Running a race can be a rewarding and/or challenging experience for those who lace up their sneakers, but for participants of the Sandy Hook 5K — held in honor of those whose lives were lost on 12/14 — this event has unique significance, especially for those from Newtown.
“Being from this town, it’s heartbreaking to have happen what happened,” said Sandy Hook’s Rachel Gottmeier, moments after crossing the finish line as the top female finisher at the March 29 race, which started and finished at Fairfield Hills.
Gottmeier, 35, came in 14th overall, crossing the finish line in a time of 21:13. Her placement, although quite impressive, was secondary to her just being there along with more than 1,000 runners and walkers. “Every year, I want to be here to support the town and families,” she said.
Newtown’s Kevin Hoyt, 23, was the top overall runner, coming in with a time of 16:20.
“It’s a great, great course — a lot of spirit out on the race course. A lot of people cheering,” said Hoyt, adding that the weather conditions were great for a race.
Race registration fees and proceeds of the second year race benefit the Newtown Memorial Fund, and Race Director Katie Blake is happy to have a variety of people in the community benefit from the event.
“I’m incredibly thrilled to have 1,200 people running the streets with the community. It’s just a wonderful thing,” Blake said. “It’s for the community as a whole.”
The rain held off and overcast skies and somewhat damp, 40-something degree air welcomed the runners.
Boys, girls, men, and women — including some participants pushing baby strollers — left the Fairfield Hills campus to upbeat music and supportive family and friends. They traversed the area streets — with more encouragement from residents — and came back to the campus to more claps and cheers.
Dustin Heslin, 27, of Plainville, was runner-up in 18:58. Nathan Steinebrey, 17, of Sandy Hook, was third in 19:07. Placing fourth was Riley Rising, 16, of Newtown, who came across in 19:27. The fifth-place finisher was Newtown’s David Oelberg, 50, who wrapped up his run in 19:50.
Stratford’s Brian Kowalsky, 24, was sixth in a time of 20:02. Luke Albrecht, 35, of Newtown, was seventh in 20:36. Kevin Grimes, 51, of Sandy Hook, placed eighth in 20:43. The ninth-place finisher was Malgorzata Kaczmarczyk, 38, of Shelton, who completed the run with a time of 20:45.
Newtown’s Joshua Bent and Joe Duval, both 14, finished together with the same time (20:46), and officially placed tenth and 11th, respectively. Jeff Steinebrey, 45, was 12th in 20:54, and Joe Mendonca, 21, of Bethel, came in 13th in 20:59.
The event, referred to as the Sandy Hook Run for Families a year ago, took place in Hartford in its first year after overwhelming interest resulted the race moving from Danbury where it was originally supposed to have taken place. The event reached maximum registration capacity of 15,000 and is recognized by Running USA as the world’s largest inaugural 5K, with 9,479 timed finishers and an additional 897 registered participants in the Kids Run.
This year, an unlimited number of individuals were permitted to register through a virtual runner option.
Results may be found online at plattsys.com.