Boys in the Van at 5K in Springs

‘Hopefully, the season will end with a banner’
Erik Engstrom, at left, who was sidelined with a stress fracture last spring, “is very fit now,” his coach, Kevin Barry, said at Monday’s Great Bonac road races in Springs. Jack Graves

The East Hampton High School boys and girls cross-country teams turned out in force for the Great Bonac 5K Monday morning in Springs, and the boys, who enjoy a preseason ranking of 10th in New York State, finished in a pack of five, a couple of minutes behind the 5K’s winner, Gerard Connelly, 18, of Nesconset.

Connelly’s time was 16 minutes and 55.52 seconds. Peter Heinz, 28, of East Hampton, was the 10K’s winner, in 37:47.18.

The women’s winner in the 5K was Patricia Salamy, 48, of East Hampton, in 20:57.27; Diana Fitzpatrick, 57, a former Bonacker visiting from San Francisco with her husband, Tim, topped the 10K women in 41:46.12.

The Great Bonac races, founded 38 years ago by Howard Lebwith, 85, who walked the 5K course that day, also brought out a large contingent from Steve Cuomo’s St. Joseph College-based Rolling Thunder track club, many of whose “intellectually delayed” competitors have contended in national and international events.

“Howard was the first to reach out to us, 20 years ago, when we had 15 members — now we have 163,” said Cuomo, who is soon to take a Rolling Thunder team to Quito, Ecuador, for the world track and field championships there.

“The world cross-country championships for these kids will be held at Sunken Meadow next April 2nd and 3rd,” added Cuomo, who lives in Shirley. “We’ve already got commitments from many countries. . . . I hope Howard can come. . . .”

It had been proved, Cuomo said, in answer to a question, that exercise, especially running, benefits those with autism in various ways. “The stimulus they get from running is like that which we get when we shake hands or hug. They love the feeling of the wind in their hair. They have trouble with groups, so they like it that they’re doing something by themselves . . . and then, of course, there’s the self-esteem aspect. One of our kids is in Chula Vista now training with the U.S. team, we’ve had one of our members represent the U.S. in Poland . . . a number of our little guys today will represent this country in the first-ever junior games for the disabled in 2018. . . . We’ve got clubs now in Nassau [at J.F.K.-Bellmore High School], one at Forest Hills, one in Boston began in April, and there may be a Rolling Thunder club in Minnesota soon. . . . We’ve come a long way.”

“Oh, and don’t forget to say our programs are free.” The club’s website is rtsnp.org.

Concerning East Hampton High’s boys cross-country team, its coach, Kevin Barry, said during a conversation at the finish line that “if we finish in a pack like we did today, we’ll never lose!”

There were, he said, 24 on the roster, including very strong senior and freshmen groups.

The Bonackers are expected to hit the ground running inasmuch as about a dozen of them have been training hard throughout the summer.

“The first three weeks of the season we’ve got byes,” said Barry, “so we’ll be going to weekend invitationals. I’m going to take our top seven to one this Saturday, in Wawrick, in Section I. Bayport-Blue Point [which is ranked seventh statewide, and which is in League VI, along with East Hampton, Miller Place, and Shoreham-Wading River] will be running in a meet at Penn State.”

The Wawrick Valley meet, Barry said, would provide Erik Engstrom, his top runner, who presumably would have won the 5K that day had he gone all-out — Connelly, a freshman at Adelphi now, said Engstrom, whom he’s known for a while now, was a better runner than he — a measuring stick vis-a-vis the statewide competition.

A stress fracture sidelined Engstrom during last spring’s track season, though Barry said “he’s very fit now.”

There are eight seniors on East Hampton’s team — Engstrom, T.J. Paradiso, Eric Perez, Eric Sanchez, Nick Pucci, Jackson Rafferty, Jimmy Makrianes, and Kyle McKee.

“We’ve got seven freshmen, a lot of them from Montauk, who are good too,” the coach added. “Hopefully, the seniors will end their careers with a banner on the wall . . . it will be tough, though.”

The Fitzpatricks, who married in 1991, met at the road races here. “This was the first race I ever ran, with my father,” she said. “I won the 19-and-under group.”

The couple, who coach high schoolers in Marin County and frequently serve as race directors these days — their most recent one being the Tamalpa Headlands 50K national trail championships — said that when they compete it’s not generally in 10Ks, but in longer (ultra) or shorter distances.

“We love the Bonac 10,” he said, in parting, adding that, as for congestion, they’d seen worse. “And Indian Wells is still the best beach there is,” she said.