A former Harvard miler, Amar Kuchinad, won Sunday’s Giant Steps 5K in Amagansett, and Ashley West, 16, of East Hampton, was the women’s winner, a “first” for her in this event. The road race, which benefits the Pediatric Dental Fund of the Hamptons, drew about 100 competitors, a record.
Last year, West, who runs cross-country and track at East Hampton High School, was the runner-up to Barbara Gubbins, though Gubbins, apparently because of work, wasn’t at the starting line on Abram’s Landing Road Sunday morning.
West’s time was 21 minutes and 22 seconds, a personal record for her on this rolling course — and good for 12th over all among the 99 finishers. Kuchinad, 37, running at a brisk 5:52-per-mile pace, crossed the line in 18:10, eight seconds ahead of the 44-year-old Mike Bahel, owner of the Body Tech fitness centers in Amagansett and Montauk.
Kuchinad had good things to say about Bahel, the 56-year-old Mike Bottini (who placed fifth in 19:30), and West, all of whom had personal records that day, and all of whom are trained by John Conner, a former international-class miler and 800 runner who lives in Springs.
“We were together for the first mile and change,” the winner said of the lead group, which also included Tim Donahue and Nicholas Monagan, the eventual third and fourth-place finishers. “Then he [Bahel] pulled ahead. It was a pretty fast second mile. In the hills, I squeaked by Mike and tried to hold it together for the rest of the way. These guys are fabulous.”
When he heard Bahel was 44, Kuchinad said he hoped to be able to run as well at that age. “I love it out here,” the New Yorker continued, adding that he will do the Run for Ron 10K at Amagansett’s Fresh Pond Park this Saturday and Ellen’s Run in Southampton on Aug. 21.
He had done the Run for Ron last year, Kuchinad said, finishing “fourth or fifth.” This had been the first time he’d done Giant Steps. “Frankly,” he said with a smile, “I was hoping the course would be flatter.”
If it was flat he wanted, Bahel suggested he do the Shelter Island 5K on Oct. 16.
West, who has been training with Conner this summer and with Bill Herzog, East Hampton’s former longtime varsity boys track coach, credited a pre-race talk with Conner as having enabled her to run a personal best.
“Bill has me run at knee height in the bay and sometimes on the track he’ll have me pull a 30-pound sled,” West said, adding that she had expected Gubbins, who’s 51, but still very competitive in local races, to come Sunday. “She would have pushed me.”
Gubbins won among the women in this race last year (and was third over all) in 19:34.
While his 19:30 was 28 seconds faster than he’d done at the 2010 Giant Steps, Bottini said he was “still going after the elusive sub-19. . . . I think I could do it on a flat course.”
Kuchinad said he’d run the Fifth Avenue Mile last fall in 4:51, “which I felt pretty good about until I heard a 54-year-old had done a 4:33!”
The East Hampton Sports Camp was well represented, putting five counselors — Nick Monagan (who finished fourth in 19:17), Ben Latham, Jamie Tulp, Cory Lillie, and Miranda Lustig — on the line.
“This is the first year they’re offering a cup to the winning camp team,” said Mark Crandall’s Sports Camp partner, Eric Scoppetta. “And we were the only camp that entered.”
“There are no other camps,” Latham chimed in.
Crandall, whose Hoops 4 Hope mentoring program in Zimbabwe and South Africa is to benefit from a fund-raising party “with a great African band” at the Sportime tennis club in Amagansett this Saturday, was also among Sunday’s spectators.
On the way to the awards ceremony behind the Amagansett Firehouse, Crandall said that the organization’s Zimbabwe director, Ngoni Mukukula, would receive Hoops 4 Hope’s Ubuntu award this year, thus joining past recipients Larry Brown, Doc Rivers, and Bobbito Garcia.
Giant Steps’ age-group winners were Evan Boccia, 7, and his sister Olivia, 9, in the 9-and-under group; John Weed and Melissa Greenblatt in the 13-to-19s; Monagan and Emily Landeck in the 20-29s; John Nehme and Deanna Angello in the 30-39s; Bahel and Kimberly McAdam in the 40-49s; Bottini and Jean Mitchell in the 50-59s, and Paul Maidment and Elizabeth Sadoff in the 60-69s.
Maidment, who’s from East Hampton, also bettered his 2010 time that day, placing 17th over all in 22:58 (a 7:25 pace). He was overhead to say, “Just finishing is an achievement” on receiving his award.