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SOCA draws runners, walkers to city’s south side

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Many Ruston residents who live South of California Avenue stood outside their homes and watched as visitors jogged past on Saturday morning.

The SOCA Sprint 5K was designed to raise awareness of the living conditions and needs for that area of Ruston, and the 60 additional runners or walkers this year mean they’ve accomplished their goal at least a little.

Kevin Singh, director of the Community Design Activism Center based out of the Louisiana Tech School of Architecture, said it was wonderful to see that it was a huge, growing event. In its first year, there were only around 60 runners, last year there were about 93 and this year’s race brought 153 people into the SOCA area.

Each year the race begins at Mays Chapel Church, which is a huge supporter of the cause. The Rev. T. G. Harris, assistant pastor at the church, said they are always excited about these events.

“It’s wonderful to see this many people out as cool as it is,” Harris said. “I’m glad as many people showed up. We look forward to this every year.”

Harris said he felt the project was very important to the area.

“We need to revitalize the neighborhood,” Harris said. “We need to get the community back together.”

The event had winners in two categories — 25 and younger and 26 and older. In the 25 and younger men’s category Josh Pearce won first place and Justin Dubose won second. In the 25 and younger women’s category Mallory Smith won first place and Jenny Reisz won second.

In the 26 and older men’s category Bernd Schroeder won first and Evan Derveloy won second. In the women’s category Patty Scheaffer won first and Shannon Puljak and Heather Pearson tied for second.

Many teams, including ones from churches, schools and other organizations, joined in the race. The largest team was made up of students and friends of the interior design program at Tech. One of their members, Mallory Smith, was the overall women’s winner.

Smith said she became involved with the run because of her connections to the school of architecture. Smith said she is the president of the Tech chapter of the American Society of Interior Designers and she gathered the team to participate because of her passion for the cause.

“It really touches my heart,” Smith said. “I teach tennis at Ruston High School and I have a student who lives out here. I saw him volunteer last year.”

Smith said she also felt it was important to connect with the community.

“It’s cool because we can make a difference,” Smith said. “With all of our resources at school, we can really help people.”

Tech student Camille Pearce and her dog Molly also joined the race to support the cause.

“I think community projects are really good,” Pearce said. “I think it’s good for us to connect with the community here at Tech.”

For some, Saturday was just a chance to support a good cause while enjoying the weather. Jason Pigg, associate professor of social sciences at Tech, said he heard about the run at the school and decided to show up. His motiviation for showing up was as much about having fun as philanthropy.

“It’s such a good cause,” Pigg said. “And, it’s always fun to get together and run.”
Pigg said he is a fan of the SOCA revitalization effort.

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