Sailfest road race back in the groove
New London — As if it weren't enough to be running in sweltering heat approaching 80 degrees Sunday morning at the annual Sailfest Charter Oak Federal Credit Union 5K Road Race, Julie Cusack of Groton took on the extra challenge of pushing a carriage carrying 6-year-old daughter Millie and 3-year-old son Patrick.
"It was something to do," said Cusack, who joined a friend in the race. "I have an active lifestyle. It was fun."
Cusack was one of 230 runners who started the race, which pushed off about 9:15 a.m. in front of The Day and Citizens Bank on Eugene O'Neill Drive. Runners stretched and milled about at the start line after receiving their numbers from the Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut, which has helped organize the race for the past several years.
Manuel de Jesus Hernandez Brito, a New London High School student who won a contest for the design of this year's road race t-shirts, fired the starting gun, and runners were off to the cheers of spectators.
Mike McCarty and 11-year-old son Jake of Groton were two of the more serious runners, finishing toward the front of the pack. The 3-mile race was another opportunity for Jake, a middle school cross-country runner, to get some more experience.
"I just like running," said Jake, who already has competed in about a half dozen long-distance races.
Emberleigh and Tyler Luce of New London, two other serious runners, had the ambition of finishing in the top 10 for the race, having run up to the top of Mount Washington earlier this year as well as competing in other long-distance runs, including a half marathon. They were decked out in full running regalia, including monitors attached to their arms that were meant to keep them on pace.
"Every run is challenging," said Emberleigh, who intended to enjoy some post-race delights at Berry's Ice Cream & Candy Bar on Bank Street.
For many of the runners, proximity was an important component of the race, as well as its early-morning start.
"I've done seven events this year," said Don Welsh of Quaker Hill. "I do about one a month ... mostly local."
The Sailfest race dates back about 30 years, initiated by the former Marine Commerce and Development Committee, according to former race director Marie Gravel. The race is now a fundraiser for the local Chamber.
At the finish line near Parade Plaza, race announcer Nick Bottone Jr. fired up the crowd and the runners by shouting out encouragement.
"Cheer on your favorite runner, and cheer on everyone here," he exhorted at one point. "Hands together folks, let's have some applause."
At the end of the so-called chute where runners continued on after the finish line, racers enjoyed a cool-down station where a fine mist rained down to allow competitors a quick way to bring down their body temperatures.
There, the Luces could be spied, extolling the fellow New Londoners who hosed down runners along the route to keep everyone cool. The couple went their separate way when it came to the race, with Tyler beating out Emberleigh, who nevertheless finished right among the top women.
"I got the time I wanted," Emberleigh said with a smile.
Sailfest race results
1. Nicholas Magani, Jewett City, 15:37; 2. Jesse Joseph, Oakdale; 3. Spyros Barres, Mystic; 4. Matthew Walker, Westerly, 17:26; 5. Shane Henderson, Old Saybrook; 17:50; 6. Jeff Walker, Westerly, 17:53; 7. William Ricket, Old Lyme; 17:55; 8. Robbie Cozean, Madison, 18:26; 9. Kevin Fitzgerald, Uncasville; 10. Zoltan Rigo, Berlin, 18:56.
Note: Katie Esposito of Middletown was the top women's finisher, finishing 14th in a time of 20:19.
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