartwarming to reconnect with his former students and the regulars who return year after year.

Everyone seems to like the volunteer-run event that provides a safe and competitive course, a very reasonable entry fee of $20, and an old-fashioned leader board where runners’ names are posted with thumbtacks.

Herrmann said he is grateful that the “character” of the race has not changed.

“Races have gotten so expensive … run by guys who do it for a business,” Herrmann said in an interview on race day.

“This [Flat Five] is just a good, fun race with a lot of local people, families and an amazing number of people who come from out of town,” he said, citing entries from San Diego, New Jersey, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

As the overall winners, Zwerlein and Armand each received sports bags with the Rock Hall Flat Five insignia. The first-, second- and third-place finishers in various age groups received gift certificates from Java Rock coffeehouse.

All runners received a commemorative T-shirt with a logo designed by KCHS track alumna Joella Cooper (1986).

Java Rock coffeehouse and the Town of Rock Hall sponsor the race.

Prize-winners are listed here.

Overall male: Cody Zwerlein, 29:48.

Overall female: Gwynne Armand, new course record of 30:22.

Junior male, under 20: Jaxon League, 31:47, fifth; Clay Hill, 32:35, sixth; and James Peacock, 52:48.

Junior female, under 20: Mia Nordhoff, 39:11; Clare Padula, 40:54; and Alice Padula, 42.14.

Open male, 20 to 35: Jack Armand, 30.23, third; Tom Lohr, 34:06; and Daniel Mitzel, 42:22.

Open female, 20 to 35: Erin Thomson, 32.49, eighth; Abby Crockett, 49.58; and Karen Peacock, 53.33.

Submaster male, 36 to 49: Matt Gillin, 31.22, fourth; Jonathan League, 32.36, seventh; and Will Porter, 33.04, 10th

Submaster female, 36 to 49: Laurie Themistos, 32:50, ninth; Julie Trauger, 38:19; and Brandi Bliss, 39:29.

Master male, 50 and older: Richard Ames, 45:36; Mark Vansant, 46:29; and Steve Russell, 47:08.

Master female, 50 and older: Sarah Wright, 4:26; Miriam Mullin, 43:03; and Nicole Reither, 43.26.

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