NEWBURYPORT – Steve Hines stood at the finish line of last night’s second annual Flag Day 5K in Newburyport, smiling proudly after running the race that honors his son, Derek, who died in 2005 while serving his country in Afghanistan as a 1st lieutenant in the Army.
“It’s not a race, it’s an event,” Steve Hines said. “People are here for their flag and their country just like they’re here for Derek.”
The Hines family, which resides in Newburyport, is the inspiration behind a race that nearly set a Newburyport record for the largest turnout for a 5K. Last night’s race drew 1,698 runners, up from 1,030 last year, and just shy of the 1,872 that ran last year’s Yankee Homecoming 5K.
The race has been held on Flag Day each of the first two years, and the proceeds go to the 1st Lt. Derek Hines Soldiers Assistance Fund, which provides financial assistance to wounded or deceased Massachusetts soldiers and their families. Although Flag Day falls on a Saturday next year, Steve Hines said he may stick to hosting the race on the Friday night before the holiday.
“There’s something about Friday night in Newburyport in the summer,” Hines said. “This is amazing.”
The winning time was also the fastest in recent memory in the Newburyport area. Bradford’s Pat Fullerton, a 24-year-old Stonehill College alumnus, won in 14:55.3, running an average mile pace of 4:49. Fullerton was less than 24 hours removed from placing third in the 5K at the United States Track and Field Championships in Hollis, N.H. He ran that downhill course in 13:59.2.
Fullerton hardly took a moment to catch his breath at the finish line before heading back to his job as manager of Greater Boston Running Company on Water Street.
Groveland’s Garry Cuneo, 27, was second in 16:26.0. Newburyport’s Keith Conway finished third in 16:46.4.
Newburyport’s Beth Dollas, 36, won the women’s race in 18:33.8. The Nock School sixth-grade math teacher ran as part of a team from the middle school. Dollas finished the Boston Marathon in April in 3:19.55.
“I try to do all of the local races, the ones that support local causes,” said Dollas, who is the wife of Newburyport girls basketball coach Gregg Dollas. “(Derek Hines) went to school in Newburyport, so we got a team together from the Nock.”
Beverly resident Tara Paulin, 35, was second among women in 18:51.7. Newburyport resident Lindsay Cullen was third in 19:05.6. Dollas was unaware what position she ranked among female runners during the race until spectators alerted her.
“I only knew because people kept saying, ‘First woman, first woman, first woman.’,” Dollas said. “You don’t know who’s behind you, and you don’t want to get outkicked at the end. I wasn’t expecting to win, but I came out to support the cause and do my best.”
Will Tyree, a member of the Army 173rd Airborne Division, made the trip from Framingham to run the race for the second year in a row. Tyree served with Hines in Afghanistan just before the Newburyport resident was killed in combat.
“When you do something in memory of someone like Derek, the word gets out,” said Tyree, who ran with a backpack and flag.
“Everybody want to support those types of things. They were able to get a bunch of people here, and it’s awesome.”