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Fly Michael Fly: An estimated 400 take part in inaugural Eagle Way 5K

By David Rogers. BOONE, N.C. — It might have required some patience on the part of Will Bradbury to work his way to the front of an estimated 400 runners participating in the inaugural Eagle Way 5K on May 4 but, once clear of the masses, the current Watauga High School distance running star made short work of the Greenway course. Just three days after dominating the 3A/4A Northwestern Conference Track and Field Championships’ middle distances, the Pioneer junior cruised to an 18:42 finish on the asphalt, gravel and grass, out-and-back Greenway trail.

Watauga High School junior Will Bradbury was the first to cross the finish line on May 4 in the inaugural Eagle Way 5K. Photographic image by David Rogers

Bradbury’s Watauga track teammate Jonah Norris came in second but, truthfully, nobody really cared about the order of finish on this day. Organized by the Hardin Park School PTO, the Eagle Way 5K was about celebrating the life of a beloved teacher and coach, Michael Neff, and to raise money for a scholarship fund in his name as well as other worthy causes. Neff passed away suddenly on Feb. 1 of this year.

“Coach Neff was full of energy and enthusiasm,” said Bradbury after the race. “I knew him from when I was about seven years old. Whether it was sport or school or anything, really, he encouraged you to be the best you could be.”

Photographic image by David Rogers

Elizabeth and Richard Pedroni are co-presidents of the Hardin Park PTO for the second year and they bring a history of helping stage fun and fundraising events to their roles. For several years, their focus was on a golf tournament in benefit of charities like Blowing Rock CARES and High Country Caregivers. For the PTO, it is the Eagle Way 5K.

“The Hardin Park mascot is the Golden Eagle and Coach Neff was an excellent role model and mentor,” said Elizabeth Pedroni a few minutes before the horn sounded signaling the start of the race. “We have enthusiastic volunteers that make this all possible.  Plus, there were 268 people that pre-registered to run by the deadline this past Wednesday (May 1). And they keep coming and coming and coming to register this morning. It is exciting to see the community so enthusiastic about remembering Coach Neff and our fundraising mission, not just from Hardin Park but from other schools, too.”

Photographic image by David Rogers

The fundraising effort is specifically targeted this year, including the Coach Neff Scholarship Fund, for needful students attending Hardin Park School, and for the PTO’s other purposes.

Lincolnton, N.C.-based Racing Toes provided timing services for the event. Food trucks serving the event included Birdie’s (coffee and hot cocoa), The Cardinal Burger Wagon, Carolina Food Monger, and Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream.

Watauga High School junior Will Bradbury was the first to cross the finish line on May 4 in the inaugural Eagle Way 5K. Photographic image by David Rogers

An estimated 400 runners participated in the May 4 inaugural Eagle Way 5K, hosted by the Hardin Park School PTO. Photographic image by David Rogers

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