Bluefield University in the News


by | Oct 5, 2016

Fifty runners and walkers took part in Bluefield College's Ninth Annual Jason Elswick Memorial Scholarship 5K Challenge, September 17, with Nathaniel Evans of Kopperston, West Virginia, earning the best overall time of the day at 18:19.

Nathaniel Evans (far right) of Kopperston, West Virginia, accepts the overall winner’s trophy for Bluefield College’s Ninth Annual Jason Elswick Memorial Scholarship 5K Challenge.

Bluefield College’s Ruth Blankenship (left) with Pam Elswick of Tazewell, Virginia, who established the Jason Elswick Memorial Scholarship at Bluefield College with her husband, David.

Runners sprint to the finish line during the Ninth Annual Jason Elswick Memorial Scholarship 5K Challenge at Bluefield College.

But, awards and accolades were not all the runners were sprinting for. The participants were also running and walking for scholarships and to preserve the memory of a local college student who lost his life before fulfilling his dream of becoming a schoolteacher.

A Bluefield College junior from Tazewell, Virginia, majoring in math education, Jason Elswick died in a car accident in October 2005. After his death, his parents, David and Pam Elswick of Tazewell, created a scholarship at BC designed to preserve his memory and to continue his legacy by providing scholarship assistance to other teacher education students just like him. The annual Elswick 5K Challenge helps increase awareness and raise funds to support the scholarship, which provides vital assistance to BC students seeking a degree in math education and whose goals are similar to Jason’s.

“Jason was an amazing young man whose life was cut short,” said BC’s Ruth Blankenship, vice president for advancement, “but to make sure his dream of becoming a teacher is carried out through another young man or young woman from southwest Virginia, we have established this scholarship fund to keep his memory alive and to let students know that you’re never forgotten at Bluefield College.”

This year, 50 supporters joined the cause by competing in the memorial 5K. Nathaniel Evans of Kopperston, West Virginia, earned the overall first place award with a time of 18:19. Placing second overall: Michael Hayworth, III, of Allen Junction, West Virginia, with a time of 19:31. Steven Mahood of Bluefield, Virginia, won overall third with a time of 20:16.

“There really are no words to express how grateful we are for all the hard work, kindness and generosity of everyone in supporting Jason’s scholarship,” said Pam Elswick. “The scholarship exists because individuals and businesses come together to help create something good from such a tragedy. We love and miss our son very much and ask that you hold us in your heart and prayers and help us keep Jason’s loving and giving spirit alive.”

In the women’s division, first place overall went to Kristen Brown of Bluefield, West Virginia, with a time of 23:35. Megan Chilton of Galax, Virginia, won second place overall among the women with a time of 23:57, and Jessica Chambers-Paris of Bluefield, West Virginia, took the women’s third place overall award with a time of 24:23.

Male participants who received awards for the fastest times in their specific age groups included:

– Ages 20-24: Ryan Thomas, first place 21:37
– Ages 30-34: Josh Wolfe, first place 20:57; Bill Collins, second place 22:19; Matthew Powers, third place 30:54
– Ages 35-39: Grat Slade, first place 32:49; Jason Church, second place 42:09
– Ages 40-44: Sonny Ciampanella, first place 22:00; Tracey Stout, second place 23:48
– Ages 45-49: Chris Parsons, first place 36:14
– Ages 50-54: Mark Wagner, first place 22:35; Jim Simon, second place 23:07
– Ages 55-59: Scott Catron, first place 26:27
– Ages 60-64: Randy Tephabock, first place 23:23; Hank Burnley, second place 28:02; Randy Lester, third place 31:16
– Ages 65 and older: Butch Currence, first place 28:46.

“We run a lot of these,” said Bill Collins, a 2008 BC graduate from Bluefield, West Virginia, participating in his third Elswick 5K. “I do this one because I want to contribute to the scholarship. I didn’t know Jason personally, but I know his story, and this is a good cause.”

Women who achieved awards for the fastest times in their specific age groups were:

– Ages 14 and under: Cassandra Parsons, first place 29:22
– Ages 15-19: Melly Anderson, first place 34.25
– Ages 25-29: Samantha Syres, first place 28:19; Melanie Eggleston, second place 34:49
– Ages 30-34: Abigail Heiniger, first place 27:32; Tabitha Price, second place 34:25
– Ages 35-39: Heather Harris, first place 36:08
– Ages 40-44: Sherry Ciampanella, first place 26:53
– Ages 45-49: Paula Beasley, first place 44:13
– Ages 50-54: Edith Hill, first place 26:57; Suzette Nunley, second place 33:55
– Ages 55-59: Susan Thacker, first place 26:34; Anita Wagner, second place 27:05; Kathy Lampert, third place 30:28
– Ages 60-64: Wendy Morrison, first place 30:17; Crisandra Tephabock, second place 31:31.
– Ages 65 and older: Donna Akers, first place 33:46.

“This is for a good cause,” said last year’s overall winner Josh Wolfe of Pearisburg, Virginia, who started running after having a stroke in 2011. “I started running to lose weight and to improve my health, but now I just run for fun. I’m not here to win; just to have fun.”

Winners in the walkers’ category included:

– Nina Williams, first place 36:15; Valerie Burrell, second place 36:22; Dom Pellillo, third place 38:28
– Ages 60-64 male: Dean Mulkey 42:18
– Ages 60-64 female: Mickey Pellillo 38:29

“I come back to this every year because it’s for a good cause,” said 75-year-old runner Butch Currence of Bluefield, West Virginia, whose father, Stubby, was a 50-year veteran sports writer for the Bluefield Daily Telegraph. “I’m retired, and I run to stay in shape. I run in this race to support the college and for the Elswicks.”

After this year’s 5K, participants were treated to a “Feast After the Race,” catered by Big Whiskey BBQ Company from Bluefield, West Virginia. The feast took place at Mitchell Stadium and was part of the tailgate atmosphere and the football matchup between Bluefield College and Lindsey Wilson College. Other event supporters included Denise Farmer and Carolynn Trent of Four Seasons YMCA, who served as official timers for the race; Walmart; Sam’s Club; Grant’s Supermarket; Pyott Boone Electronics; Dr. Michael Harris; Mary J. and Kasey Addair; Nancy L. Blevins; Rick W. and Patty L. Cooper; Dennis E. and Janice L. Hardy; Trena E. Marrs; John E. and Melonie A. Martin, Jr.; SANW, Inc.; Birchie Fisher and Linda S. Cox; City of Bluefield Parks and Recreation Department; Bluefield, Virginia Police Department; Bluefield, West Virginia Police Department; and Bluefield, West Virginia Rescue Squad.

The City of Bluefield’s Parks and Recreation Department also included the Elswick 5K in its 2016 Partners in Health Race Series. For additional races on the series, see the “Partners in Health” section under the “Special Events” portion of the “Parks and Recreation” web page at

Friends who may not have had the opportunity to participate in this year’s Elswick 5K Challenge, but would still like to contribute to the Elswick legacy with a gift to the scholarship fund may do so by visiting or by sending a gift to Bluefield College, c/o The Elswick Scholarship Challenge, 3000 College Avenue, Bluefield, Virginia, 24605.

“It is our desire that many students with the same goals and wonderful characteristics as Jason be helped through this scholarship,” the Elswicks added. “It is also our wish that Jason’s memory live on through the lives of the students receiving the scholarship awards.”

Download the results.

Download the results.

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