By BRIAN JENNINGS
After a cold and rainy Saturday at the Apple Harvest Festival, the Sunday morning of Oct. 4 brought plenty of sunshine and a slight autumn chill, which was the ideal weather for the 36th annual Apple Harvest Festival Road Race and identical to last year’s road race.
“We woke up today and saw a fabulous sunrise,” said Southington YMCA executive director John Myers, who helped run the road race. “I said, ‘This is going to be a perfect day.’ It was just a gorgeous day and a great feel. In 24 hours, we lucked out. October is the rainiest month of the year. You don’t know what you’re going to get in October.”
Some runners were stretched their legs on the side walk of Main Street and others snapped pictures with their families as thousands came together at the starting line on top of Columbus Boulevard. The National Anthem was sung, and the iconic Bill Rodgers sent off the runners with a few chosen words.
From parents and children to Southington High School athletes, coaches, and local officials, the road race was flooded with men and women of all different ages.
The race was peppered with purple shirts for ‘Team Lauryn’ and white shirts for ‘Team Kim.’ This was the fourth year for Team Lauryn and the second year for Team Kim. Team Lauryn started an academic scholarship named for Lauryn Ossola, a former YMCA and Lady Knight swimmer who lost her life in an accident in 2011 at the age of 23. Team Kim honors Kimberly Matukaitis Cence who died unexpectedly in February of last year.
One of the major changes that was incorporated into this year’s road race was the staggered starting times of the 5-mile and 5K races. The 5-mile race took off first at 8:30 a.m., followed by the 5K race at 8:45 a.m. The big question was: who were we going to see cross the finish line first, a 5-mile runner or a 5K runner?
No 5-mile runner had ever crossed the finish line before a 5K runner, dating back to 2010 when the 5K race was added. However, the history books would have to be rewritten as 5-mile winner John Longo (28:06) of Arlington, Mass.—a Southington High School graduate—emerged on Apple Alley, followed by Tyler Hayward (28:32) of Naugatuck, and Jim Rosenberger (28:42) of Southington.
Rosenberger won the Dave Gworek Memorial Award as the top Southington male runner in the 5-mile race after missing last year’s road race due to injury.
“To have Jimmy Rosenberger back was great,” said Myers. “I know that getting Gworek Award was important to him because he admired Dave. It’s nice to have a local guy like that.”
Tessa Mah (33:18) won the Gworek Award as the top female in the 5-mile race and 15th overall. Tracey Hubert (33:50) placed second, and Morgan Dunne (33:50) of New York, N.Y. finished third in the women’s standings.
Marc Robaczynski (16:31) of Avon won the 5K race in record time, followed by Chris Mayer (17:37) of Middlefield, and Scott Maxwell (18:04) of Plaistow, N.H.
“I’m watching Marc Robaczynski go by in record time, saying to myself, ‘Holy mackerel,’” said Myers.
Andrea Szarkowicz (20:46) of Watertown finished the 5K race as the top female finisher, followed by Traver Garrity (20:51) of Berlin, and Molly Alfieri (21:54) of Plantsville.
As in past years, Rodgers could be seen prancing from side to side like a gazelle before the finish line, shaking hands with and talking to spectators. This year, he seemed to blend in with a pack of runners crossing the finish line, almost unnoticed. However, Rodgers made great time, as he finished third (39:05) in the 60 to 69 age group.
Chris Rosenberg of Old Saybrook had won the 5-mile race title for the past four year, but was not present at this year’s road race.
A minor change to the road race included a last minute change to the course, directing runners away from Spring Lake Road that turned into a nice downhill feature on Foley Drive off of East Street, affecting the 5-mile runners.
“I’ve been hearing great results from people,” said Myers. “One thing is that it’s a little bit turn-ier, but it’s not as hairy in that Spring Lake area. This time of year, you have acorns coming down and other stuff on the ground. So, I think it was cleaner as far as that. It’s tricky course in a sense because it’s not pancake flat. There are some rolling hills that kind of sneak up on you.”
Looking forward to next year’s race, Myers said that the only change he would consider making is changing the staggered start by two or three minutes.
“It’s so that we can really get the fastest 5-milers and 5K’s coming together,” said Myers. “They’ll help spur each other on.”
5 Mile Road Race
John Longo edged Tyler Hayward and Jim Rosenberger to capture the title in the men’s race. Division winners for the men were Grayson Borla (10-15), Zachary Blake (16-19), Matthew Parrotti (20-29), Ryan O’Connor (30-39), Mario Longo (40-49), Joe Emmendorfer (50-59), Bob Huckins (60-69), Bill Borla (70-79).
Tessa Mah beat Tracy Hubert and Morgan Dunne in the women’s race. Division winners for the women were Nicole Chubet (16-19), Elizabeth Genest (20-29), Christie Kania (30-39), Mary Humphrey (40-49), Alice Genest (50-59), and Linda Rocco (60-69).
Longo and Mah earned the Dave Gworek Memorial Award as the fastest Southington finishers.
5K Road Race
Marc Robaczynski beat Chris Mayer and Scott Maxwell to win the men’s title. Division winners for the men were Colin Reilly (Under 10), Aidan Reilly (11-13), Ryan Nguyen (14-16), Kyle McLaughlin (17-19), Ari Lewenstein (20-29), Christopher Pawlow (30-39), Jason Dufour (40-49), Michael Perkowski (50-59), Bob McCusker (60-69), John Battista (70-79), and Jim Driscoll (Over 80).
Andrea Szarkowicz edged Traver Garrity and Molly Alfieri to capture the women’s title. Division winners for the women were Lucy Bergin (Under 10), Morgan Hubert (11-13), Kate Kemnitz (14-16), Katie Lindberg (17-19), Elizabeth DeVitto (20-29), Jessica Crandall (30-39), Angela Heidgerd (40-49), Kristen Nguyen (50-59), Joan LaPierre (60-69), and Elizabeth Lazor (70-79).
Kate Kemnitz earned the Chris Sanchez Award as the fastest SHS soccer player.
Derynoski Elementary School runners Riley Wolf, Rylee Dlugos, and Max Krom combined for the fastest time in the 5th grade boys competition to claim the Y Cup. Kelley Elementary School runners Logan Bassett, Zack Adams, and Dylan Farr won the Y Cup for the fourth grade boys.
Derynoski Elementary School runners Nikki DePodesta, Kayla DePodesta, and Hailey Zaczynski combined for the fastest time in the 5th grade girls competition to claim the Y Cup. Plantsville Elementary School runners Auria Mullins, Chelsey Arduini, and Gabriella Quirk won the Y Cup for the fourth grade girls.
The mixed group of Brendan Lasbury, Owen Hunt, and Jack Bell of Flanders Elementary School set the fastest time, but were ineligible for a trophy. With nine of the 22 relays, Plantsville Elementary kept its winning streak alive.
To comment on this story or to contact sports writer Brian Jennings, email him at BJennings@SouthingtonObserver.com.
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