In the 51st Kelley road race, a first time for everything
New London - Everett Hackett, a West Hartford resident and a recent graduate of George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., is used to training for something.
Cross country. Indoor track. Outdoor track.
Except now that he's graduated, it turns out he was training for this.
"It's not like I'm going back to school," said Hackett, an English major. "In my races now, I'm just looking to take down my times."
Hackett, 23, was a first-time winner Saturday at the 51st Annual Ocean Beach/John & Jessie Kelley 11.6-mile Road Race, finishing the rainy course in 59 minutes, 36 seconds. Ledyard's Jeff Wadecki was second (1:01:59), followed by Michael Conway of West Hartford (1:02.50) and defending champion Michael LeDuc of Canton (1:03.50), entering his senior year at Connecticut College.
On a day both the defending men's and women's champions were unseated, LeDuc, a Division III All-American in cross country and track as a junior at Conn, said it looked like Hackett was "on a mission" right from the beginning.
"He's a great runner. He's no joke," LeDuc said. "I think in the first half-mile, he had it locked up."
Krisztina Dearborn of New Britain, meanwhile, topped the women's field in 1:10.25. Sybil Shapiro of Clinton was second (1:11.31) and Laura Brustolon of Mystic, the former Stonington High School and Southern Connecticut State University runner, was third (1:11.56). Last year, Brustolon became the first man or woman in the history of the race to win four straight titles.
"It was fun. It means so much," Brustolon, 25, said of the consecutive wins the last few years. "You come here and you feel like you've got to do it (again). But there were some very fast times out there; the rain kept it cool. … The main thing is running in support of John and Jessie Kelley and running in southeastern Connecticut in general."
"It was my third year running the race, my first year not getting beat by Laura," said Dearborn, a senior-to-be at Central Connecticut State University. "I was confused when I was alone. They really scared me a little bit on the hills; I thought I was going to get eaten up. (Brustolon) had it from the start (last year). It was kind of like a mind game today, knowing she was in the race."
Hackett, meanwhile, found his local connection to the Kelley Race through Jeff Billing, an assistant coach and math teacher at Hall High School in West Hartford, Hackett's alma mater. Billing is a Fitch graduate, the former successful head cross country coach at Palo Alto (Calif.) High School and the nephew of 1968 Boston Marathon champion Amby Burfoot.
"He showed me this race," Hackett said. "A bunch of guys from Hall run this race, current and former runners. It's the best day of summer. Then we go to Jeff's to have a barbeque. This is a great, just an awesome day. I wish it was hotter out because we usually play wiffle ball and go to the beach afterward."
Burfoot, who holds the record with five victories at the Kelley Race, the last coming in 1978, ran Saturday, 35 years after being a regular at the event. He recently retired as an editor at Runner's World magazine and moved back to Mystic with his wife Cristina.
Mystic's Spyros Barres, another former race winner, was ninth in 1:07.50. He was running the Kelley Race for the first time since turning 50 and race director Way Hedding gave him the bib No. 50.
"I was running with a high school kid, Ben, and at around eight miles he picked up the pace and I tried to go with him," Barres said with a smile, asked what it's like to be a part of the field as a masters runner. "He told me his dad was running the race, too. His dad was 49."
Kelley won the first two editions of the race which currently bears his name in 1963-64. Kelley, the 1957 Boston Marathon champ and two-time Olympian, died on Aug. 21, 2011, at the age of 80. He was predeceased by his wife Jessie in 2003.
Last year's golden anniversary of the race, one of the last in the country for which there is no entry fee, was the first since Kelley's death.