There were runners, walkers, kids on scooters and in strollers. There were full families, serious runners, not so serious runners and a few dogs. About 100 people took part in the 8th annual Smokin' in Steele 5K walk/run. The event raises money for the Owatonna Area Special Olympics and coincides with the Smokin' in Steele BBQ contest and blues fest at the Steele County Fairgrounds in Owatonna.

A number of Special Olympics athletes took part. Most runners were from Owatonna or southern Minnesota, but there were a few from the Twin Cities and a couple from Iowa and Wisconsin.

The top overall finishers were Casey Bakewell of Owatonna, Don McCann of Owatonna and Beth Svenby of Owatonna. Other age-bracket winners for females included Jolene Nelson of Owatonna, Rhiannon Boerner of Owatonna, Brittany Burns of Owatonna and youth Tea and Savannah.

Other age-bracket winners for males included Roy Koenig (yup, me), Nicholas Plowman of Dodge Center, Kendall Gustafson of Owatonna, Tyler Savaloja of Northfield, and youth Jackson and Donald.

Money raised from the 5K plus the BBQ cookoff benefit Owatonna Area Special Olympics with costs for renting facilities, competing in state-sponsored events, purchasing athletic equipment and uniforms.

Minnesota Special Olympics hosts the Summer Games June 20-23 at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul. Owatonna has teams in basketball, track and field, and swimming. Softball practice will begin in early July. Flag football and bowling take place during fall. Poly hockey is a winter sport for Special Olympics.

Melissa Hall