PHOTO: Start of 2014 Firecracker 5-Mile Race. Photos credited to: www.jerseyshorepics.com
WALL, NJ - A patriotic field of 347 road racers, many garbed in red, white and blue as well as stars and stripes, began celebrating our nation’s 238th Independence Day on a drizzly/rainy, but not cold Fourth of July morning, by competing in Wall Township Recreation’s twenty-fifth annual Firecracker Five (mile) race.
After a recorded rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner by Cher, organized by Spin Doctor (Herbert [Butch] Watt, Neptune), who would also have provided motivational music, if the weatherman had been in a better temperament, Fred Rummel, race director for all twenty-five years, asked the assembled and ready-to-go racers, to “ please remain silent for a moment in honor of our military who have been and are now 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, schlepping through puddles at 8:35 a.m., following the lead police vehicle driven by Sergeant Michael Tozer of the Wall Township Police Department, and jockeying for positions on the 5-mile course that starts in front of the Wall Township Municipal Center on Allaire Road, 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.
PHOTO: Ken Walshak is first across the finish.
Ken Walshak, 22, of Babylon, NY was the first to enter the finish-line chute, set up and organized, along with the other necessary equipment, by Eliteracingsystems.com and cause the digital clock to display a racing time of 28:07 (28 minutes and 7 seconds), a speedy 5:38 per mile pace, even with the schlepping. Coming in second place was Marty McCormick, 34, of Arlington, VA at 28:53 followed by Matthew Grogan, 27, of Allenwood at 29:21.
“I was running with the second finisher until about the third mile when I took the lead and it stayed that way,” said Walshak in describing his championship performance.
PHOTO: Lauren Gilbert crosses the finish line.
Hometowner Lauren Gilbert, 31, was the first female finisher at 32:42 (18th place overall). Coming in second and third places, respectively, for the females were Brianna Feerst, 20, at 33:09 (20th overall) and Amy Nalven, 35, at 33:30 (23 overall), both of Brick.
Like the male champion, Gilbert informed that she too was running with the runner-up until about the third mile when she went into the lead and kept it.
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, 66, of Brick at 51:47 (2 minutes and 9 seconds faster than last year); Fred Linkhart, 61, of Oakhurst at 54:18 (27 seconds faster than last year); Ray Robertson, 70, of Brookline Village at 58:08.
Martin Fitzpatrick, 49, of Allenhurst, active member of the Jersey Shore Running Club (JSRC), commented that, “I love five-mile races,” (as compared to 5K (3.1 miles) races,” and explained: “You don’t have to go out so fast, you can ease into the race.” Fitzpatrick finished at 40:24, a highly respectable 8:05 per-mile pace. “Fred Rummel is a good friend of mine and he does an excellent job,” he added.
Joe Renzella, 72, 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 has done in the past few years, he chose to run with his friend from Toms River Joe Placente, 82, 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, even with the rain, and both added a final comment: “God Bless America.” They finished at 1:07:48 (19 seconds faster than last year).
“With the rain, it’s not the typical Firecracker Five weather,” said Steve Foley, 58, of Oceanport who finished at 42:30 (a minute and 18 seconds faster than last year).He further informed that typical means, “hot and humid.” Foley took a short hiatus from directing the annual Run Thru Deal in October but last year the Deal fireman was back at it and will also be directing this year. It is now a 5K distance and is scheduled as always, the Sunday before Columbus Day.
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 running friends. Hey Dave, both the male and female champions took their leads at the three-mile mark just about where you were blowing your trumpet. Maybe they heard you and got inspired, just a thought!
“No major problems – every thing went smoothly, even with the rain,” said Captain Jeffrey Foster of 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 his wife Penny, along with John Cheer, Patricia Hancock, and other club volunteers. All female finishers were given a rose by Debbie Adamchak, of Wall, recently retired English teacher of Raritan High School in Hazlet, while the male finishers got hand-held U.S. flags.
Many government dignitaries were on hand to help Rummell in the many activities of the Firecraker Five including Mayor Clinton C. Hoffman, committeemen Jeffrey W. Foster, Todd W. Luttman and committeewoman Ann Marie Conte.
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 Brian and Anna Torres of the Elite Racing Systems for the computer results and 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-five years.
Other leading finishers of the Firecracker Five:
Wall Township: Jeff Propert 30:27, Brian Tracey 31:53, Stauros Xanthacos 33:01, Casey Mullooly 33:40, Jayne Condon 34:27, Geoffrey Schroeder 34:48, Brendan Mullooly 34:59, Scott Jennings 35:56, Nick Gennusa 37:18, Tim Harrington 38:15, David Hudson 38:27, Megan Becht 38:38, Kymm Spillane 39:09, Oria Seidel 40:03, Ian Mooney 40:18.
Atlantic Highlands Herald area: Paul Dalessio 39:58, Midddletown; Norm Dannen 41:48, Rumson; Steve Foley 42;30, Oceanporrt; Gail Walsh 48:50, Middletown.
Other Monmouth County leaders: Thomas Edwards 30:14, Howell; Pat Ford 30:39, Neptune City; Matt Dunn 31:02, Lincroft; Chris Whitehead 32:01, Eatontown; Chad Safran 32:15, Freehold; Ethan Seltzer 32:20, Manalapan; Michael Radwanski 34:20, Neptune City; Scott Linnell 34:38, Colts Neck; Matthew Schaad 35:22, Manasquan; Matthew Jacobson 35:38, Marlboro; Tj Frabizio 36:27, Ocean; Garth Greer Jr. 36:28, Neptune City; Andrew Mazza 36:42, Manasquan.
Road racing events continue on Saturday, July 12, with the 38th 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 this event and other upcoming races at www.jsrc.org. or www.farcnj.com.