SANDY HOOK, NJ - Seven hundred and three (703) road racers competed in the 39th running of the Jersey Shore Half Marathon presented by the Shore Athletic Club (SAC) with the cooperation of the Freehold Area Running Club (FARC) and the Jersey Shore Running Club (JSRC) on the sunny, breezy Sunday morning of October 2, at the federal park of Gateway National Recreation Area - Sandy Hook.

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Jay McGovern crosses the finish.  Photos by Bob Both, jsrc.org

The first competitor to break the tape at the finish line, held by Linda Hyer, FARC officer, and race-director Isabel Meldrum, that is located on the main road outside Parking Lot E, which was also the starting area, was Jay McGovern, 32, of Atlantic Highlands at 1:15:14 (one hour, 15 minutes and 14 seconds). Jay’s twin brother, David, also of Atlantic Highlands was third place finisher at 1:19:42 and today’s runner up was Jason Gres, 37, of Monmouth Beach at 1:16:35. 

“No, from the beginning I was out in front,” said today’s champion when asked if he had to catch any runner to be the leader. “I was happy with it,” he said of his performance and explained: “I’m in the middle of training for the New York City Marathon and this was a good gauge/indicator for what I’m going to do.” His thoughts on the course: “It’s great because it’s flat and fast with picturesque scenery - the volunteers were also great and it was a good time” and of the weather he said, “It was perfect running weather, about 55 degrees, cool, no humidity and very little wind.”

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Dactilia Booth crosses the finish

First in for the women, from this double-loop course, which goes to a turnaround at the lighthouse area at the north end of Sandy Hook to complete the 13.1 mile distance, was Dactilia Booth, 35, of Long Branch at 1:22:55 (9th place overall). Second and third place for the women went to Beth Reed, 27, of New York City at 1:24:14 (10th overall) and Alyssa Douma, 24, of West Milford at 1:26:57 (17th overall).

“Yes, I was the leading woman the whole way,” informed Booth when asked and thought the course “was mainly flat, maybe a few hills,” but then decided to change the word “hills” to “inclines.” She said of the weather: “The temperature was great but there was a little breeze.”

Racewalk finishers: Ron Salvio 2:18:10, Whiting;  Maria Paul 2:24:28, Long Branch;  Patrick Bivona 2:30:35, Clifton;  Eliot Collins 2:48:40, Raritan;  Mary McDermott 2:55:06, Lawrenceville;  Elliott Denman 3:01:04, West Long Branch.

Wheelchair finishers: Chelsea Crytzer, 20, 1:07:53, Parsippany;  Bridgette Wise, 15, 1:23:20, Pipersville, PA.

Thomas Zarra, 54, of Bay Head is a member of the JSRC and SAC and can be seen competing in many of the Shore area races throughout the year and always is a top contender. Today was no different. He finished in 18th place out of the total 703 at 1:27:08 an impressive 6:40 per mile pace. He recalls doing his best time for this distance to be 1:20:30 here at this course about 15 years ago.

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Middletown’s John Gore finished at 1:36:51, a respectable 7:24 per mile pace and was greeted at the finish chute area by his wife Catherine and his children Marcus, 9, and Julia, soon to be 11, with a big sign that said: GREAT JOB DAD.

“This run, this course is awesome!” exclaimed Dawn Ciccone of Highlands who considers this course, “my own backyard and I train here a lot.” She likes the double loop because, “you get to see all the racers and many of them are my friends and we give high fives to each other.” She was just satisfied with her racing time of 1:43:11, but not elated. 

Amber Hart of Wall had a racing time of 1:30:34 and good for 29th place overall.  Hart was in first place for the women three years ago at a 5K at the Long Branch boardwalk during a northeast storm and when asked her thoughts on the weather for that race she said, “Windy, windy, windy!” Two years later at the Johnny Cobb Belmar Five Mile Race, held in July, she finished in the top ten females and temperatures were high that day and described it as “Hot, hot, hot!” Today she offered her thoughts on the weather in a similar, alliterative way: “Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful!” 

A special feature of this race is that water-drinking stations are strategically placed on the scenic course and serviced by different groups. A prize is offered to the group that expresses the most enthusiasm to the runners and this is decided by the racers’ votes. Donna Cetrulo, feature organizer, filed this report: “The Civil Air Patrol has been volunteering their services at the JSHM for several years.  The group is the official civilian auxiliary of the United States Air Force.  Members of the Civil Air Patrol, and their leaders come dressed in their uniforms ready for hard work.  In addition to many other duties, these high school students man a water stop.  They, along with Marlboro High School made up the high school division that run water stops.  Monmouth University, the perennial favorite, and Georgian Court University, were the two collegiate level teams.  Each brought a good number of enthusiastic volunteers.  After the runners and walkers finished the race, they were asked to choose their favorite water stop.  There was great debate about the merits of each team, but many people agreed that they all did a terrific job. In all elections however, there are winners. This year Monmouth University won at the collegiate level, and Marlboro High School at the high school level.  Once again our thanks to the young people and their coaches, advisers for providing the runners with water, and encouragement, and merriment.” 

At the starting line, Phil Hinck, past president of the JSRC (twice) and director of many local races, two of which are nationally recognized, informed the racers of the water stops and encouraged the participants to make use of them. Hinck then introduced road-racing champion of many Shore area events David Demonico of Ocean who gave a fine rendition of our Star-Spangled Banner on his trumpet. Hinck then got the Half Marathoners ready and voiced a loud “Ready, Set, GO” and the racers were off at 9 a.m. following the lead vehicle driven by the race director.  

The Sandy Hook Lighthouse 5K is part of this annual event and that race of 3.1 miles went off a few minutes after the main event and was led by bicyclist Rich Edwards, vice-president of FARC. Its course was part of the main course, including the same finishing-line chute, along with the vast parking lot itself. Ivo Casas, 24, of Elizabeth was the winner of the 133 total competitors at 17:24 (31 seconds faster than his winning time of this event last year). Lisa Namath, 36, of Wall was the women’s winner at 19:15 (4th overall).                                  

Post registration is a problem for this event since the Department of Interior prohibits any money exchange on its federal property so registration has to be off site. Tim McLoone was generous enough to offer the parking lot of his Sea Bright restaurant for post-registration purposes.  The committee members set up for this were retiree from the Long Branch school system Donna Cetrulo, Ocean; Carolyn Heuser, Freehold; Janet Bergum, Howell; Patty Hitman, Ocean; Marilyn Ryder, Long Branch and Paulette Matis a colleague of the director at Rutgers University.

Paul Roman, Emergency Medical Coordinator for the race and Assistant Howard Suffill, said that, “There were a few serious cases and we did have the normal amount of expected cuts and bruises.” They further informed that several organizations were on hand in case of need: the first aid squads of Highlands, Atlantic Highlands, Rumson and Middletown Township, which also included its bike team; the representatives of the Civil Air Patrol Bayshore Composite Squadron; the Communication Unit of the Monmouth County Sheriff’s Department; Paramedics from MONOC; Physicians from Jersey Shore Sports Medicine; chiropractors from the NJ Chiropractic Society; staffing and logistics from the Jersey Coast Chapter of American Red Cross.

Race director Isabel Meldrum, former president of both FARC and SAC and active racewalker, presented awards to the aforementioned winners and age-group leaders at the Parking Lot E's concession section, which served as the staging area. Overall winners received replicas of sand castles. Age-group leaders received seaside picture frames and replicas of lighthouses.  5K awards were sailboat replicas. Random prizes were available for the Lighthouse 5K participants. And the Half Marathoners had a sea scape painting by renowned Shore artist Avram Shapiro. A great picnic was provided at this oceanside location: hot soup, hot dogs, bagels, fruit and soft drinks. This race has been voted the best food race at the Jersey Shore.

"I'm very excited about the excellent turnout, 703 half-marathoners and 133 in the Lighthouse 5K, and want to thank all the racers for their support.  I want to acknowledge also the know-how cooperation we get from the volunteers (250 total) of the area clubs (SAC, FARC, JSRC).  Compliments, too, to the chairpeople of the organizing committee who did an outstanding job of food preparation and distribution for the athletes. I want to thank Donna Cetrulo, Linda Hyer, Mike O’Flaherty, Tom Wendel, Marcia and Avram Shapiro, Phil and Penny Hinck, Manny and Roberta Eisner, Fred and Anna Torres of Elite Racing Systems for all their help. I also want to recognize our sponsors: Charlie Rooney and McCloone’s Riverside Restaurant. A special thank you to the National Park Service Rangers who coordinate the traffic on the roads, also the Civil Air Patrol Cadets. The Half is a very special Jersey Shore event as it has its roots right here at Sandy Hook and this year marks 39 years of running at the Shore. It keeps on growing and my philosophy is that when you put on a quality event the runners will come out and support it. The Jersey Shore Half Marathon is a runners’ race put on for runners and by runners. I want to pay gratitude to you one and all. We hope to see you on September 30 2012. Our website is http://jerseyshorehalfmarathon.com.”  said director Meldrum in an E-mail overview. Meldrum has been involved in this event for 18 years, 15 as director.

Other finishers of the 13.1 mile challenge:

Atlantic Highlands Herald area leaders: Jessica Cini 1:30:08, Fair Haven;  Sara Amitrani 1:30:48, Red Bank;  Geoffrey Nicholas 1:31:18, Leonardo;  Thomas Schaefer 1:31:35, Keansburg;  Rich Bayer 1:31:37, Fair Haven;  Kristine Claussen 1:32:25, Atl. Highlands;  Adam Abbate 1:37:08, Belford;  Andrew MacLane 1:38:41, Middletown;  Maureen Massell 1:38:48 and David Wrede 1:40:08, Red Bank;  Howard Ross 1:43:57, Fair Haven;  Janet Malik Dorgan 1:44:53, Red Bank;  Daniel Loughran 1:45:31, Fair Haven;  Doug Mallach 1:46:15, Rumson;  Rick Moss 1:46:19, Midddletown;  Jeffrey Langa 1:46:44, Little Silver;  Adam Cook 1:46:49, Red Bank.    

Other leaders in Monmouth County:  Pat Ford 1:21:51, Neptune (2011 champion of Neptune City Day 5K);  Gary Wersinger 1:22:07, West Long Branch (competing again for the first time in five years);  Kevin Hart 1:26:54, Belmar;  Rob Ditota 1:29:54, Englishtown;  James Segal 1:30:16, Holmdel;  Brendan Ward 1:32:29, Long Branch;  Chester DeOliveira 1:33:23, West Long Branch;  Joseph Keagle 1:33:41, Long Branch;  Jim Redeker 1:33:34 and Lisa McGhee 1:35:29, Wall;  John Larson 1:36:15, Freehold;  Mark Fogarty 1:36:19, Hazlet;  Chelsea Knight 1:36:48, Long Branch;  Michael Studer 1:37:21, Freehold;  Frank Grasso 1:37:57, Wall.            

Complete results are at Eliteracingsystems.com.          

Road racing continues on October 9 with two events: Run Thru Deal 5K at 11 a.m. more info www.runthrudeal.com and the Little Silver Classic 5K at Red Bank Regional High School at 9:30 a.m. more info www.littlesilver5k.com