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Northern Star

The Student News Site of Northern Illinois University

Northern Star

DeKalb Corn Classic brings community a runners high

Devin Oommen
Participants of the Corn Classic 10K run Sunday down Third St. The Corn Classic starts and ends in downtown DeKalb taking runners through NIU’s Campus, and Van Buer Plaza with historical sites along the way. (Devin Oommen | Northern Star)

DeKALB – A group of runners gathered to run in the 43rd DeKalb Corn Classic, a race that takes runners through downtown DeKalb, historic DeKalb neighborhoods and NIU’s campus before returning downtown.

A crowd upwards of 650 people stretched, jogged in place and awaited the blast of a pistol on a warm overcast morning, anticipating the effort ahead of them. 

This year’s race was on Sunday and featured a 10K route that started at 8:15 a.m. and a 5K route that started at 8:30 a.m.  

DeKalb resident Destiny McDonald said she’s been preparing for the race for one and a half months. The relay was McDonald’s first in 4 years.

“I’ve done some 5Ks in the past, but it’s been a while,” McDonald said before the race started. “We’ll see how I feel after a mile.”

Also in the crowd of runners was 6-year-old Dalilah Bradley who ran her first 5K with her mom running behind her, following her lead.

After the competition, the young runner said she enjoyed the experience.

“I liked it. I felt a little tired. I had to walk sometimes,” Bradley said.

Dalilah Bradley’s mother, Deborah Bradley, said fellow runners encouraged her daughter.

“I think that really motivated her to keep going. It was a really fun course,” Deborah Bradley said.

Dalilah Bradley’s father, Dayveon Bradley, said his family prepared for the competition since October 2022.

“I ran out ahead and finished the race so I could meet her at the finish line,” Dayveon Bradley said. “So I could cheer her on.”

This year, the Corn Classic’s route had to be altered because of construction.

“I think the course was better because of the straight ending. You could see the ending from a block away, two blocks away, where before you had to turn a corner,” Dayveon Bradley said. “Seeing it was a good motivator for the end.”

Participants of the Corn Classic 10K run Sunday past the Kenneth and Ellen Chessick Practice Center. The Corn Classic starts and ends in downtown DeKalb taking runners through NIU’s Campus, and Van Buer Plaza with historical sites along the way. (Nyla Owens | Northern Star)

The route included music stations where bands waited to greet runners with live music. The stations featured NIU’s marching band, Steelband, Banda ensemble and the Black Tie Jazz Trio.

Jessica Antonacci has been the director of the DeKalb Corn Classic for the last six years. Antonacci said the goal of the event is to shine a positive light on DeKalb. Antonacci, along with a race committee, revamped the competition from previous years.

“We feel like we finally found our sweet spot and just want to focus on keeping every part of the race as best as possible,” Antonacci said.

Exhausted and drenched in sweat, runners finished with spectators cheering them on at the finish line.

The DeKalb Corn Classic concluded with a post-race celebration at Van Buer Plaza in downtown DeKalb. Runners aged 21 and over received free beer from Fatty’s, and local food trucks were set up for a Taste of DeKalb event.

The Taste of DeKalb is an event that showcases local restaurants and is hosted by the Kishwaukee Sunrise Rotary Club. The event is also the primary fundraising activity for a $10,000 community grant that the Rotary Club will award to a local non-profit. 

After she finished the run, Allie Legrenzi, a sophomore english major at NIU, said she enjoyed the experience.

“I feel like the runner’s high is definitely flowing right now,” Legrenzi said.

When asked how she prepared, Legrenzi laughed and admitted she signed up on a whim and didn’t train.

“I felt like I had to push myself. The band was out playing, people were clapping for us,” Legrenzi said. “It felt like a community, everyone was there to support one another.”

Linda Matuszewski, professor and dean of Accountancy at NIU, turned 60 the day before the event.

“I was excited and nervous before the race,” Matuszewski said. “I’m in a new age group now, and there are lots of 60-year-olds faster than me.” 

Matuszewski said she has been a frequent participant in the event since moving to DeKalb in 2006. Matuszewski said, for her, the weather, volunteers and music were highlights of the relay. 

“It was just really great this year,” Matuszewski said. “I had a goal to beat my time from last year, and I reduced my time by a minute and a half per mile. So that was a huge improvement for me.”

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