Women Race to Help Those in Need



HOLMDEL, NJ--A sorority of 509 would-be road racers turned into cross-country competitors and challenged Holmdel Park's difficult 3.1 mile championship course by responding to the invitation of the Jersey Shore Running Club's 10th annual Saturday in the Park 5K, for women only, on the sunny, mid-80s temperatures, and humid morning of August 30.

At the starting line adjacent to the main building, Sister Janet M. Christenson, of the Sisters of Mercy and the founder-director of the Epiphany House of Long Branch and of Asbury Park, one of the event's beneficiaries of women organizations dedicated to "Women Taking Steps to Help Women," welcomed the racers and thanked them for getting involved. She informed that their fees and pledge donations go toward "serving women that have been battered and broken, who face outside obstacles of homelessness, unemployment, poverty, and domestic violence. They also face obstacles inside such as drug addiction, low self-esteem, and hopelessness." Sister added that the women's participation helped with getting places of safety so that hope could be realized and a new way of living could be learned. She further added, "You bring a lot of concern for others--your very presence here today is a way of reaching out to needy people you haven't even met--and I want to thank you for loving them." Sister's final comment reminded all that no matter what their racing time would be, "Everybody here today is a winner because you cared enough to participate."

After a fine rendition of the "Star-Spangled Banner" by Emily Whelan, who will be a freshman at Ocean Township High School this year, Phil Hinck, husband of Penny, the race director, gave a loud, "Ready, go!" as the official starter. The racers were then underway on the grueling grind of "one of the toughest cross-country courses in Monmouth County, maybe in all of New Jersey," offered John MacGilivary, NJ representative of the Road Runners Club of America, on hand to direct the Kids' Races, a part of the event. The first 1/3 mile is an uphill climb that eventually leads to a large recession which is commonly referred to as "the bowl" and then onto the last leg of the course: a winding downhill through woods to the straightaway finish contiguous to the main road.

Twelve-year-old Briana Jackucewicz of Farmingdale repeated last year's victory and was the first to cross the finish line at a racing time of 18:57 followed by Jackson's Jennifer Clausen at 19:21. Third was Alicia Kelly of Spring Lake Heights at 19:23.

"If it were less humid, it would have been perfect," said Briana when asked to comment on the weather. "The first part is a long hill and it's also grassy and that makes it uneven," she offered in describing her immediate thoughts on the course. Briana won the women's division of the Bradley Beach 5K just two weeks prior at a time of 17:39. Briana won this Saturday in the Park event three years ago as a nine-year-old in a very respectable 19:53.

The racewalk division was won by Donna Cetrulo at 33:31 followed by Maria Paul (34:45), both of Long Branch, and third was Hazlet's Panse Geer at 34:50. "The course is tough, but the cause is good," said Cetrulo, secretary of the Shore Athletic Club (SAC) and teacher in the Long Branch school system, when asked her immediate thoughts as she talked to Geer and Paul, who also nodded in agreement.

Red Bank's Elizabeth Ireland, past president of the Jersey Shore Running Club, finished at 36:36, good for third place in her age group 55-59, and said "it was very humid today," in commenting on the weather. When asked her thoughts on the course she offered that "it is tough and lovely--tough because of the hills and my old age, and lovely because of the spirit of the women on the course, everybody is pulling for each other."

If the event had an award for last place finisher it would have gone to Laura Caracappa of Port Reading (that's NJ not PA) who finished at 59:38 which earned her 509th place overall and 66th out of 66 in her age group of 45-49. "I enjoy Holmdel Park--I love the trails here--the event was very well organized, there were people along the way making sure you were on the right path and cheering you on and plenty of water was available if you needed it," said Caracappa who good-humoredly responded to the interview, echoing what Sister Janet said earlier, "Everybody…is a winner."

There are three beneficiaries of the event: Epiphany House of Asbury Park and Long Branch, which provides traditional housing and services to create and maintain a self-affirming life to homeless women and children who seek to recover from addiction; Providence House of Catholic Charities in Ocean County, which offers services to women and children who are affected by domestic violence; and Spring House of Eatontown, which provides interim housing to single, female parents and their families acting as a springboard to help residents gain self-sufficiency.

Since its inception, the Saturday in the Park 5K has raised over $118,000 and has created public awareness of options and services available to women. This year, donor pledges earned over $3,000 and JSRC member Marti Rettino of Matawan had the highest single amount with $500.

Tim McLoone, emcee, and Penny Hinck awarded picture frames with the 10th anniversary logo and a photo of last year's start to the aforementioned winners as well as age-group leaders and other special achievers on the Park's grounds near the finish-line area. Gifts were offered at a random drawing, due to the generosity of the business community. The main gift of a mountain bike, courtesy of DJ's Cycles, was won by Darlene Kapitan of Colts Neck. "I'm into bicycling so I'll definitely be using it," said Kapitan when asked about her intentions with her new prize.

Saturday in the Park is part of the Women's Distance Festival of the Road Runners Club of America which is an effort to encourage women's running at all levels. Through the RRCA sponsorship program, over 200 women-only races are presented annually, with over 40,000 women being involved over the past 22 years. Along with organizing the Kids Races, MacGilivary was here to note this fact and compliment Penny Hinck and all that served. To add to this idea an activity called the JSRC Women's 101 Beginning Running & Walking Program, which was initiated by the club last year, was continued. Eighty women completed the 5K race this day and each received a Certificate of Completion from the JSRC.

Nearly 200 volunteers were available for the myriad activities of putting on an event such as this and among them, serving as course marshals, were the cross-country students of Monmouth University and Shore Regional High School supervised by their respective coaches: Joseph Compagni and Mel Ullmeyer. John Kuhi and Hoyle Mozee of SAC were the official timers. John Eddy and Jennifer Thien organized the computer results. Walter MacGowan, president of SAC, was the morning announcer and used the loudspeaker system to direct and organize the racers as they arrived.

"I am extremely pleased with this year's turnout and want to thank our sponsors, the race committee, and the tremendous efforts of our volunteers. All components of the event merge together to produce a truly enjoyable day for the women runners and walkers, as well as raise awareness for the women's charities which need our support. Special thanks to Holmdel Park rangers for providing the beautiful setting, and to my husband, Phil, whose help with the race is immeasurable," concluded a deservedly, very proud Penny Hinck, race director. It should be noted that Phil Hinck directed the successful five-mile races in Spring Lake and Belmar and also the Red Bank George Sheehan Classic.