Hundreds run for Anna
The Anna Banana 5K run at Connected Lakes State Park means something different to every runner.
The race is in its sixth year honoring the memory of Fruita Monument cross country runner Anna Janowitz, who died in a car accident in August 2002 on her way to practice.
Prudence Daniels was a 15-year-old passenger in the car that day. She was injured in the accident, breaking several bones.
Daniels, now 22, was one of 235 runners participating in Saturday’s 5K race to support the Anna Lee Foundation.
“I run this for Anna,” Daniels said. “It’s good to have that as a motivator, and remember how she loved to run.”
Daniels recently graduated from the University of Colorado and is a cross country coach at Boulder High School. Daniels was in Denver on Friday night coaching the Panthers at the Sweatheart Invitational, but left for Grand Junction immediately after the race.
She didn’t arrive in Grand Junction until 11:30 p.m., but was ready for the 8 a.m. race.
“It’s extremely important for me to run this, it’s the only (race) I do,” Daniels said. “It’s great to see such a positive celebration, and I’m sure there are still some tears, but by and large, it’s a celebration of her life. It’s exciting that it’s continuing to go on after all of these years.”
Like Daniels, a strong contingent of former Fruita Monument cross country runners enter the race each year.
Caleb Erkman graduated from Fruita Monument in 2009 and is currently enrolled at Colorado State University. Erkman said he hasn’t been training, but still wanted to make sure he ran in the race.
“If you notice, there are a lot of Fruita runners that come back,” Erkman said. “So it’s almost like a reunion.”
Erkman said he saw about 15 former teammates of his, adding most return knowing what the race means to Fruita cross country.
“I never knew (Anna), but it’s important because I don’t think our team would be the same without it,” Erkman said. “It’s unique to Fruita.”
Fittingly, a Fruita Monument graduate, Matthew Younger, won the race in 17 minutes, 36.2 seconds.
All of the money raised from the entry fees goes toward scholarships through the Anna Lee Foundation. Anna’s mother, Diana Janowitz, said the foundation will be able to award seven scholarships this year.
“It’s heartwarming that everybody remembers Anna and this inspires other people to get out and run,” Janowitz said. “There are a lot of people that loved Anna that are committed to doing this.”