Bright sunshine and very cold temperatures greeted nearly 300 runners from more than a half-dozen states Saturday morning for the seventh annual CASA (Committee Against Spousal Abuse) half-marathon, which started and ended at Golden Lion Stadium.


“We’ve had some good numbers,” race director Joey Gieringer said. “We’ve broken 300 for the past five years, and I’m really proud of the fact that over 90 percent of them have been from out of town.”


A quick look at the registration list showed that in addition to Arkansas, runners came from Pennsylvania, Texas, Missouri, California, Wisconsin, Oklahoma, Ohio, New Jersey and Maryland to take part in the 13.1-mile race.


“This is my favorite half-marathon in the State of Arkansas,” said Tia Stone, who finished the race in 1:26:04 to claim the women’s crown for the second straight year. Stone also won in 2016.


She said she had been fighting some injuries but described her performance as “my best race since the Little Rock Marathon. I feel good and I’m healthy now.”


Stone said she has participated in the CASA half-marathon since 2013.


“I love races that can benefit children, women and people in need,” she said. “I hope to come back here again next year.”


The men’s winner was Brian Sieczkowski of Maumelle, who finished with a time of 1:17;45.


“I feel really good,” he said after the race. “It was tough for a couple of miles because of the wind, but that last mile or so we got out of the wind.”


He said he has been a participant in the race for three straight years.


“It’s a great course,” Sieczkowski said. “It’s flat and you can turn in some fast times.”


The half-marathon is the primary annual fundraiser for the CASA women’s shelter, and Gieringer said he expected to raise about $20,000 again this year.


“In seven years,” we’ve raised over $100,000 for CASA,” he said.


“This is our busiest time of the year,” CASA director Karen Palmer said. “Right now we’ve got 20 children and 16 females, and we’re anticipating more before Christmas That’s good because it means more women who are victims of domestic violence are getting out of their abusive environment. I was talking to a victim who said she had carried our number for a long time before she decided to use it. There is a real need and we’re always there when somebody needs us.”


Palmer said Gieringer “does a marvelous running this race. People love to come here. It’s a good course and it benefits the shelter. I was amazed when I came out here this morning and saw all the cars, even with the cold weather.”


At the race’s start at 8 a.m., the temperature was 32-degrees.


Gieringer thanked this year’s sponsors, the Pine Bluff Convention and Visitors Bureau, Relyance Bank and Jefferson Regional Medical Center, who were the Presenting Sponsors, Platinum Sponsor Pine Bluff Sand and Gravel, Silver Sponsor Dr. Amy Cahill and Bronze Sponsors Bill and Julie Bridgforth, Craig Tadlock, Glen Hendrix and Joey and Cymber Gieringer.


“We also want to thank the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff for letting us host the event here every year, Pine Bluff Fire and Emergency Services and the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office and a whole bunch of other volunteers,” he said.