By BRIAN JENNINGS
Weather looked very gloomy and similar to the grey skies and clouds that loomed over Columbus Boulevard last year, but a wet pavement was all that the 37th annual Southington Apple Harvest Road Races on the morning of Sunday, Oct. 2.
“This was perfect running weather,” said race director John Myers. “It was good for the fans, too. There are so many generations from grandkids to grandparents running here today. You can certainly feel it in our hometown race when everyone is catching up with one another.”
Once again, the staggered start led to a 5-miler finishing first as Blue Knight alumnus John Longo (28:06) crossed the finish line first.
This was the second year that the event experienced the staggered start, but Myers went back to the original 5-mile course, which was different from last year’s course. Foley Drive is currently consumed with ongoing construction, and the decision to change the course came earlier in the week.
“It’s kind of 50-50 of who likes which one,” said Myers. “The course we had last year had a steep downhill on Foley Drive. Today would have been a little tricky with it being slippery on the streets.”
Over 1,600 athletes participated across four events, including the 5-mile and 5K road races, the 2-mile run/walk, and the Little Fritter Fun Runs.
For the second consecutive season, Longo was the first to finish, but the former Knight didn’t want to claim too much of the spotlight, declining the David Gworek Award for the top Southington finisher.
“John Longo grew up in Southington, but actually lives in Boston now,” said Myers. “He came up to me and told me to give the award to someone who actually lives here now. Bill’s been around for a while now, and it was nice to see him get it.”
For the first time in its five-year existence, Thalberg Elementary School was crowned as the winner of the Y Cup out of 31 teams that participated. Plantsville retained the cup for the past four years. The Y Cup divisional winners are as follows: Boys Fourth Grade, Thalberg (1st), South End (2nd), and South End (3rd); Girls Fourth Grade, Thalberg (1st), Plantsville (2nd), and Plantsville (3rd); Boys fifth Grade, Thalberg (1st), Derynoski (2nd), and Plantsville (3rd); and Girls 5th Grade, Derynoski (1st), Plantsville (2nd), and Plantsville (3rd).
Both races were showered with runners wearing uniform colored shirts to represent Team Lauren, Team Kim, and Team Adam and Jim. One of the new attractions to this year’s event was the addition of the military discount and division. About 30 military members ran in the races.
“We’ll do a little more free stuff because it was great to have the military,” said Myers. “We’ll get the word out earlier on that. We had a special category for them this year, which was nice. It was a small way to say thanks to them for all that they do.”
Also new to this year’s event was the t-shirt designing contest. Participants had the opportunity to design a 12” by 16” design with a maximum of four colors on any color background. Myers and Southington YMCA marketing director Samantha McCarthy chose Juliana Cerresi as the winner. Cerresi received a gift certificate and free publicity, as all of the t-shirts that were handed out at the event on Sunday morning dawned her design.
“I loved it,” said Myers. “We had a lot of good comments from people, so we’ll do that again next year.”
5 Mile Road Race
Longo (27:54) beat Ryan O’Connor (28:00) and Jim Rosenberger (28:57) to defend his title in the men’s race. Division winners for the men were Grayson Borla (10-15), Jack Myers (16-19), Brian Colonnese (20-29), Bill Zielinski (30-39), David Ricciuti (40-49), Joseph Laskey (50-59), Bob Huckins (60-69), Lee Bradley (70-79), and Doug Houle (Military).
Rachel Lee (31:59) out-paced Srey Im-Ly (34:21) and Allison Zeoli (35:26) to capture the women’s title. Division winners for the women were Naomi Cipriano (10-15), Kerry Buchanan (16-19), Madelyn Colonnese (20-29), Kristin Lopa (30-39), Carina Halloran (40-49), Diane Snow (50-59), Jolaine Peace (60-69), and Janit Romayko (70-79).
Zielinski and Im-Ly earned the Dave Gworek Memorial Award as the fastest Southington finishers.
5K Road Race
Michael Vesci (18:18) edged Muhamet Ajazi (18:33) and Christopher Pawlow (19:14) to win the men’s title. Division winners for the men were Mathew Siwek (Under 10), Michael Ditota (11-13), Sam Bracchi (14-16), Ryan Nguyen (17-19), Joseph Pappalardo (20-29), Pat Rosin (30-39), Kurt Bauer (40-49), Tom Cunningham (50-59), Kevin McNamara (60-69), Bill Borla (70-79), Tom Butterfield (Over 80) and Marco Lopes (Military).
Jacci Pugliese (20:32) edged Tracy Hubert (20:55) and Morgan Hubert (21:00) to win the women’s title. Division winners for the women were Emma Talon (Under 10), Lauren Verrilli (11-13), Taylor Hubert (14-16), Katie Lindberg (17-19), Ellen Ossola (20-29), Mary Orlando (30-39), Katie Muir (40-49), Bosmat Cohen (50-59), Debbie Perry (60-69), Barbara Simmons (70-79), and Brenda Egan (Military).
To comment on this story or to contact sports writer Brian Jennings, email him at BJennings@SouthingtonObserver.com.
Photos by JOHN GORALSKI