Saturday’s Katy’s Courage 5K road race in Sag Harbor, which inaugurated the running season here, was hugely well-attended with some estimates running as high as 1,200.
According to Bob Beattie’s Island-Timing crew, there were 1,087 finishers, including the late Katy Stewart’s paternal grandfather, Walt, a member of the national wrestling Hall of Fame, whose handshake remains firm at 88.
While the field was filled with schoolchildren, teachers, coaches, and friends of the Stewarts from throughout the East End, it could be fairly said that East Hampton, whose boys and girls track teams were out in force, won the day. A 14-year-old East Hampton High School freshman, Erik Engstrom, was the winner, in 16 minutes and 32.8 seconds, just two ticks ahead of his 17-year-old teammate, Adam Cebulski, a junior, whose time was 16:34.4. The two stellar distance runners, who often finish one-two in races, have been feeding off one another this season, a friendly competition that has been a boon to both.
Their coach, Chris Reich, who fully expects Engstrom will top his freshman record for the mile soon, and who placed fifth Saturday, in 17:33.1, said that he plans to run Cebulski in the 1,600 and Engstrom in the 3,200 in the home meet with Rocky Point Tuesday.
It’s a meet that Reich and his assistant, Luis Morales, who also ran that day, think is winnable. “If we win, it will be the first win for us in three years,” Reich said.
“It all comes down to how much they want it,” said Morales.
East Hampton’s boys team had 25, about half of its roster, at Katy’s Courage on Saturday; Shani Cuesta and her assistant, Jenn Reich, persuaded 38 Bonac girls to come out, one of whom, Dana Cebulski, 15, Adam’s sister, finished third among the women (and 23rd overall), in 19:47.7, behind Sinead FitzGibbon (19:15.1) and Tara Wilson (19:27.7).
FitzGibbon, a 42-year-old endurance athlete who lives in Sag Harbor, and who is in much demand as a physical therapist, was 19th over all, thus repeating her win of last year; Wilson, 26, was 20th, in 19:27.7.
Because of the aforementioned goers — Dana Cebulski might have put up more of a fight had she not been under the impression as she neared the finish line that there was a mile left to go — the field was of a higher quality this year than last when Richard Temerian, a part-time Bridgehampton resident, who’s now 54, broke the tape in 17:32.16. Temerian was seventh this time (behind Engstrom, Cebulski, Rick Trojanowski, James Perry, Reich, and Jason Hancock), in 17:44.2. Afterward, he cited Engstrom’s time as “great for a 14-year-old.”
It was clear, he added, that East Hampton had some good distance runners. Did it have any sprinters?
Reich, when asked, said, “Actually, we do. Wanya Reid, who’s not here today, has done an 11.9 in the 100 and a 23.9 in the 200. Hunter Kelsey’s right behind him.”
Even though East Hampton’s boys team has yet to win a meet this season, it is putting up points, as are East Hampton’s thus-far-winless girls.
Shani Cuesta and Jenn Reich know very well they’ve got some promising talent, though their charges are young, “mostly freshmen.”
In April 9’s meet here with a strong Amityville team (which won 92-56), Cebulski was a triple winner, in the 800, 1,500, and as the anchor of the 4-by-800 relay team; Amanda Calabrese won the 100 high hurdles and the pole vault, with a personal best height of 7 feet 6 inches; Morgan German won the 3,000, and Nina Piacentine won the 1,500-meter racewalk.
The other members of the 4-by-8 team were Devon Brown, Alyssa Bahel, and Lilah Minetree.
Bahel, moreover, was the runner-up to Cebulski in the 1,500. Other runners-up were Shannon Ryan, in the walk, Sadie Ward, in the 400 intermediate hurdles, Cecilia Blowe, in the 100, and Emma Modek, in the 3,000.
Third-place finishers were Ward, in the 100 high hurdles, Brown, in the 1,500, Kate Kavanaugh, in the walk, Blowe, in the 200 and in the long jump, and Daniella Dunphy, in the high jump.
Cuesta said there were numerous personal best performances that day — 47 of them by actual count.
As for Katy’s Courage, “We’re just getting started,” Katy Stewart’s mother, Brigid, told sportswriters after the race. Besides a $10,000 scholarship at Pierson, the nonprofit organization helps underwrite pediatric cancer research at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, and hopes in the future to award annually a scholarship at East Hampton High School, where Brigid Stewart’s husband, Jim, teaches, as well as establish a children’s bereavement center on the East End modeled after the one Jim, Brigid, and their son, Robert, visited in San Antonio, Tex., soon after Katy died of a rare form of liver cancer at the age of 12.