HOLMDEL, NJ - A female group of 242 would-be-road racers started their post-Irene Hurricane/Labor Day weekend as cross-country competitors and challenged Holmdel Park's 3.1 mile championship course by responding to the invitation of the 18th annual Saturday in the Park Women's 5K, on the sunny, good-racing-weather morning of September 3. The event’s purpose is for “Women Taking Steps to Help Women” and is organized by the Jersey Shore Running Club (JSRC).

Start of 18th Annual Saturday in the Park Women’s 5K.  photos Bob Both - www.jsrc.org

After a fine rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner by Highlands’ Dawn Ciccone race-starter Phil Hinck, husband of Penny, the race director, gave a loud, "Ready, set, go” and the racers were underway on "one of the toughest cross-country courses in Monmouth County, maybe in all of New Jersey," offered the race starter. The first 1/3 of a mile is an uphill climb that eventually leads to a large recession, commonly referred to as the "bowl,” then continues onto the last leg of the course that winds downhill through woods to the straightaway finish contiguous to the main road. 

As she did last year, as well as the year before, seventeen-year-old Kristen Traub of Wayne broke the finish-line tape held by Penny Hinck, the race director and Diane Cheer, member of JSRC and co-director of the upcoming Brielle Hill and Dale 10K, and became the 2011 Saturday in the Park champion at a racing time of 19:06 (nineteen minutes and 6 seconds). This time is 12 seconds faster than her 2010 time, which was 26 seconds faster than her wnning time in 2009. All in all she has improved her speed by 38 seconds. Briana Gess, 13, of Haddonfield was second at 19:22 and third place went to Brick Township’s Briana Feerst, 17, at 19:34.

Kristen Traub triumphant for 3rd straight year, in a time of 19:06.

“My fastest time for a 5K was 18:45 right here on this course during the regular cross-country season,” informed today’s three-time champion and Eastern Christian senior who likes the course because it is “mental” she said and explained that, “you have to be ever alert the whole way.” She further added that she was not in front for the whole distance, “at the one-mile area I took the lead and kept it,” she said and of the weather: “it’s a perfect day for running, not too hot and not too cold and no wind.” Runner-up Gess agreed: “good for running,” she said.

 Panseluta (Panse) Geer of Hazlet was the racewalking champion  followed by Marie Valente of Lincroft at 44:48 and Holmdel’s  Kelly Maher at 47:08. "I like the course a lot, it has variety: there are uphills and downhills and some parts are flat and the bowl is very steep," Geer offered. "I like being part of this event and supporting the women in need," she added. Geer’s winning time for this race last year was 33:21, this year it is 30:28. Geer had successfully won awards for 10K racewalking events in the World Masters Athletics Championships in mid-July in California and her training for those races is the reason for her almost 3-minute faster racing time, she informed.

 Like Geer, Red Bank’s Pam Allen, member of the JSRC, finished at 37:02 last year and said, “I’m satisfied with my time - I am no longer competing in races but I wouldn’t miss this event. I’m glad to be contributing to this cause and I enjoy the camaraderie of the women that exists on this day.” Allen is now competing: her racing time this year was 26:51.

 Nancy Thorne of Long Branch who is the director of the annual Michael Thorne 4 Mile Scholarship Run presented the third Sunday in May in West Long Branch to honor her fireman brother who was killed while on duty, finished at 28:32, a respectable, on this course, 9:11 per mile pace. “I’m satisfied with my performance and the entire course was free of any debris from the Irene hurricane.  I love this women’s race – we have a women’s team Wine, Women and Running,” Thorne said when asked to comment. Those words are printed on the merlot (last year the color was green) singlet that she and eighteen other team members were wearing today.

Prior to the start of the race, Dawn Ciccone (singer of the National Anthem and JSRC active member) voiced over the loud speaker an appropriate thought that fit in with the main reason for this event: Women Taking Steps to Help Women.  "As we stand here today, we look at one another and recognize that we are someone’s wife, mother, sister and daughter, but beneath these important roles that we serve, let us also remember that we are women, united, supporting one another in the greatest challenge of life – and that challenge is to acknowledge our beauty, inside and out, to hold dear those unique gifts and talents that make each one of us magnificent (much applause). I am honored to stand among you and say you are beautiful! Let us remember that the woman who runs beside us, walks behind us or darts ahead of us, is our sister. Send her off with encouragement and love. Good Luck to all of you!

Old Bridge’s Jim Buckler, past JSRC President, acted as emcee for the awards ceremony. Penny Hinck and JSRC member Lorraine Buckler awarded silver key tags and embroidered caps to the aforementioned winners as well as age-group leaders and other special achievers near the tree-lined race finishing area. Gifts were offered at a random drawing, due to the generosity of the business community. The main gift was a cruiser bike, courtesy of Brielle Cyclery and JSRC Members Jack and Diane Cheer of Wall. During the post-race ceremony, a moment of silence was offered for Mary Conry, past JSRC member and for Chuck Whelan, a former race director of the event and past JSRC president, who lost his life four years ago after a long, heartbreaking illness, in recognition of their dedication to the JSRC and to Saturday in the Park.

"It was another great day organized by the Saturday in the Park Race Committee and the Jersey Shore Running Club. I am extremely pleased with this year's turnout, after the recent weather-related challenges for the local community. I want to thank our sponsors, the race committee and the tremendous efforts of our volunteers; all components of the event merge together to produce a truly enjoyable day for the women runners and walkers, as well as raise awareness for the women's charities which need our support. Special thanks also to Holmdel park rangers for providing the beautiful setting year after year, particularly impressive after last weekend's severe weather,” said director Hinck.

The Saturday in the Park event began as part of the Women's Distance Festival of the Road Runners' Club of America which was an effort to encourage women's running at all levels. JSRC continues with the tradition of offering a program to train women to run the Saturday in the Park race as their first 5K. Seventeen women and volunteer coaches participated in the JSRC Rundamentals Training Program, and several completed the race as their graduation event.

Since its inception, the Saturday in the Park 5K has raised over $195,000 and has created public awareness of options and services available to women. This year donor pledges earned nearly $1,200. Beneficiary organizations for the 2011 event are Manna House/Spring House, Cliffwood Beach, and Providence House of Ocean County.

Nearly 100 dedicated volunteers were available for the myriad activities of putting on an event such as this and among them, serving at the water stop, was a large contingent from New Jersey Natural Gas Company, an annual supporter of the race. Shore Athletic Club provided timing on the course and finish line. Elite Racing Systems organized the computer results. This event also includes kids’ races for 2 to 12-year-olds and about 25 participated.

Other leading finishers of the Holmdel Park challenge: (racing times from this early list might be off a fraction).

Holmdel: Jessica Moskal 26:16,  Alyssa Cuccurullo 27:00,  Ally Marchiano 27:15,  Jamie Roth 28:16,  Katerina Distler 28:24,  Antonietta Picascia 28:29,  Lauren Reidy 28:40,  Candy Wolkovitz 29:36,  Helen Burleigh 29:55,  Theresa Veilleux 30:03,  Marypat Abowd 30:48,  Nicole Pantaleone 31:05,  Lizzi Zelina 31:06,  Antonia Arena 31:08,  Danielle Pantaleone 31:14,  Emily Morgan 31:44,  Leah Von Essen 33:23,  Claudia Collyer 34:52,  Shannon Wall 34:53.

Herald area:  Molly Hellman 21:53, Fair Haven;  Tammie Bennett 22:08, Red Bank;  Courtney Howley 22:19, Sea Bright;  Christiana Rutkowski 22:48, Taylor Landis 23:18 and Marykate Himmelberg 23:19, Middletown;  Cassidy Weimer 23:24, Leonardo;  Danielle Vollaro 23:31 and Bridgette Laurence 24:02, Red Bank;  Dawn Ciccone 24:45, Highlands (singer and speaker);  Lauren Keenan 24:45, Leonardo;  Samantha Pagliarulo 24:50,  Lianne Donohue 25:03, Middletown;  Christine Caccamo 25:06 and Kirsten McLaughlin 25:15, Leonardo;  Sojie Gray 25:29, Fair Haven;  Patricia Watters 25:34, Red Bank;  Heather Green 25:55, Leonardo;  Brielle Howley 26:01, Sea Bright;  Kelly Mulvaney 26:28, Middletown;  Denise Moyer 26:44, Highlands;  Pam Allen 26:51, Red Bank;  Jill Alenier 27:44, Middletown;  Alexandria Howley 28:06, Sea Bright.

Other Monmouth County:  Tara Gangi 21:52, Manalapan;  Ann O’Dowd 22:29, Colts Neck;  Brianna Haspel 22:47 and Diane Rothman 23:35, Lincroft;  Jacqueline Jones 24:02, Ocean;  Liz Spector 24:49, Englishtown;  Nicole Valente 26:23, Lincroft;  Kimberly Walsh 26:48, Hazlet;  Mary Sullivan 27:45, Freehold;  Mary Beth Glaccum 27:46, Brielle;  Caitlin Herod 27:47, Oakhurst;  Claire Vilanova 27:48, Ocean;  Nancy Thorne 28:32, Long Branch;  Erin Yorks 28:50, Neptune City;  Maria Paul 28:58, Long Branch;  Alisa Molbert 28:59, Manalapan;  Donna Riopel 29:08, Morganville;  Lois Tassello 29:10 and Tania Uwais 29:12, Tinton Falls;  Reeta Lennon 29:18, Brick;  Susan Ardito 29:19, Ocean;  Theresa McKean 29:22, Tinton Falls (both Ardito and McKean were wearing merlot singlets). 

 Complete race results and runners photos are posted on the web at www.saturdayinthepark5k.org and www.jsrc.org.

Friends and relatives of runners and racewalkers, as well as the general public, should be aware that at the Belmar boardwalk, across from Dunkin Donuts on Sunday, September 11, at 6 p.m., is the annual Jersey Shore Memorial Run (not a race) which will memorialize all from the Jersey Shore who tragically died on that infamous day. There is no fee. Show up and jog quietly to Spring Lake with other fellow mourners and enjoy a special, solemn occasion. You won't regret having given of your time.