By BRIAN JENNINGS
Sam Montclair of North Haven banked around the corner from Berlin Avenue like a sprinter on the short track, but as he came around the bend onto Main Street with no one in sight. As spectators turned to see who was in second place, they had plenty of time for double takes at Montclair’s time.
It was more than two minutes before anybody else crossed the finish line.
Montclair came in at 25:10, beating Jim Rosenberger (27:31) of Waterford and Ryan O-Connor (27:36) of Bristol to win the 38th annual Apple Harvest Festival Road Race without breaking a sweat.
“He absolutely smoked the course,” said Southington YMCA executive director and road race director John Myers. “He ran a 20K in New Haven, and I believe his time was 65 minutes. That’s just crazy time.”
It might not have been a road race record, but Montclair’s time was still an American record. The 5-mile record was set by Russia’s long distance runner Leonid Shvetsov in 1996 (24.36) while training for the Summer Olympics.
“I’m glad he (Montclair) came and joined us,” the director said. “He hadn’t been here before, I don’t think, but he torched the course.”
The past few years of the Apple Harvest Festival Road Race could attest to what kind of morning runners of this year’s race woke up to. There always seems to be rain on the Saturday before that Sunday morning or the threat of rain forecasted the week leading up to the race, but the morning of Oct. 1 brought nothing, but 50-degree weather, clear skies, and smiles at the starting line.
“We were blessed after having that week of 90-degree weather, which is brutal on runners,” said Myers. “Today was a true gift for runners of all abilities. They were able to just let it rip today.”
After missing last year’s road race to run in another race out of the state, iconic American runner and former record holder of the Boston and New York City Marathons Bill Rodgers returned to this year’s road race.
“It’s fun because for most people here, it’s a family event,” said Rodgers. “Running is a family sport, and the YMCA is a family place. I love everything about the race…the parade and the festival. There’s nothing negative about it.”
Set to turn 70 in December, Rodgers finished 81st overall in the 5-mile race and fifth in the 60-69 division.
“A new generation is starting to learn about Bill,” said Myers. “I’m not sure they knew him until they saw him here, realizing how important he was to the whole running boom back in the day. I think we missed him before because he inspired me, along with countless others, to run.”
The Apple Harvest was Rodger’s 17th race that he’s run this year, which is the most he’s done in a recent memory. Rodgers said that he would love to come back and race in next year’s Apple Harvest.
“It has a name for itself,” said Rodgers. “This is a huge fundraising sport, and if you have strong leadership and you promote your race well, then you have something special. You have a combination you can’t beat, and John (Myers) has done that.”
About a month before the road race, the Southington YMCA was notified by the Southington Police Department about the repaving of Berlin Street. The YMCA was unsure if the construction project would be completed by race day, which would alter the course.
Berlin Street wasn’t repaved by race day, and instead was milled with clearly marked raised catch basins on the side of the road and the YMCA stuck to the original course.
Although Berlin Street wasn’t smooth, fresh asphalt on race day, it still didn’t cause a major traction problem for runners.
“When we heard that it was going to be milled, we were definitely concerned about some safety issues with the catch basins and manholes,” the director said. “But it’s a nice grip on there. It wasn’t too ruddy or perfectly smooth, which was alright.”
Over 1,600 turned out for the road race, including the Little Fritter Fun runners. Over 45 teams competed in the annual Y Cup series, as Thalberg Elementary School tied Derynoski Elementary School for first place.
“The age range of people today was great,” said Myers. “We had a lot of kids running today, which was cool. The running boom’s still going strong, and it’s a family affair.”
Sam Montclair (25:10) won easily, beating Jim Rosenberger (27:31) and Ryan O-Connor (27:36) by more than two minutes to earn the title in the men’s race. Division winners for the men were Grayson Borla (10-15), Jacob Cardoza (16-19), John Longo (20-29), Scott Maxwell (30-39), Bill Zielinski (40-49), Adam Osmond (50-59), Bob Huckins (60-69), and Geraint Downey (Military).
Tessa Mah (31:47) finished 11th overall and edged Kathleen Shaw (32:51) and Jennifer McHale by almost a minute to capture the women’s title. Division winners for the women were Catherine Mayers (16-19), Emily Turner (20-29), Srey Im-Ly (30-39), Megan Bennett (40-49), Diane Snow (50-59), Janet Romayko (70-79), and Kati Eggert (Military).
Holland Florian (29:45) and Mah earned the Dave Gworek Memorial Award as the fastest Southington finishers.
5K Road Race
Michael Vesci (17:13) edged Chris Armstrong (17:56) and Cory Loftis (18:32) to win the men’s title. Division winners for the men were Andrew Morikis (Under 10), Matthew Whitaker (11-13), Mack Brennan (14-16), Nick Petro (17-19), Johnathan Dalton (20-29), Pat Rosin (30-39), Todd Forselius (40-49), Jeff Heintz (50-59), Kevin McNamara (60-69), and David Tellerico (Over 70).
Molly Sullivan (20:32) edged Tracy Hubert (20:36) and Kristin Lopa (21:01) to win the women’s title. Division winners for the women were Jacqueline Liebler (Under 10), Abby Flanigan (11-13), Morgan Hubert (14-16), Marisa Matthews (17-19), Nemythe Lease (20-29), Gina Levesque (30-39), Mary Humphrey (40-49), Bosmat Cohen (50-59), Debbie Perry (60-69), and Catherine Flannery (Over 70).
For this week’s box scores, click here: (southingtonobserver.com/2017/10/04/weekly-scoreboard-for-the-oct-6-edition). To contact sports writer Brian Jennings, email him at BJennings@SouthingtonObserver.com.
Photos by JOHN GORALSKI