WALL, NJ - A patriotic field of 310 road racers, many garbed in red, white and blue as well as stars and stripes, began celebrating our nation’s 236th Independence Day on a cloudy/sometimes rainy, warm and humid Fourth of July morning, by competing in the Wall Township Recreation’s twenty-third annual Firecracker Five (mile) race.

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photos courtesy www.jerseyshorepics.com

After a recorded rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner by Cher, organized by Spin Doctor (Herbert [Butch] Watt, Neptune), who also provided motivational music, Fred Rummel, race director for all twenty-three 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 Pat Scannell 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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Jeff Propert, 31, of Wall 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 Eliteracingsystems.com and cause the digital clock to display a racing time of 28:37 (28 minutes and 37 seconds). Coming in second was Joshua Kruppa, 15, of Howell at 28:48 followed by Charlottesville, VA’s Brian Kayser, 28, at 29:51.

“It was hot,” said Propert when asked what he thought of the weather, “hot and humid,” he further offered.

“We (Propert and Kruppa) kind of stayed side by side until about the third mile then he (Propert) put on an extra burst of speed and I let him go and was satisfied to be second,” said Kruppa in describing his runner-up performance. “It was hilly but for every uphill, there’s a downhill and I like that,” he said when asked his thoughts on the course. The runner-up, who will be a sophomore at Christian Brothers Academy, and today’s champion agreed on the weather: “hot and humid.”

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Denise Clark, 38, of Wall was the first female finisher at 34:45 (16th place overall) and close on her heels was her friend, Amy Nalven, 33, of Brick at 34:46 (17th overall). They actually were running together in the finish-line area but both decided that Denise would be first. Rounding out the top three females was Liz Wenslauskas, 43, Toms River at 35:15 (20th overall).

“I’m absolutely elated!” said Clark when asked what she thought of her performance and added, “this is a PR (Personal Record) for me.” Of the course, she said, “I thought it was great because although there are the challenging uphills there are plenty of downhills to recover on.” And of the weather, “we were lucky it held out and wasn’t stormy.”

Racewalking is also a foot race but it is different from “running” in that one foot must appear to be in contact with the ground at all times. Racewalkers are on their honor to follow that rule. This event’s racewalkers are John Fredericks 53:20, Bricktown;  Panseluta Geer 54:24, Hazlet;  Fred Linkhart 55:02, Oakhurst;  Ray Robertson 55:40, Ocean;  Dr. Pat Bovina 58:00, Clifton;  Phyllis Wenslauskas 61:46, Toms River;  Victor Martinez 64:08, Perth Amboy.  

“I wanted to break thirty minutes so I was a little disappointed,” said Pat Ford, 52, of Neptune City who scored 30:02.  Many, many racers of that age would be extremely happy to be able to run a 6:01 per mile pace. 

 Martin Fitzpatrick, 47, of Allenhurst, active member of the Jersey Shore Running Club (JSRC), commented that, “I love five-mile races,” and explained: “you don’t have to go out so fast, you can ease into the race.” Fitzpatrick finished at 37:01, a highly respectable 7:25 per-mile pace. “Fred Rummel is a good friend of mine and he does an excellent job,” he added.

“I first of all want to thank the volunteers at the water stops for their efforts today but there were also other people along the way who helped out too and I want to thank them also for providing water – God bless them,” said 81-year-old Harry Papirman of Whiting who posted a 49:15 which was a 9:51 per-mile pace. “The course is very challenging and it has a nice layout so if you want those two things, this is the course you should run,” he added.

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Joe Renzella, 70, 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, as he did last year, he chose to run with his friend from Toms River Joe Placente, 80, 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 1:06:24.

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.

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.

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

At the finish line lending their expertise to the necessary activities were Phil Hinck, past-president (twice) of the JSRC and club volunteers. All female finishers were given a rose by Debbie Adamchak, of Wall, recently retired English teacher of Raritan High School in Hazlet, along with other running-club members.  

The event includes a 2-mile leisure walk on the grounds of the Complex and Kids Races, which, this year was presented Sunday evening, July 1, at 6 p.m. on the soccer field for ages 4 to12 with distances of 50 yards to 220 yards.  

Many government dignitaries were on hand to help Rummell in the many activities of the Firecraker Five including 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 (names were printed on the event’s T-shirt), 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-three years.

Other leading finishers of the Firecracker Five:

   Wall Township:  Jack Goh 33:24,  Scott Jennings 35:15,  William Buchbinder 35:31,  Anthony Sciorilli 37:31,  Katie Buchbinder 37:59,  Kathleen Dailey 38:29,  Mike McLaughlin 39:13,  Blaine Reeher 39:47,  Tim Harrington 39:54,  Peter Gilbert 40:16,  Gart Greer 40:17,  Lauren Sanders 41:43,  Amanda Blauvelt 42:13,  David Brown 42:14,  Scott Goldman 42:19,  Sharon Condon 42:42,  Geoffrey Schroeder 43:15,  Matthew Johnson 43:23,  Tom Ridoux 43:24,  Howard Buchbinder 44:05,  Clare Eckel 44:25,  Mary Buchbinder 44:35,  Shayne McNally 44:44,  Dana McNally 44:45,  Daniel Napoliton 45:42,  Robert Truesdale 45:43.

   Herald area:  Dana Jacoby 36:57, Monmouth Beach;  Dawn Ciccone 37:36, Highlands;  Robert Hahn 39:35, Red Bank;  Cindy Carroll 40:00, Middleetown;  Mark Stodden 41:06, Sea Bright;  Frank Pugliese 43:46 and Pam Allen 43:49, Red Bank;  Steven Foley 45:18, Oceanport (former director Run Thru Deal);  Anthony Moro 46:18, Atl. Highlands;  Patricia Maloney-Horowitz 49:28, Locust;  Mary Young 51:23, Highlands;  Anthony Gentile 53:49 and Maureen Simons 54:07, Middletown;  Catherine Falicon 1:00:46, Rumson;  Elizabeth Ireland 1:01:53, Red Bank.

   Other Monmouth County:  Anthony Canova 31:55, Farmingdale;  Alex Lustig 32:16 and Kevin Harms 33:07, Brielle;  Scott Linnell 34:08, Colts Neck;  Jim Redeker 34:26, Lake Como;  Maatthew Jacobson 34:35, Marlboro;  Matt Shafer 34:49, Tinton Falls (director of CASA 5K);  Michael Walter 35:07, Eatontown;  Brian Sletnick 36:11, Manasquan;  Marty Veilleux 36:22, Holmdel;  Megan Becht 36:31, Manasquan;  Chris Ernst 37:07, Manasquan;  Michael Procopio 37:35, Bradley Beach;  Dave Dixson 37:36, Manasquan;  Barbara Feinstein 37:37, Morganville;  Richard Macko 37:39, Aberdeen;  Laura Agresta 37:59, Colts Neck;  Frank Gousman 38:42, Bradley Beach;  Jack Bleach 38:57, Belmar;  Jeff Ragle 39:16, Ocean;  Leslie Surburg 39:18, Farmingdale;  Lorainne Megill 39:20, Long Branch;  Richard Sanders 39:26, Spring Lake Heights;  Matt Calderone 39:31, Ocean;  Cheryl Tucker 39:38, Manasquan;  Chris Wolf 39:45, Howell;  Daniel Simon Sr. 39:48, Freehold;  John Odwyer 39:50, Tinton Falls.  

Road racing continues on Saturday, July 14, with the 36th 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 about upcoming races at www.jsrc.org. or www.farcnj.com