Originally published Sept. 22, 2019 in the Lake Country News-Sun.

By Karie Angell Luc

The “Road to Nowhere,” as Waukegan’s Amstutz Expressway is often called, was a destination for runners of varying abilities Sunday morning.

The expressway, Illinois Route 137, was closed for approximately three hours, not due to flooding despite persistent weekend storms, but to accommodate the annual Run with the Bulldogs 5K.

“It’s always a great day to be a Bulldog,” said Nicholas Alajakis, spokesperson and director of communications for Waukegan Public Schools Community Unit School District No. 60.

“If the weather cooperates, it will be even better,” Alajakis said, approximately 90 minutes before the planned 9 a.m. launch of the Waukegan High School student council 5K run/walk fundraiser.

“We’re hoping to bring the school and the community together,” said Maggie Strojinc, Waukegan campus high school physical education teacher and student council co-sponsor.

“We think that relationship is very important and we want to build on that relationship,” she said.

“We just find that getting the community involved and knowing our students in our school better will create a much better relationship to move forward in the future to show what outstanding kids we have,” Strojinc said.

This was Strojinc’s 18th year with Waukegan Public Schools.

This is also the first time the student council took over the 5K event. For an estimated 15 years, the event, held in May, was organized by the sophomore class.

This year was also the first time for the 5K to be located on Amstutz Expressway.

The 5K began past the ramp on Amstutz Expressway, southeast of the intersection of Sheridan Road and Grand Avenue. The course was in a loop, with the start and finish in the same asphalt highway location, but using both expressway lanes.

“Unfortunately,” Strojinc said, “a lot of people don’t know the real students that we have, the positive side of all of the students that we have. We want to see the positive impact.”

Daniel Contreras, 16, of Waukegan and a Waukegan High School junior, is student council vice-president.

“We’re just trying to get the community involved and to have the students have fun at Homecoming,” Contreras said. “I hope the students see that we’re trying to do more for them.

“To be a Bulldog right now, it’s very exciting,” Contreras added. “We want to make school fun.”

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In her tie-dye shirt, Candi Albarran, 17, of Waukegan and a Waukegan High School senior, was among runners.

“It’s crazy. I don’t know. This is something new,” Albarran said, of the idea of standing in the middle of Amstutz Expressway with no motorists in sight.

The paid entry fundraiser included trophies and medals.

The first finisher, with a time of 22:35, was Jimmy Lopez, 17, of Waukegan and a Waukegan High School senior.

“It was alright,” Lopez said of the course.

“Right at the halfway point, it gets to an uphill, that hurts,” he said, motioning with his right arm as he sat on the cement highway divider, holding a beverage shortly after crossing the finish line.

Lopez, who had never run on a closed road to somewhere before, said there was, “more space to breathe in.

“It’s pretty cool,” Lopez said.

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