By John Goralski
The church bells in the center of town seemed to ring as the first runner as Nick Garcia materialized at the far end of the Town Green. Nobody else was even close at the front of the 5K event, and the former Blue Knight bounded down the street in rhythm to the clanging bells.
Don’t ask for whom the bells tolled at the end of the 2014 Apple Harvest Road Race. They tolled for Garcia.
“His time was pretty good, and he didn’t have a lot of competition with him,” said Apple Harvest Road Race Director John Myers. “He might have been able to get pushed more, but he still ran a fast time. The times were great this year, and what can you say about those top five mile guys? They just keep cranking them out.”
To have a Southington native at the front of the local race was just the icing on the cake. After a rain-drenched event in 2013, the sunny skies and low autumn temperatures brought runners out in droves this fall.
A record number of athletes (1,974) participated in the annual event, and Southington runners captured most of the top spots. Garcia won the 5K men’s race (17:13), and Erin Angelillo finished first in the women’s race (21:08). Regional runners captured both titles in the 5-mile event, but local athletes captured six division titles in the signature event and nine division titles in the 5K event.
“We couldn’t have asked for better weather,” said Myers. “We had record numbers again, and I was very impressed to hear so many people running a 5K road race for the first time. This is a new health journey, and a lot of people were working toward this. It was nice to see. It wasn’t about their times. It was about completing a 5K race.”
For the fourth year in a row, Old Saybrook’s Chris Rosenberg (26:25) captured the title on the 5-mile course. He edged Southington’s Nick Dalidowitz (28:37) by almost two minutes, but Dalidowitz scored his first Dave Gworek Award since 2008 for being the first local man to finish the signature event.
“Realistically, this was my last year to win it,” Dalidowitz said with a laugh. The 31-year old continues to keep pace with the 20-something frontrunners, but that might be about to change. “Next year, we could potentially add Matt Walker and Bryan Wilcox to the mix. They’re both graduating from college, and they’re both extremely good runners at the collegiate level. Chris Rosenberg, Jimmy Rosenberger, and I have been joking that we could break the course record next year and still not win the race.”
The 5-mile women’s title was captured by Watertown runner Laura Pieger (32:05). Second place finisher Molly Palmieri (33:38) captured the Gworek Award as the top Southington woman. Pieger shattered last year’s best time by almost three minutes. Palmieri’s second place time would have beaten all three of last year’s top finishers by more than two minutes.
“They were flirting with six minute miles all the way through, and we know that the five mile course is so challenging. Those are tremendous times,” Myers said about the pace in the women’s competition. “I’m not surprised by Molly’s great time and success in our race. She has put a lot of time into her training, and she had success pretty recently in the half-marathon in Bristol.”
Myers said that the biggest story was the crowd of yellow jerseys and white jerseys that peppered both courses with the rise of fundraising teams like ‘Team Lauryn’ and ‘Team Kim.’ This is the third year that Team Lauryn has flooded the course, and Team Kim came out in numbers for this year’s event.
Team Lauryn was built to support an academic scholarship named for Lauryn Ossola, a former YMCA and Lady Knight swimmer who died tragically in an accident in 2011 at the age of 23. Team Kim was comprised of family and friends of Kimberly Matukaitis Cence who died unexpectedly in February of this year. The team featured her husband and two of her three children.
“It was emotional to see runners from both teams,” said Myers. “I knew Kim pretty well from camp, and it was great to see so many people keeping their memories alive. Then, there were so many other teams just forming. We even had some people from Hamden. It’s great to see that this race has become a way for people to connect.”
Myers said that it was amazing to see the times at the front, the persistence of the young runners, the influx of new runners, and the continued outpouring from every corner of the community.
“People at the front are still able to crank it out, but at the same time it’s become a good race for everyone,” he said. “I think we’re getting even more people watching that Little Fritter run than ever before. We had over 100 walkers for people that just want to keep themselves healthy and going. We had more volunteers than ever before. The police stepped up as always, and our sponsor board was loaded this year, which means that businesses really believe in this race. It was great.”
5 Mile Road Race
Chris Rosenberg edged Nick Dalidowitz and Mike Rieger to defend his title in the men’s race. Division winners for the men were Nick Evangelista (16-19), Matt Scully (20-29), Ryan O’Connor (30-39), Mario Longo (40-49), Louis Rodier (50-59), Bill Lombardi (60-69), and Bill Borla (70-79).
Laura Pieger edged Molly Palmieri and Lindsay Shea to capture the women’s title. Division winners for the women were Kerry Buchanan (Under 15), Emily Tomaselli (16-19), Nicole Verderame (20-29), Lindsay Shea (30-39), MaryAnn Humprey (40-49), Diane Snow (50-59), and Linda Rocco (60-69).
Dalidowitz and Palmieri earned the Dave Gworek Memorial Award as the fastest Southington finishers.
5K Road Race
Nick Garcia beat Holland Florian and Kurt Lindboom-Broberg to win the men’s title. Division winners for the men were Colin Reilly (Under 10), Owen Lacourciere (11-13), Ryan Nguyen (14-16), Casey Doyle (17-19), Shane Leighton (20-29), Chris Pawlow (30-39), Frank Angelillo (40-49), Charles Ferry (50-59), Tim Connellan (60-69), Jonathan Yuen (70-79), and Jim Driscoll (Over 80).
South End School runners Gavin Michaud, John O’Connor, and Kevin Lowery combined for the fastest time in the 5th grade boys competition to claim the Y Cup. South End School runners Greg Dunn, Tim Nivison, and Colby Nitz won the Y Cup for the fourth grade boys.
Erin Angelillo beat Jacci Pugliese and Taylor Hubert to score the women’s title. Division winners for the women were Lucy Bergin (Under 10), Morgan Hubert (11-13), Marisa Matthews (14-16), Rianna Susco (17-19), Kristina Anderson (20-29), Jessica Magrey (30-39), Tracy Hubert (40-49), Kristen Nguyen (50-59), Joan LaPierre (60-69), and Elizabeth Lazor (70-79).
Plantsville School runners Annalise Cook, Nina Muir, and Melaina Coleman won the Grade 5 girls Y Cup, while Plantsville runners Charlotte Stack, Elyse Picard, and Emily Adams won the fourth grade girls competition.
Erin Angelillo captured the Chris Sanchez Award as the top finisher among SHS soccer players.
To comment on this story or to contact sports writer John Goralski, email him at jgoralski@ southingtonobserver.com.