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UNH students organize last annual run to remember the life of Oyster River High graduate

Emotions ran high as runners of all ages participated in the 13th annual Todd’s Trot Road Race in Durham on Saturday, April 9. This year’s race marked the final time the event will be held.

The 5K race saw over 500 participants compete on this bright and cool morning. Todd’s Trot is a scholarship fundraiser benefiting Oyster River High School graduates. It was created in honor of former Oyster River student-athlete Todd Heuchling, who passed away in 2003 while attending the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, New York.

Aliaksandr Leuchanka of Newmarket finished first with a time of 16.05.8. This was his first Todd’s Trot win. Next up for him will be the Boston Marathon. Leuchanka was followed by Owen Kurtiak of Lee with 17.18.7, and Fergus Cullen with a time of 17.28.0.

Heidi Westover of Walpole raced to her third Todd’s Trot victory with a time of 18.24.8. Finishing second for the women was Mary Kleine of Manchester at 18.34, and coming in third was Amanda Syzmanski of Londonderry with a time of 18.38.2.

Todd’s parents, Bob and Sally Heuchling, spoke before and after the event about how meaningful the fundraiser has been to their family.

“This event has carried us for 13 years,” Bob Heuchling said. “Not only Durham residents, but runners from all over the seacoast have competed in this event annually. We also have representatives of Todd’s West Point regiment, Delta Company, running today. They will be carrying a stone with Todd’s name on it, which will be displayed on a memorial near West Point.”

“We have reached our goal of providing a 5,000 dollar scholarship to selected Oyster River High graduates, every June in perpetuity. The qualities being rewarded are leadership and character, as well as academic achievement,” he added.

The Heuchlings were visibly moved by the turnout of athletes and supporters, which included individual of all ages.

“It means so much to us,” added Sally Heuchling.

Bob Barcelona, a UNH professor in the recreation management and policy program, had a huge team of dedicated students and volunteers working at the event.

“We had over 350 pre-registered participants for today’s event, and more than 500 overall. Many of the students in the RMP program have internships lined up for the summer, and this event helps them develop organizational and networking skills that will help them in their careers,” Barcelona said.

Dozens of Barcelona’s students were working the event, identified by their blue event staff shirts and working with the runners and families.

“I am in the RMP class right now, and involved in an independent study program,” stated UNH senior Briana Johnson. “The RMP program at UNH has definitely helped me line up great career opportunities.”

“What a great turnout today.There are so many families here and it’s a very meaningful event,” said UNH junior Sarah Dennis.

Sandy Blitzer, who has been a driving force with the Todd’s Trot foundation over the years, emphasized how the program is molding today’s youth.

“The scholarship program rewards honesty, integrity, and commitment to life,” she explained.

Representatives of Delta Company were on hand from West Point, as led by Major Helen Lilly.

“The stone we ran with today will be on display with others in Palisades Park, New York,” Lilly said. “Our cadets are proud to represent today.”

The large collection of benevolent sponsors for the event included Progressive, Camp Birch Hill, Durham Village Garage, Scorpion’s Bar and Grill, and Wentworth-Douglass Hospital, among others.        

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