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2/24/2024 by Barbara Huebner

Lund, Angell Master Their Universe at 5 km Championships in Atlanta

At the start line of Saturday's USATF Masters 5 km Championships, a smiling April Lund - in cheery red lipstick and whimsical polka dot gloves - hugged first one competitor, then another.

After which she went out and beat them all, prevailing over her nearest rival by almost 30 seconds when she broke the tape in 16:58.

"I'm so grateful to just toe the line," said Lund, losing her battle to fight back the tears. "This means a lot. I'm so blessed."

April Lund runs through the finish tape of the USATF Masters 5km Championships. Photo: Paul McPherson

Runner-up in the women's race was Stephanie Pezzullo, 41, of Charlotte, N.C. (17:27), with last year's champion, 44-year-old Jennifer Pesce of Shamong, N.J., (17:52) placing third.

In the men's race, 47-year-old David Angell of Blue Ridge, VA, won in 16:03, followed by Atlanta Track Club's Perry Griffith, 42, of Canton, GA (16:10) and John Fernandez, 54 and also of Canton (16:14).

This was the third-consecutive year that Atlanta Track Club hosted the Masters championships in conjunction with the Publix Atlanta 5K, as part of Publix Atlanta Marathon Weekend. As always, it featured many of the nation's best runners ages 40 and older vying for both overall and age-group awards, with a total prize purse of $8,000. Lund, of Bismarck, N.D., has emerged as one of the top masters athletes in the world over the past year: She is the 2023 World Masters Athletics Cross Country gold medalist in the 40-44 age group 2023 World Masters Athletics Half Marathon Champion and last year broke the 3,000-meter American Indoor masters record.

This, despite a long battle with parasitic illnesses she said she contracted while training in Kenya two years ago. Parasite-free for less than a month, Lund ran a lifetime personal best for the 5K distance.

"Just to be able to feel good was so amazing," the 41-year-old Bismarck State College coach said. "I felt great - I could have kept going."

In a sense, Lund will do just that: She plans to compete in the Publix Atlanta Half Marathon on Sunday, hoping to run under 1:18 as part of her training for April's Boston Marathon.

Angell, meanwhile, won the men's 5 km title for the third time, after victories in 2018 and 2019, and more recently finished fifth in the USATF Masters Cross Country Championships. He is no stranger to Atlanta, having several times placed on the Masters podium of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution Peachtree Road Race.

David Angell at the USATF Masters 5K Championships awards ceremony. Photo: Joaquin Lara

Feeling confident after having familiarized himself with the 5K route by running it after arriving in town, Angell carried on after the first three runners inadvertently went off course in the early going. The three - Jay Stephenson of Rome, GA, and Atlanta Track Club; Luke Mortenson, Athens, GA; and Mike Aitken, Bridgerton, MI - crossed the finish line 1-2-3 and will be awarded equal prize money to the top three despite being disqualified.

"I just had to make a decision," said Angell, who earned his ninth USATF Masters title overall, "and then see what happens at the end."

Winning the Publix Atlanta 5K for the men was 25-year-old Tyler Cook of Atlanta, in 15:37, while Anna Fischer, 24, of Atlanta won the women's race in 18:21.