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Being that this was the final Sandy Hook 5K it was appropriate that a Sandy Hook resident was first to cross the finish line in the July 21 race, at Fairfield Hills. Sunny skies and comfortable temperatures in the upper 60s and lower 70s welcomed runners who participate in an effort to support those affected by 12/14. There were more than 1,500 5K and kid’s fun run participants.
Ryan McNerney, 16, was the top runner in the event, clocking in with a time of 17:35.
Linda Spooner, 43, made the trip from Sturbridge, Mass., and made the most of it by leading the way among females and placing tenth overall in 19:58.
“It feels really good,” McNerney said of winning the race, adding that the course is not so easy even though he is a cross country and track athlete at Immaculate High in Danbury who ran the Sandy Hook 5K for the first time.
“It’s kind of difficult. You have that gradual hill going back,” McNerney said.
“The hill was tough on the turnaround,” Spooner concurred.
Spooner is part of the Run 169 Towns Society, which strives to complete a race in all of Connecticut’s towns and cities.
“I wanted to run this one for years and when we knew it was the last one we knew we wanted to be a part of it,” said Spooner, who participated in the race along with her husband Josh and children Violet, 8, and Paige, 10.
Derek Gallo, 18, of Brookfield, was second in 18:05. Kevin Boughan, 42, of Sandy Hook, was third in 18:18. Plaisted Logan, 17, of New Milford, was fourth in 18:29. Jeffrey Townsend, 46, of Woodbridge, was fifth in 18:59.
Sandy Hook runner Christina Caron, 41, was second in the 40-49 age group, finishing in a time of 22:34.
Caron’s daughter, Isabelle Caron, 12, won the 12 and under grouping in a time of 25:56.
“We don’t run many races but this one we make a point to do every year,” Christina Caron said.
Race organizers, this year, participated in the run.
“That hill’s brutal. Everybody’s been talking about it for years. You get out there and it’s like it keeps going,” said race cofounder Katie Blake, adding that it was nice to see cofounder Matt Marcella running the race as well.
“It was an honor to be a part of it being one of the family members,” said Ian Hockley, who lost his son Dylan on 12/14.
Hockley ran the Sandy Hook 5K and is getting ready for a Ragnar Relay race in Germany in August, then running the New York City Half Marathon in the fall, benefiting Dylan’s Wings of Change.
Just before the Sandy Hook 5K started, Blake and Julie Brunelle, who have directed the race throughout the years, were among those who addressed the crowd from a stage set up near the starting and finish line.
“When we were on the stage it was absolutely overwhelmingly emotional to know we were up there for the last time. When Katie and I ran into the crowd [to begin the race] we were both crying,” Brunelle said. “We both carried handfuls of tissues on the course.”
Organizing a race and running a course each take a lot of preparation, commitment, and effort.
“They both have their own set of challenges but they also have equal rewards,” Blake said.
Having met so many people through the event. Seeing them year after year makes this particular race especially rewarding for Blake.
“It’s almost like a family reunion,” Blake said. “It’s bitter-sweet.”
There was a common thread in the messages delivered in pre-race speeches.
“While this race will end today our hope is that you’ll be inspired to help others when they are in need,” Brunelle said.
“There are at least 1.500 people here today so if we all do something it would have a powerful result and perpetuate the message from the race,” First Selectman Dan Rosenthal added.