A runner finishes with his dog at the 15th annual Dawg Jog 5k on Apr. 14, 2019 at the Sandy Creek Nature Center in Athens, Georgia. The Dawg Jog is hosted by Georgia’s Pre-Vet Club; all proceeds went to the GRACE fund, which provides financial assistance for veterinary medical procedures. (Photo/Julian Alexander)

More than 150 runners and their dogs gathered Sunday morning on April 14 at Sandy Creek Nature Center to participate in the 15th annual Dawg Jog 5K, hosted by the Pre-Veterinary Medicine Club at the University of Georgia. The event raised $2,700 in funds to benefit the club’s philanthropy.

Despite the cloudy gray sky and thick humidity, the participants and their tail-wagging companions were energized as they anticipated the start of the race. Dogs were seen playing with their owners and pulling on their leashes to greet new friends.

The course of the race followed a 3.1-mile loop through the nature center. Participants raced on pavement, still wet from previous rain, with trees full of birds lining both sides of the path. The race was professionally timed by Classic Race Services.

Mark Hanna, who completed the course in 22 minutes, 5 seconds, was the first competitor to cross the finish line. He won the race as the first male and the first overall.

Catherine Peacock then finished as the first female with a time of 23:44.

Michael Wilson finished shortly after at 24:30 with his dog, Holly, as the first male racing with a dog.

Alissa Luthart crossed the finish line with her dog, Francis, at 31:01, as the first female racing with a dog.

Luthart is a first-year veterinary student at the UGA College of Veterinary Medicine. Luthart and her dog have walked in the Dawg Jog in previous years, but this is the first year they were able to run throughout the race, she said.

“I thought he was going to be dragging behind, but he actually pulled me for most of the way,” Luthart said.

Luthart, 23, and her dog, Francis, 5, trained twice weekly to prepare for the race. She laughed and said Francis is going to take a good nap when they get home.

Daiannette Lopez, Pre-Vet Club president, said the money raised will benefit the G.R.A.C.E. (Grace, Rosemary, Athena Canine Emergency)fund, which is the Pre-Vet Club’s chosen philanthropy for this year’s event.

Lopez is a pre-vet senior majoring in animal science. She said the G.R.A.C.E. fund is available through the UGA Veterinary Hospital, and it helps clients who can’t afford to pay for life-saving procedures and surgeries for their animals.

The Pre-Vet Club is a professional club at UGA through which students interested in the veterinary field can learn about diverse career options through presentations from various veterinarians, including neurosurgeons, cardiologists, large animal specialists and more, Lopez said. The club also educates students on the process of applying to veterinary school and creating a strong application.

Lopez said her favorite part of the Dawg Jog is being able to see all the dogs show up to participate.

“I think that’s what makes this different than other 5Ks, just being able to bring your dogs and make it more of a family event,” Lopez said.

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