A few decades ago, LaVerne Ragster had an idea about helping women on the island. That idea was celebrated Sunday with the 30th running of the Women’s Jogger Jam.
While busily signing up registrants for the race, the University of the Virgin Islands President Emeritus took a moment to comment: "I wanted to do something to get women to be comfortable out in society," she said, modestly enough.
Taking a look at the hundreds of women bounding around the Fruit Bowl in Wheatley Plaza, eager to get in the action – run, walk, jog, whatever it takes to get in the action – it’s safe to say the idea caught on.
It always seems that the current year’s energy is stronger than the year, always some veterans of most of the 30 races like, Debbie Davis, Marcella Jennings – who got an award a few years ago for 20 straight races – Patty Varga, Gloria Salas-Lindquist, Carol Goldberg, wife of Fruit Bowl owner Marty Goldberg, show up to compare notes, (while quietly sizing up the competition).
It’s all in the spirit of the day, the feeling doing something important for a good cause, says Goldberg, who should know – she’s missed only one of the 30 races.
The event raises money for the Family Resource Center, which maintains programs for crime victims and individuals involved in family violence or crisis. The St. Thomas Association of Road Runners (STAR), which also supports the event, receives a portion of the funds.
In the past, the Fruit Bowl donated $5 for every registered finisher. This year it doubled the ante to $10 for every registered finisher, in honor of the 30th running of the race.
The two-mile run began at 4:30 p.m. under brilliant sunny skies. Earlier, rain had sulked around for a bit, perhaps threatening the event, but it politely bowed out. The race takes participants around the Schneider Regional Medical Center for two laps, finishing in the Wheatley Shopping Center in front of the Fruit Bowl, where well-wishers, and the already arrived joggers, occasionally leaning on one another, yell encouragement to every last entrant.
Fitness instructor Ruth Ann David came in first overall Sunday, as she has for the last four years. The amazing and always modest David, who clocked 11:59 Sunday, said while catching her breath that this year she hadn’t been training as much as she ought.
Most mortal women would take that time and, well, run with it.
David said she loves to compete for the Family Resource Center. "They play such an important role in the community," David said. "They help support single moms like me." David cut her comments short to run back to the course to meet her daughter Shaiah, six, who obviously inherited her mom’s genes, coming in first in the 6 and under group at 19:59.
The Fruit Bowl has sponsored the race for the last 28 years. Owner Goldberg said last week that he lives for the day when 500 entrants cross that finish line. "That’s always my dream," he said.
Somehow, this year 271 crossed the finish line, but Goldberg’s enthusiasm was unabated as he and veteran race organizer Therese Hodge congratulated almost every single entrant. "It’s the most important thing we do in the community," Goldberg said, "and just look at all these women, all this joy."
And he was right. The energy, the spirit, never wanes, from the youngest to the 70-plus crowd, of whom there were many. "It’s just so wonderful, such a great thing to do," said Patty Varga, who crossed the line at 21:38, putting to shame many half her age.
The race is such a part of the community, that many families can trace their personal histories. For instance, Lisa Wisehart and Tiarra Kappel ran Sunday along with their daughters, Ellis Wisehart, 3, and Sofie Kappel, 4.
"Well, this really makes it the fifth time for us," said Wisehart. "We ran when we were pregnant, then when the girls were in strollers, and today, their first time walking themselves."
Vivian St. Juste, Family Resource Center executive director, thanked everyone for their support. "A lot of what we do," she said, "you don’t know about. We quietly help people, maybe someone you know. That’s our job. When it’s not in the paper, it doesn’t mean it’s not happening – it’s not there because we’re taking care of it."
Hodge flashed a huge smile at the women and got down to business – the awards. "Each of you is a winner today," she said.
Winners and times:
Team Challenge: Seventh Day Adventists Women’s Mission (28)
Six and Under:
- First – Shaiah David (19:59)
- Second – Zindzhi Ottley (28:24)
- Third – Jahnesha Benjamin (29:36)
Seven to 12 Years
- First – Allison Bartsch (17:51)
- Second – Aisha Aaron (19:13)
- Third – Christina Brett (19:14)
13 to 18 Years:
- First – Shirrel Luke (13:21)
- Second – Delma Lake (14:04)
- Third – Karima Maynard (14:13)
19 to 29 Years:
- First – Lakema Moore (13:35)
- Second – Corynne Young (16:09)
- Third – Krechelle Williams (19:39)
30 to 39 Years
- First -Elizabeth Conklin (13:12)
- Second – Lisa Parfitt (14:08)
- Third – Adrianne Baird (15:09)
- First – Simone Francis (15:27)
- Second – Irene Greaux (16:22)
- Third – Julia Ryan (18:40)
- First – Laura Kline (14:26)
- Second – Candace Grant (17:32)
- Third – Kelly Suazo (18:10)
60 – 69 Years
- First – Gloria Salas-Lindquist (16:39)
- Second – Carol Goldberg (16:49)
- Third – Joyce Gliniewicz (19:50)
- First – Patty Varga (21:38)
- Second – Marcy Offerdahl (22:04)
- Third – Audrey Zachman (34:04)