Firecracker 2-Miler returns to Ripley's Fourth celebration

Mark Martin

The race is on.

And no one is any happier than Jimmy Groves.

The long-time director of the Firecracker 2-Miler is excited that the streets of Ripley will be filled with runners tomorrow (Saturday) during the city’s mammoth Fourth of July celebration.

“We are back to racing,” said Groves while vacationing with his family in Florida.

Unfortunately, many facets to Ripley’s wonderful Fourth of July celebration were unable to take place last year due to COVID-19.

Count the Firecracker 2-Miler among those.

Up until last year, a road race had been a part of the city’s Independence Day celebration every year but one dating back to 1999.

President George W. Bush’s visit to Ripley on the Fourth of July of 2002 is the only other time the event was sidelined.

The first year a race became a part of the celebration was a 5K competition before it was switched to the current two-mile format.

This year’s race will again start at 11 a.m. prior to the parade at noon.

There are some changes to this year’s race according to Groves, a former Viking All-State cross country performer, who now serves as a coach in the sport at both Ripley High School and Ripley Middle School.

“Appalachian Timing will be handling the timing this year and is helping with a lot of the promotion,” Groves said.

“The course will be same,” he said.

The start takes place on Court Street by Calvary United Methodist Church and will finish on Main Street in front of the Alpine Theatre.

“We are going to do our awards ceremony in the theatre right after the race,” said Groves.

The Firecracker 2-Miler is a part of a new four-racing series within Ripley.

The others are the Dash-for-Cash, the Halloween Run and the Hair of the Dog Run on New Year’s Day.

“We tried to get this (four races in a year) going last year but COVID took care of that,” Groves said.

He is hopeful to have as many as 200 runners competing in the various age groups tomorrow.

Many outstanding runners have made their way to Ripley through the years to get in a run and some good friendly competition.

The list of winners includes the likes of Mid-Ohio Valley Sports Hall of Famers Andrew Benford and Larry Taylor in the male division.

Benford, a Ravenswood native, starred in track and field and cross country at both Ravenswood High School and the University of Richmond.

He captured the Firecracker title in 2003 and again in 2011.

Taylor, who hails from St. Marys, is a racing veteran who burst onto the running scene in high school and later starred at Glenville State College, where he is also a member of that school’s Hall of Fame.

Taylor won his Firecracker crown in 2004.

Ian Deminick was the last overall winner in 2019.

In the female division, 2013 Ripley High Athlete of the Year Ali (Cunningham) Deem, who competed in cross country and track at West Virginia Wesleyan, was the 2019 champ.

Deem now lives in Texas.

Former Ripley and WVU running standout Alison Spiker won the race in 2008.

Current Stanford University runner and one-time Ripley star Tori Starcher was the winner of the 2015 and 2017 races.

Ripley running sensation Tori Starcher is a past two-time winner in the female division of the Firecracker 2-Miler. Starcher now competes at Stanford University.

Spiker (now Morris) and Starcher are also past recipients of the Ripley High School Female Athlete of the Year Award.

Caleb Casto, Jake Casto, Jack Whitney and Matt Bright, all former Ripley High and collegiate runners, are past winners.

Ripley’s Hilary Bright and Haley Miller are former winners along with Ravenswood’s Tyler Love and Monica Vannest.

Jennifer Povick, a one-time Sissonville and Appalachian State great, owns three Firecracker titles. She won in 2004 and 2009 and then again in 2014 as Jennifer Deal. Her husband, Brian, was the male winner in 2014.

Her mother is the former Susan Rawlings of Ripley.

Entry fee for the race is $20 with proceeds going to Main Street Ripley.

Firecracker 2-Miler race history

2019 — Male winner: Ian Damenick (11:48), Female winner: Ali Deem, Clarksburg (12:47); 2018 — Male winner: Kyle Stutler, Huntington (11:03.01), Female winner: Hollyann Swann (11:25.66); 2017 — Male winner: Jake Casto, Ripley (9:58), Female winner: Tori Starcher, Ripley (11:21); 2016 — Male winner: Caleb Casto, Ripley (10:58), Female winner: Hilary Bright, Ripley (10:58); 2015 — Male winner: T.J. Able, Charleston (9:48.0), Female winner: Tori Starcher (11:48.5), Ripley; 2014 — Male winner: Brian Deal, Maplewood, Mo. (9:56.6), Female winner: Jennifer Deal, Maplewood, Mo. (12:51.1); 2012 — Male winner: Jack Whitney, Cottageville (10:12.4), Female winner: Montana Poole, Lewisburg (12:59.3);

2011 — Male winner: Andrew Benford, Ravenswood (9:49.38), Female winner: Tyler Love, Ravenswood (14:27.14); 2010 — Male winner: Matt Bright, Ripley (NTA), Female winner: Haley Miller, Ripley (NTA); 2009 — Male winner: Brian Deal, Maplewood, Mo. (9:56), Female winner: Jennifer Povick, Sissonville (11:09); 2008 — Male winner: David Caldwell, Indiana (9:51), Female winner: Alison Spiker, Ripley (10:23); 2007 — Male winner: Zach Sabitino, Charleston (9:19), Female winner: Marian Brooks, Charleston (11:36); 2006 — Male winner: Jason Pyles, Pt. Pleasant (9:31), Female winner: Jennifer Davis, Romney (11:12);

2005 — Male winner: Casey Batey, Barboursville (NTA), Female winner: Christina Rawson, Hurricane (NTA); 2004 — Male winner: Larry Taylor, Fayetteville (10:15), Female winner: Jennifer Povick, Sissonville (12:44); 2003 — Male winner: Andrew Benford, Ravenswood (10:28), Female winner: Christina Rawson, Hurricane (12:00); 2002 — No race due to visit by President George W. Bush; 2001 — Male Winner: Dave McCallum, Charleston (9:32), Female winner: Monica Vannest, Ravenswood (12:10); 2000 — Male winner: Dave McCallum, Charleston (9:32), Female winner: Jessica Taylor, Fayetteville (11:12); 1999 (5K) — Male winner: Mikey Guinn, Nitro (16:56), Female winner: Jessica Taylor (NTA).