By Jim Sullivan
---- — A steady rain couldn’t dampen the spirits of an estimated 800 runners who took part in one of three different races through the back roads of West Newbury yesterday in the 24th annual Apple Harvest Run.
“We had a great day,” said race director Sarah Rigoli. “It rained a little bit, but we always have a great turnout and great spectators. It’s a really beautiful course and I think the race speaks for itself.”
The run, which benefits the educational and cultural programs at West Newbury’s Dr. John C. Page Elementary School, has become a long-standing tradition and features a trio of different races. The afternoon started with a kids’ 1-Mile Fun-Run, followed by UASTF-certified 5-mile and 5K runs through rolling hills.
“We call it a challenging, beautiful course,” Rigoli said before thanking The Institution for Savings as well as the rest of the race sponsors. “We’re not in Colorado, we’re not making any major gains in elevation, but it is a challenging, hilly course with rolling hills. And it’s closed, so it is safe. It’s beautiful, it’s fall. The foliage is always gorgeous.”
Eric McDonald, 23, of Groveland placed first in the 5-mile race with a time of 25:43.
“I did this race back when I was in high school,” said McDonald. “Then I went off for college, and now I’m back, so I figured I’d do it again this year. This weather was perfect for running. Just when you were getting a little hot, you’d cool right back off again. A little bit of the mist helped it a lot. I’m glad that they are keeping this race on, and I think it keeps getting bigger and bigger each year.”
Brett Budzinski, 38, of North Andover was second at 28:33, and Jeff Kelly, 45, of Byfield finished third in 30:36. Amesbury’s Beth Dollas, 36, was first for the women in the 5-miler at 31:47, followed by Molly Evak, 30, of Pawtucket, Conn., (32:45) and Kelly Lecours, 48, of Bradford (34:17).
After a few years away from the sport, Tamra Thorne, 42, of Newbury was running her first Apple Harvest 5K and was greeted by her daughter, Addison, 7, who had run the Fun Run herself.
“I feel like I just ran up this enormous hill,” said Thorne. “I’m exhausted but (my kids) saw me running up across the finish line. So, I was happy to see that.”
Jane Ciccone, 39, of West Newbury won the women’s 5K with a time of 21:30. Merrimac’s Amy Fowler, 28, was second (22:25) and 12-year-old Siobhan O’Keefe of West Newbury (23:49) was third.
Stephen Tedeschi, 40, of West Newbury took second place in the men’s 5K with a time of 18:44 and had his three kids running the Fun Run and the 5K as well.
“I have a daughter who is in preschool and two sons who are at the Page (Elementary),” said Tedeschi. “It’s a great school. This is always a great event. They raise a ton of money and the kids are supper-happy at school.”
Bill Solimine, 53, of West Newbury won the men’s 5K at 17:58, and Groveland’s Billy Beaton, 23, was third at 18:59.
Page School sixth-grade math teacher John Peterson ran the 5-mile race while training for his next marathon after running this year’s Boston Marathon.
“It was very different,” said Peterson, who saw many of his students running the course with him. “I don’t usually see my former and present kids out there. It’s a very different experience having all of my students out there at the same time.”
“It was quite surprising,” Peterson’s student, Camden Musial, said of running the 5-mile race along with his teacher. “I’ve never done that in my life before.”
Amesbury High School senior Andy Reidy ran the 5-miler along with his sister and a pair of international friends: Jeanne-Marie Ryan, 32, of Dublin, Ireland, and Australia’s Sara Fuller, 32, both of whom enjoyed the New England scenery.
“My friends and I are orphans here in America, so they let us go running with them,” Ryan said of the Reidys. “So it’s a nice way to see the scenery.”
“It’s gorgeous,” Fuller said of the foliage. “Actually, I grew up in Tasmania, so we get a little bit of this, but not to the same extent.”