Over 700 runners took their place on Ravinia Avenue Thursday morning prepared to tackle the 2.5 mile cross country path of Orland Park's annual Turkey Trot. The race is a tradition for many Orland Park families, as well as families from surrounding communities.
One participant, rising Olympian hopeful and Sandburg alum Lukas Verzbicas, overcame unimaginable odds to run in his first race since enduring serious spinal injuries in July while biking.
"I am thankful to get that competitive feeling again," said Verzbicas. "This is something I was born to do and to be feeling this again after all that has happened, I am really appreciative of that."
In about four months since his injury, Verzbicas said he was grateful to just be at the race.
"I want to spread the message of the gratitude I am experiencing to all especially this thanksgiving so we realize all were thankful for in our lives," said Verzbicas. "I feel very thankful to have this opportunity. To be given a second chance like I have means to me that I am meant for what I am doing right now and that the accident has only made me stronger down the road."
Verzbicas placed third in his age group, an odds-defying feat after doctors predicted he may never walk again after the accident.
"My doctors said I wouldn’t walk after seeing my first x-rays and now I’m back to training full time," explained Verzbicas. "I didn’t let all that get to me and believed the entire time I would be back.”
Participating in his first race on Thanksgiving was fitting, he said.
"There are too many people to list but most of all I am thankful to God. I have experienced a reincarnation in my life especially in my spiritual life," said Verzbicas. "My faith in God and the knowing that through him all will be well and in the end it is all meant to be has healed me this quickly and has tremendously strengthened my faith. There has never been a more thankful period in my life."
Overall male and female winners were Zachary Dahleen and Carly Krull. Krull placed first last year as well. Both went home with bragging rights, a trophy and a frozen turkey.