Grand County High School alumnus Jacob Francis and his girlfriend Maddy Kauffman, both track and field athletes at Southern Utah University, pose with their trophies after each winning Blanding’s Fourth of July 5K. [Photo courtesy of Jacob Francis]

Moab resident and 2014 Grand County High School graduate Jacob Francis and his girlfriend, fellow Southern Utah University track and field athlete Maddy Kauffman, each won Blanding’s Fourth of July 5K, setting new course records in the process.

Francis set a new men’s mark with a time of 17:14, and Kauffman set the women’s mark of 17:58 on the course, which begins and ends at Centennial Park in Blanding.

One hundred percent of the proceeds from the event, which also included a “1 Mile Fun Run,” went to San Juan High School’s cross country team.

Francis is a redshirt freshman on the cross country team and a redshirt sophomore on the indoor and outdoor track and field teams at SUU, while Kauffman is a redshirt junior for all sports. Francis said he and Kauffman signed up for the race on a whim because Kauffman’s grandparents are from Blanding.

“We signed up about a month ago,” he said. “We wanted to hang out in Blanding all day after the race and we went down there night before. The race started at 6:30 a.m.”

Francis said this course was different from the course he ran as a member of the Red Devils cross country team.

“The high school course was up by the lake and college,” he said

Francis also competed in the Utah Summer Games in June. For the upcoming year at SUU, he said his primary focus is the 3,000-meter steeplechase, in which he hopes to finish in the top five in the Big Sky Conference.

In addition to competing in events during the summer, Francis also put together the First Annual Zeke Francis Youth Invite, a track and field meet for boys and girls between the ages of 5 and 14. The event is named after Francis’ father, Zeke Francis, a GCHS alum and Red Devil assistant football and track and field coach, who died in 2008. The event will feature seven running events, two jumping events, a softball toss and a shot-put event.

“I told (GCHS track and field) coach Dennis Wells about my idea, and he told me to do what I wanted with it,” Francis said. He said this meet gives kids a chance to compete in a track meet who have never had the opportunity to do so.

Jacob Francis said in order to put on the Zeke Francis Youth Invite, he had to get donations from about 15 people, in addition to volunteers. It is scheduled to take place on Saturday, Aug. 4, beginning at 9 a.m. Competitors register online at runnercard.com. Registration is $15 and allows the registered competitor unlimited events.

For more information, contact Jacob Francis at jacobf13@gmail.com or Trisha Hedin at trishahedin@hotmail.com .

Francis sets course record in annual Blanding event

When: Saturday, Aug. 4, at 9 a.m.

Where: Grand County High School track, 608 S. 400 East

Fee: $15 for unlimited events.

More info: Boys and girls age 5-14 are invited to compete. Register online at runnercard.com