Peoria

St. Jude Run | Mason City to Peoria event + sports photography

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I got the chance to once again photograph the Mason City to Peoria St. Jude run on July 30, and it was a fantastic day! It was a bit cooler than some runs in the past, and was overcast for most of the morning. The group of 71 runners raised $168,000 for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, and a total of $817,000 since the start of the run 7 years ago -- amazing!! The group runs a total of about 55 miles throughout the course of the day, on a few different "teams," divided into experienced runners to shorter distance runners who run the shorter legs and through the towns. The day starts at 5:30am when the team stretches and gets ready to leave from the Illini Central parking lot in Mason City at 5:45. They run through the town, led by a Mason City fire truck, and is cheered on by many spectators as they run through the town to the cemetery at the other end. We always stop to pray and lay flowers at the grave of Jessie Baugher, our team captain who was a St. Jude patient.

The rest of the morning is spent running a zig-zag through rural Mason County to San Jose, where the group stops for a light breakfast, bathroom breaks, and a short rest. Then it's north off to Green Valley where we stop for lunch, and organizers Nancy and Zach Baugher, Jessie's mom and brother, announce the final donation total. Following lunch, we head toward Pekin on a few more dangerous roads, so extra precautions are taken for the safety of the runners. We stop in Pekin at Tractor Supply for another short rest, and the rest of the run from there is mostly through towns with more traffic and we occasionally see other runs heading for Peoria The final rest point is in East Peoria where we regroup and runners change into the official shirts for the year (the teal with bright green/white text) to get ready to cross the bridge over the Illinois River into Peoria and to the civic center.

This year we had a couple of hiccups that were unusual, but everyone pulled together, made the best of it and found a solution to make the run a success. The first problem was the "Sag Wag" (the church van that goes directly behind the runners to carry those who need to catch their breath for a bit), overheated and had to be left on the side of the road. Luckily there was a jeep in the caravan that was easily converted into a smaller sort of "sag wag." Not ideal, but it worked! The second problem was the bridge we came upon that had a weight limit posted that wouldn't have held the two charter buses that are used to transport those who aren't currently running. The run route continued as normal, and the charter buses were rerouted around to meet them on the other side. Problem solved!

Congrats again to all the runners & thank you for your support of St. Jude!! Be sure to scroll to the bottom of the post to see a slideshow I made (including a few video clips!). :)

running through the four-way in Mason City

police escort on a Mason County country road

thumbs up for St. Jude

running the silent 1-mile leg of the run

runners stop in San Jose for rest and fruit

relaxing at the San Jose firehouse

setting up cones for runner safety

Mason County sheriff police escort

running into Green Valley for lunch break

rally at lunch to hear the final total

cheering on runners during a runner exchange

crossing at a busy intersection

Tractor Supply hosts a runner oasis every year

ready to roll again with Jessie's flag

crossing over the Bob Michel bridge into Peoria

Mason City St. Jude Run from Holly Smith on Vimeo.

St. Jude Runs | Mason City to Peoria 5th Anniversary Run

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**MORE IMAGES & PRINT ORDERING AVAILABLE HERE.** 25% of all proceeds will go toward Mason City's 2015 run.In early August I had the privilege of photographing the 5th Anniversary of the Mason City (IL) to Peoria St. Jude Run. This year the team had a remarkable 84 runners and easily surpassed their goal of $144,000 for St. Jude by raising $153,000. The entire team was broken into 5 running groups and together everyone ran the 49.5 mile course into Peoria that day. It was a truly awesome day for an even better cause, and I'm so proud to call Mason City my hometown. I am so happy to share these photos with you! My favorite image of the day is with the gold team (the team that runs the most throughout the day), running down Towerline Road toward Pekin. There is a lead runner in an orange shirt, and you can see traffic on both sides of the road, and the "sag wag" behind the group of runners. I feel like this picture pretty much sums up how the St. Jude runs work. Thanks for looking! Mason City to Peoria St. Jude run team running through Mason City early morning run St. Jude rural Mason County runner change near Green Valley St. Jude Mason City St. Jude Run raised $153,000 Towerline Road into Pekin St. Jude Run behind the scenes St. Jude Runs crossing Bob Michel Bridge into Peoria

IHSA Class 1A State Champions : Illini Central Cougars

I had a pretty fun week last week. I was able to secure a press pass for the IHSA Class 1A State Finals in Peoria, and while I was at it, went ahead and got one for the Super Sectional in Bloomington. Cougar nation (Mason City, Easton, San Jose) had high hopes for their boys' basketball team, after their 3rd place finish at State last year, and if they went back this time, I wanted to cover it. Tuesday started out like any other day, I answered some emails and got my camera gear ready. There was a snowstorm in the forecast, so I told Aaron I was going to head out early to make sure I got there safe and sound (and on time.) I made it to Downs before the ISU athletic department called me and told me the game had been postponed. Oh well. The drive home was actually better anyway! So Wednesday, I repeated the whole process, and got over to Bloomington a few hours before tipoff. I was also able to stop by the hospital and see my past clients/friends Lindsey & Sam's new baby boy Michael who had been born during the snowstorm the day before.

Illini Central ended up winning over Cissna Park, 50-39. So then it was time to make plans for Peoria on Friday. I had a 6-month-old baby girl session first thing in the morning on Friday, so I did that session, and then left straight for the state finals from there. The Cougars ended up handling Nokomis in the semi-finals well, defeating them 52-38. I spent the night in Hopedale at my friend Kristina's house before heading back in to Peoria again on Saturday for the state championship. This game was totally intense. For you Illini fans out there, it felt like the 2005 Illinois-North Carolina game national championship all over again. Nothing was going our way, shots weren't falling, our best big man was in foul trouble. But then in the 4th quarter, they turned it on, and turned the game around. This team was not going home without a win. I won't lie, when they tied the score at 32, the tears welled up a little bit! Illini Central outscored Madison 28-12 in the 4th quarter to win 55-44. The Cougars were state champions for the first time ever. It was so cool being on the floor after the game, and seeing all these familiar faces from my hometown community congratulating each other and loving that moment.

This Cougar team was comprised on NINE seniors, and I'd like to recognize the whole team by name here: Jared Entwistle (all-state), Jordan Bradshaw, Justin Onken, Duncan McClure, Grant Bale, Connor Martin, Noah Kirby, Jesse Thompson, Ean Albers, Derrick Himmel, Willie Neuendorf, Cody Curry, Jordan Lynn, & Justin Luft. Congrats again to the Illini Central Cougar boys' basketball team! I'm one very proud alum!