Clausen Bests Tough Course, Competition at Women’s 5K

BY JIM ROBBINS

HOLMDEL, NJ--A sorority of 420 would-be road racers turned into cross-country competitors and challenged the difficult Holmdel Park’s 3.1 mile championship course by responding to the invitation of the Jersey Shore Running Club’s 11th annual Saturday in the Park 5K, for women only, on the calm, cloudy, high-70s-temperature morning of September 4.

At the starting line adjacent to the main building, Maria Ursino, Development Director of the Epiphany House 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, “I’m here this morning representing Sister Janet Christensen [of the Sisters of Mercy] who is Executive Director and Founder of Epiphany House. We are thrilled and would like to thank the Jersey Shore Running Club [JSRC] for sponsoring this event. This is eleven years running for Saturday in the Park [5K]. It is the largest women’s event in the state of New Jersey. Wow, that’s great! [applause]. The women we serve in Epiphany House struggle to deal with chemical abuse and addiction--the women face uphill struggles every single day of their lives--and in many respects you are a role model for those women. The amount of effort and time and dedication you spend each day in your training, running through all kinds of weather, facing uphill struggles and challenging yourselves to meet those struggles is something they need to do every single day. On behalf of those women, I would like to say thank you for being here, thank you for sticking with the struggle, and good luck to each of you in the race.”

At this point the racers were asked to provide a moment of silence in memory of Mary Conry, a member of the JSRC who had died recently. Many racers wore purple ribbons in her remembrance.

Then, after a fine rendition of the “Star-Spangled Banner” by Dawn Ciccone of Highlands, also a member of the JSRC, Phil Hinck, husband of Race Director Penny, gave a loud, “Ready, go!” as the official starter. The racers were on their way to the grueling grind of “one of the toughest cross-country courses in Monmouth County, maybe in all of New Jersey,” offered John MacGilivary, past NJ representative of the Road Runners Club of America, on hand to direct the Kids’ Races which began immediately after the main event. The first 1/3 of a mile is an uphill climb that eventually leads to a large recession which is commonly referred to as the “bowl” and when finished with that challenging downhill and uphill it’s about the halfway point. Then it’s flat for a short while and then onto the last leg: a winding downhill through woods to the straightaway finish, an open field contiguous to the main road.

Jennifer Clausen was the first to break the finish-line tape held by director Hinck and Jim Buckler of Old Bridge at a racing time of 19:10. “I love this course,” said the Jackson Township High School junior when asked to comment. “I love the hills and everything about it,” she added and further informed that her best time for a like distance was 17:32 at Ocean County Park at a school championship event.

“The only time I was near her was at the starting line,” said Jill Evarts of Middletown, the runner-up, when asked if she ever got close to Clausen. Evarts further informed that she was in a tight pack until about the half-mile when she went out alone and had the leader, Clausen, in her sight but knew that she would not be able to catch her. Evarts had to settle for second place in 19:39. Third was Toms River’s Amy O’Donnell in 20:06.

Hazlet’s Panse Geer was the first racewalker in and her finishing time was 35:24 followed by Arlene Savitsky at 36:31. Third racewalker was Jennifer Willis at 37:27. Both Savitsky and Willis are from Keansburg. “Excellent!” Geer exclaimed when asked her thoughts on the weather. “It’s not too humid, not too much sun, and it’s very pleasant in this park,” she added.

Nancy Thorne of Long Branch, co-director of the annual Michael Thorne Memorial Run in West Long Branch, dedicated to her fireman brother who died in the line of duty, finished the race at 25:35. “Considering the difficulty of the course, I was satisfied,” said Thorne when asked to comment on her racing time. “There are a lot of hills, and the terrain is rocky--it’s a cross-country course and I love it,” she further offered in describing the course.

The women’s champion of the recent annual Bradley Beach 5K Run, Laura Rhatigan of Brant Beach, had to settle for fifth place in 20:26, a very respectful 6:35 per-mile pace. “It’s a little hillier than Long Beach Island,” chuckled the Ocean County resident referring to the very flat area where she often works out when asked to share her thoughts on the course. “Yes, but just once a year!” she exclaimed when asked if she liked the course.

There are three beneficiaries of the event: Epiphany House, 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 and acts as a springboard to help residents gain self-sufficiency.

Since its inception, the Saturday in the Park 5K has raised over $135,000 and has created public awareness of options and services available to women. This year donor pledges earned over $2,300.

Tim McLoone, emcee, and Director Hinck awarded sets of commemorative glasses inscribed with the Saturday in the Park logo 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 Bike Haven of Fair Haven, was won by Elizabeth Ireland of Red Bank.

Saturday in the Park notes a special activity called the JSRC Women’s 101 Beginning Running Program which culminates in this event with several of the women completing the race and being presented with graduation certificates.

Also at the awards ceremony, Sally Kalksma, director of the Pine Beach 5K, informed all that John MacGilivary recently received the Fred Lebow Award for promoting women’s running which was presented to him on behalf of the RRCA and the New York Road Runners Club.

Many 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 Red Bank Regional High School, supervised by their coach Terra Sarnacki and organized by Hoyle Mozee and Larry Bergmayer, both veteran members of the Shore Athletic Club and JSRC. Walter MacGowan, president of SAC, was the morning emcee and used the loud speaker system to direct and organize the racers as they arrived. John Kuhi of Ocean, a member of SAC, was the official timer and the computer scoring was done by Fred and Anna Torres of Eliteracingsystems.com where complete results can be found.

“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. It should be noted that Phil Hinck, along with assisting at many Shore area races, directed the successful five-mile races in Spring Lake and Belmar and also the Red Bank George Sheehan Classic.