WALL, NJ - A patriotic field of 300 road racers, many garbed in red, white and blue as well as stars and stripes, began celebrating our nation’s 235th Independence Day on an overcast, warm and humid Fourth of July morning, by competing in the Wall Township Recreation’s twenty-second annual Firecracker Five (mile) race.

After a recorded rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner by Cher, organized by Spin Doctor (Herbert [Butch] Watt, Neptune), Fred Rummel, race director for all twenty-one years, asked the assembled and ready-to-go racers, “to please remain silent for a moment in honor of our military who are fighting for us to have the freedom to participate in a race such as this.” He then gave a three-command start and the racers were off at 8:35, following the lead vehicle driven by Patrolman Todd Kazanowski of the Wall Township police, and jockeying for positions on the 5-mile course that starts in front of the Wall Township Municipal Center on Allaire Avenue, follows adjacent Roads of Campbell, Bailey’s Corner and 18th Avenue for about four miles finishing its remaining distance within the fifty acres of the well-manicured Center with its finish line on an access road.

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Dave Slavinski crosses the finish

Dave Slavinski, 40, of Point Pleasant was the first to enter the finish-line chute, set up and organized, along with the other necessary equipment, by Anna Torres and her son of Eliteracing systems.com and cause the digital clock to display a racing time of 26:57 (26 minutes and 57 seconds. This is a minute and 33 seconds faster than last year’s winning time posted by a Charlottesville, VA competitor). Coming in second was Ross Baldwin, 24, of Summit at 27:48, followed closely by New Providence’s Kevin Lucid, also 24, at 27:50.

“For the first mile and a half there was a pack of three of us running together but then I went a little hard on the hills and that kept me out in front the rest of the way,” said Slavinski in describing his championship performance. “It’s a great course – it rolls enough to keep it interesting,” the champion offered and of the weather he immediately exclaimed, “It’s hot and humid!”  

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Bronauyn Oleary crosses the finish

Bronauyn Oleary, 26, of Cliffwood Beach was the first female finisher at 31:53 (10th place overall) followed by Kathy Kirpke, 45, of Avon at 34:24 (22nd overall) and third female was Manalapan’s Maggie Freeman, 41, at 35:02 (26th overall - Freeman is past vice-president of the Freehold Area Running Club).

“I went out with a group of gentlemen for the first mile,”said Oleary informing that she did not think any females were within that group. “As I ran along, I could hear some of the cheering observers saying, ‘here’s the first woman, here’s the first female’ so then I knew I was the lead woman.” When asked her thoughts on the course itself she said, “It’s great, it has bends and turns in it to break up the monotony and it has rolling hills and I like that.” Oleary agrees completely with Slavinsky regarding today’s weather: “Oh, it’s hot and humid out here today!”

John Fredericks of Brick was the leading racewalker at 50:57 followed by Herb Ehlers of Spring Lake at 1:00:43 and third was Perth Amboy’s Victor Martinez at 1:02:12. Maria Paul of Long Branch was the only woman racewalker and she scored a 55:24.

“I was hoping to get in under 36,” said Marty Fitzpatrick of Bradley Beach whose finishing time of 35:54 was satisfactory for him. He pointed out that the water spots on the course were plentiful and “not just the official spots but a lot of the homeowners were also offering us water along with their cheering and their welcome sprinklers.” Fitzpatrick also indicated that many of the JSRC racers will be familiar with the last part of the course because it’s the same as the Thursday Night Summer races.                        

Dave Demonico, champion runner, didn’t compete today but decided to offer patriotic music by way of his trumpet, at about the three-mile mark, to his many racing friends. Along with the trumpet he had his car radio loudly playing for this Independence Day John Philip Souza military marches.

Tinton Falls’ Matt Shafer, director of the annual CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) 5K for abused children that will soon be presented in Ocean Township at Joe Palaia Park was awarded third place prize in his 40-44 age group by finishing at 33:39, a highly respectable 6:44 per-mile pace. He offered some comments: “I was very pleased with my racing time and just had a lot of fun – a lot of our friends from the JSRC are here and it’s a well-organized race that Fred (race director) puts on every year for the community.” One of the many slogans Shafer has at his CASA race is “Children Should be Seen and Heard.”

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Joe Renzella, 69, Neptune City, a highly decorated Vietnam veteran with four Bronze Stars (two with Valor) and a Purple Heart who also has a CIB (Combat Infantry Badge) usually wins an award in his age group. But today he chose to run with his friend from Toms River Joe Placente, 79, a Korean veteran, dressed in stars and stripes, who with Renzella’s help ran the whole five miles carrying a 3’x 5’ Stars and Stripes flag atop a 6-foot pole.“Absolutely,” both veterans said when they were asked if they were glad they made this exhausting effort and both added a final comment: “God Bless America.” They finished at 1:03:54.

Renzella would continue his Independence Day celebration by going to the picnic area at Monmouth Park racetrack where he will meet other members of Chapter Twelve of the Vietnam Veterans Association and hopefully all wagers will be winners.

“A beautiful day and no major problems – every thing went smoothly,” said Deputy-Mayor Jeff Foster spokesman for the Wall Township First Aid and Rescue Squad when asked to comment on the day’s emergencies.

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At the finish line lending their expertise to the necessary activities were Phil Hinck, past-president (twice) of the Jersey Shore Running Club (JSRC) and club volunteers. All male finishers received a hand-held American flag and the female finishers were given a rose by Debbie Adamchak, of Wall, newly retired English teacher of Raritan High School in Hazlet along with Penny Hinck, wife of Phil.

The event includes a 3.5-mile leisure walk and a 1-mile Fun Run that gets underway prior to the start of the Firecracker Five main event. Hometowner Geoffrey Schroeder, who will be a third grader in the fall when school starts, won the mile at 8:01. “Not really,” he said when asked if he were satisfied with that racing time. “One time I ran 6:51,” he said in explanation.          

Kids Races, presented the evening before on the soccer field for ages 4 to12 with distances of 50 yards to 440 yards, are also part of this annual event but because of the bad weather it had to be cancelled.

Many government dignitaries were on hand to help Rummell in the many activities of the Firecraker Five including Mayor Ann Marie Conte, Deputy Mayor Jeff Foster and committeemen George Newberry, Todd Luttman and Clint Hoffman.

Rummel awarded sweatshirts and trophies to the aforementioned winners and age-group leaders at the Leo Kubaitis Amphitheatre on the grounds of the Complex. After the award ceremony the racers were invited to Bar Anticipation in Belmar for a buffet luncheon.

“The race was very successful with the help of fire, police and first-aid squads and with all the sponsors that help with the financial support. I want to acknowledge the patience of local motorists who had to be detoured for the safety of the racers. Thanks to the many volunteers in moment to moment work and to the runners/walkers without whom there is no Firecracker Five,” said the obviously pleased, popular director, when asked to summarize the day’s activities. Rummel has been director of the Firecracker Five for all its twenty-two years.

Other leading finishers of the Firecracker Five:

   Wall Township: Jeff Propert 29:29, Billy Buchbinder 34:31, Alex Karu 34:33, Katie Buchbinder 35:41, Charlie Muller 35:52, Anthony Sciorilli 36:12, Thomas Fay 38:09, Dan Decotiis 38:42, Megan Becht 39:17, Bridget Dudas 39:21, Garth Greer 40:31, William Harmer 41:01, Mike Jovania 41:20, Patte Morrison 41:25, John Mrowicki 41:26, Jaime Gallagher 41:39, Sarah Harmer 41:42, Casey Zalewski 41:43, Tim Harrington 42:44, Rich Switzer 43:06, Chris Decotiss 43:11, John Brannon 43:12, Richard Shaklee 43:21, Daniel Napoliton 43:46, Kristyn Suekow 43:55, Wendy McKnight 44:02, Howard Buchbinder 45:09, Tom Caru 45:15, Adam Puharic 46:42, Jeff Cryan 47:10, Jamie Jovanis 47:11, Mary Buchbinder 47:19.

   Herald area: Dave Nase 35:45, Oceanport; Richard A. Brugger Jr. 37:21, Atl. Highlands; Thomas Morrison 42:09, Highlands (president of JSRC, 2002); Pam Allen 42:34, Red Bank; Mary Moriarty 48:00, Highlands; Chuck Fallon 48:43 and Robert Van Clef 51:27, Middletown; Peter Sposato 53:56, Laurence Harbor.

   Other Monmouth County: Patrick Casterline 28:21, Bradley Beach; Gerard Pearlberg 28:31, Brielle; Pat Ford 29:11, Neptune City; Scott Linnell 32:42, Colts Neck; Bob Flannery 33:29, Manasquan; Jim Redeker 33:33, Lake Como; Matthew Jacobson 33:37, Marlboro; Steve Ludeking 34:39, Spring Lake; Michael Dangelo 35:50, Freehold; John Jankowski 35:53, Spring Lake Heights; Marty Fitzpatrick 35:54, Bradley Beach; John Wolfson 36:25, Ocean; Neil Carberry 36:35, Neptune; David Shotwell Jr. 36:51, Ocean Grove; Michael Oconnell 37:14, Belmar; Scott Parker 37:15, Neptune City; Martin Veilleux 37:18, Holmdel; Daniel Galvin 37:49, Spring Lake; Dave Dixson 37:51 and Thomas Cole 38:09, Manasquan; Bethany Rivera 38:27, Hazlet; Matt Calderone 38:39, Ocean; Wayne Foster 39:03, Manasquan; Mary Whitehead 39:14, Spring Lake; Maria Lehamn 39:23, Elberon; Brian Borden 39:28, Neptune City; Cliff Whitehead 39:31, Spring Lake; Brian Clossey 39:51, Ocean Grove.

Road racing continues on Saturday, July 9, with the 35th anniversary of the Belmar Five Mile Run presented by the Boro of Belmar and the Goodwill Hose Fire Co. in collaboration with the Jersey Shore Running Club. More information at www.jsrc.org