Runners Make Ripples in Stillwater
BY LAURIE GORDON
NEWTON, NJ--Nelson Ndereva did not return to defend his title and the course record, of 24:09.24, that he set last year. Impressive though it was, it would have only been good enough for second at the REBEL Stillwater Stampede Five Miler held June 1. At the young age of just 23, Yugoslavian Jenko Bensa, smattered Ndereva's time, running 23:46.47. New Balance North Jersey runners Steven Ondieki, 26, and Jackson Kipnsok, 41, both of Kenya, were second and third, respectively, running 24:15.53 and 25:44.01. "It was a hard course but one I liked," Bensa said after the race. "It's pretty up in this area." Ondieki was impressed with Bensa. "He's very good," he said. "I was with him until the third mile. Then we hit a big downhill and I just couldn't stay with him anymore. It was great competition." The two cruised through the first mile mark in 4:25, matching one another stride-for-stride. At two miles, they were at about 9:05, and at three miles were still maintaining sub 4:30 mile pace.
On the women's side, though the course record did not fall, 19-year-old Kenyan Grace Momanyi, ran an incredible race, going 29:07.55 for the five mile. "I thought the course was a good one," she said. "I will definitely come back here. The people cheering on the side are so nice and I like the trees up here." Pennsylvania girl Michelle Wolyniec, was second in 29:41.87, and Heather Gracie, who graces the race with her presence each year, was third.
Parin Masi, of Newton, and Andy Latincsics, of Hampton, were the first local finishers in the Stampede. Masi had a huge smile as she made her way though the finish chute and received her rose, which were given to the top 12 female finishers, from running fan and writer, Alen Gordon. "I like the hills," she said, "They're my favorite." Masi is coming off a strong Boston Marathon, which she ran in April. Latincsics also had a good showing in Boston but then sustained a slight knee injury. He's on the mend and certainly demonstrated that with a 27:00.56 seventh place finish. Of Bensa's time he said, "On this course? That's insane!"
And then there's the Sandy Livingston story. All race proceeds go to the Stillwater Bears Youth Running Program. Livingston, of Stillwater, has two kids, Phalon and Will, who are involved in the program. During the season, she's seen other Bears parents running. She decided that this year's Stampede would be her debut race. Despite the fact that she smokes and, with baby, Phoebe, and business, Northwest Mechanical Plumbing, doesn't have the time to train, she proudly handed in her registration form and stepped up to the starting line. "I am going to do this," she said prior to the race. She did. Face red from the heat and beaming with pride, Livingston crossed the line. A few minutes later, Phalon and Will lined up for the kids' one-mile race. Kittatinny wrestling superstar Will, won easily and then, in came Phalon, neck-and-neck with Hopatcong's Carl Jewell, vying for second place. Phalon unleashed her trademark kick to try to beat Jewell. It was then that the applauding crowd learned where Phalon and Will get that kick. As Phalon kicked, so did Sandy Livingston...on the sideline. Never had the crowd seen an adult with such speed, mind you, after having run her first five-mile race. In an instant, Livingston hurdled a bench and zapped around the final turn to catch Phalon's finish, all the while screaming at the top of her lungs. Responding to her mother's voice and her own, instinctive drive, Phalon, to the awe of the spectators, went into even more of a kick and beat Jewell out at the line for second place. With tears of joy streaming down her face--from her children's great performances and from the pride at having completed her own five mile--a very satisfied Livingston said, "This will get me to quit smoking. You don't know how happy I feel right now." Ironically, one of the race's two major sponsors was REBEL, a youth anti-smoking organization.
Bleary-eyed campers came out of their tents and crowds lined the course making this the most successful Stampede in its seven-year history. Race director Guy Gordon stated, "The atmosphere was something incredible. A lot of people said they learned about the race from The New Jersey Herald's coverage and we thank The Herald for that because consequently, our day-of-race registration was record-breaking. Our numbers tripled...that's unheard of!" He added, "It was a true testament to, and celebration of, the sport of running in Sussex County and all the positives it has to offer." Stampede Director of Volunteers Larry Gochman, who generously volunteers his time to travel in from Philadelphia each year said, "It went better than we ever expected. This was a great day and the Stillwater Bears program will again thrive in 2002 thanks to this race."
1. Janko Bensa 23:46.47
1. Grace Momanyi 29:07