LEONARDO, NJ - Five Hundred and seventy-two road racers (496 for the 15K and 76 for the 3-miler) competed in the 20th annual Indian Trails Races presented by the Sandy Hookers Triathlon Club at Croydon Hall in the Leonardo section of Middletown on a windy, sunny morning of April 3. The event’s flier informs the course to be, “One of the most beautiful in the state with breathtaking views.”

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Michael Dixon finishes first in 15K - Photo by  U.S. Candids

Michael Dixon, 28, of Fanwood was first in from the course that starts in an eastern direction on Leonardville Road continues for 9.3 miles on adjacent streets throughout hilly Navesink and returns to the finish line located just outside the Croydon Hall gymnasium, at a record-setting, blistering time of 49:46 (49 minutes and 46 seconds). This is 18 seconds faster than his also record-setting time of last year of this event. Somerset’s William Hubert, 25, was a distant second at 53:01 and third place went to Rich Burke, 43, of Morristown at 53:14.

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Start of Indian Trails Race - Photo mediaform jasonkim photograph

“No, the entire race I was out in front all by myself,” said Dixon when asked if there were anyone he had to catch in order to be the leader. “Just the motorcycle was in front of me,” the champion further offered. He was referring to the lead vehicle driven by Greg Drury, a Sandy Hooker. “This is one of the most challenging courses especially for a 15K,” he said and explained: “There are three long (and he emphasized ‘long’) hills.” He said,“ the weather was great, we did have headwinds at times, but the temperature was near perfect for running.”

Runner-up Hubert informed that he knew he could never catch the leader so he concentrated on coming in second. “There was a pack of three or four of us going back and forth for the lead but with about two miles to go I was able to get out in front and keep it.” The runner-up agreed with the champion about the weather: “A little windy here and there but overall just great.”

Racers have also been cautioned by the organizers over the years that, “ If you like fast and flat, sorry this course is not for you.” With that thought in mind, the women racers did reasonably well with women’s champion Catherine Smith, 38, of Wayne posting a 1:00:19 (22nd place overall) followed by Upper Montclair’s Alexandra Niles, 27, at 1:00:30 (24th overall) and third place woman went to Amy Nalven, 32, of Brick at 1:00:51 (28th overall). “Very, very hard course – at no time was there a part where you could just relax – it was hilly all the way,” said champion Smith.

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Catherine Smith crosses the finish -  photo by U.S. Candids

Dawn Ciccone of Highlands finished at 1:16:30 and although she was disappointed in her racing time because it was four minutes slower than last year she said, “the course is beautiful – it’s always very scenic, running through the woods and the neighborhoods and the volunteers at the water spots (four, organized by Moira Horan) were there to cheer us on – the weather could have been a little less windy but other than that it was beautiful.”

Red Bank’s Pam Allen finished at 1:22:45. “I am very happy with my performance – I ran exactly 10 minutes faster than I did last year,” she informed and thought the course “was either up or it was down, very hilly, there is no flat part.”

Long Branch’s Marilyn Ryder, active member of the Jersey Shore Running Club, has been recuperating from some surgery on her foot so was unable to compete this year. Her quote from last year regarding the scenic parts of the course gives the best overview: “It’s mostly farm land and woods and when you’re running across the top, at eight miles, you can look out and see all of Sandy Hook, all of Coney Island and all around the Leonardo Naval Station Pier (Google informs 2.9 miles long).”

Three-mile racers started with the 15Kers at 9 a.m. but were steered off to a shortened part of the main course that includes steep, very steep, Serpentine Road (many walk it). Matthew O’Donnell, 21, of Scotch Plains was the overall winner at 18:56 followed by Neil Vanartrijk, 49, of Burlington at 19:36 and Belleville’s Hector Mantari, 36, was third place at 20:14. The women’s winner was Kathleen Rocker, 45, of Metuchen at 20:52 (6th overall) followed by Oceanport’s Karen Kelly, 49, at 26:50 (13th overall) and third place for the women was Katie Winder, 25, of North Brunswick at 27:10 (15th overall).  

The Croydon Hall gymnasium was the staging area for the event and it was here that the aforementioned winners and age-group leaders were given money and plaque awards while enjoying refreshments of bagels, doughnuts and very delicious muffins. Split Second Racing did the computer results.

“I’m very pleased with the turnout - the volunteers are fantastic, Monmouth Conservation Foundation, the benefactor, was very cooperative, and many thanks to Middletown Recreation for their helpful efforts and also to the Middletown Police for excellent traffic control,” said the director, Doug Rice, in summing-up comments. Rice has directed all twenty of the Indian Trails Races. “I sure am” was his final statement when asked if he were looking forward to directing next year.

Other early or pre-registered leading finishers of the 15K hilly challenge:

   Herald area: Daniel Chawner 1:02:53 and Brian Hill 1:03:52, Middletown; Richard Brugger Jr. 1:04:55, Atl. Highlands; Bob Haithcock 1:05:04, Middletown; Geoffrey Nicholas 1:06:47; Paul Weber 1:07:41 and Chris Simon 1:09:37, Rumson; Danielle Wesse 1:13:50, Middletown; Karen Schuchardt 1:14:13, Atl.Highlands; Tom Ridgway 1:14:26, Rumson; James Wright 1:14:40, Sea Bright; Rick Moss 1:17:22, Middletown; Mike Walsh 1:17:26 and Elizabeth Cecil 1:17:45, Rumson; Bill Burke 1:18:29, Atl. Highlands; Sarah Blozen 1:19:30, Red Bank; Erin Martin 1:20:41, Fair Haven; Al Smuda 1:21:40, Highlands; Douglas J. Dalmedo 1:22:01, Rumson; Daniel Lamorte 1:25:16, Red Bank; James Kostulias 1:25:44, Fair Haven; Yossi Cohen 1:25:54 and Skaiste Cohen 1:25:55, West Keansburg; Justine Durdack1:26:19, Fair Haven.

   Other Monmouth County: Scott Linnell 1:05:08, Colts Neck; Brian Grimm 1:09:46, Manalapan; Cole Porter 1:10:00, Shrewsbury; Philip Cenatiempo 1:12:44, Manalapan; Brian Chew 1:13:46, Asbury Park; Chris Ferrone 1:13:54, Interlaken; Mike Washakowski 1:14:58, Ocean; Diane Williams 1:16:14, Avon; Benno Bachmann 1:16:50 and Sally Gough 1:16:52, Long Branch; P. Nowicki 1:17:06, Holmdel; Thomas Dayback 1:18:44, Tinton Falls; Hene Winters 1:19:10, Long Branch; Bob Peck 1:19:47, Howell; Greg Realmuto1:20:04, Englishtown; Dave Hoch 1:20:24 and Cara Pescatore 1:20:35, Bradley Beach; Melissa Waldrop 1:20:56, Long Branch; Scott Kearney 1:22:26, Tinton Falls; Brian Borden 1:23:11, Neptune; Jaime Gallagher 1:24:51, Wall; Michael Lynch 1:25:40 and Richard Tovar 1:25:57, Lincroft; Ralph Garfield 1:25:58, Manalapan; Dan Spedaliere 1:26:00, Long Branch.

Road-racing events continue in Allentown on April 9 with the Run With Eagles 5K at 9 a.m., info at 610-533-7524. On April 10 in Lakewood is the Blue Claws 5K Run at 10 a.m., info call 732-901-7000 x 120. On April 16 in Asbury Park at 8:30 a.m. is the RunAPalooza, three events: Jersey Shore Relay Marathon; Asbury Park Half Marathon; Two Mile Walk, info This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Down the road on May 8 at 9:30 a.m. is the annual Rumson-Fair Haven 5-Mile Run at the high school, info at 732-224-9374. Further down the road on May 15 at 9 a.m. is the Michael Thorne 4 Mile Run in West Long Branch at Franklyn Lake.