Wetzel Wins Hither Hills Half-Marathon

“It wasn’t great for the spectators, but the runners didn’t mind it."
Rain didn’t faze the Hither Hills Half-Marathon’s participants as they set out Saturday morning. Jack Graves

Despite the rain, about 30 long-distance runners turned out for Saturday’s Hither Hills Half-Marathon, a double-looped trail run in the environs of Ed Ecker County Park at the end of Montauk’s Navy Road.

“It wasn’t great for the spectators, but the runners didn’t mind it,” said Sharon McCobb, the president of the Old Montauk Athletic Club, the race’s beneficiary. 

Eric Perez and Erik Engstrom led the way, Engstrom, a University of Massachusetts sophomore who recently finished fifth in the Atlantic 10 Conference’s steeplechase, crossing the Rod’s Valley finish line in 1 hour, 36 minutes, and 10 seconds. They were the winning men’s relay team.

The overall winner, in 1:43.50, was Nick Wetzel, who overtook Mike Bahel — the leader at the halfway point — at the end. Bahel, whose Body Tech fitness studios put this race on, finished in 1:44.40. 

Bahel’s daughter, Alyssa, who runs at Denison, was the female winner, in 1:49.34. Lucy Kohlhoff was the runner-up, in 1:55.34. 

Holly Li and Jacqueline Gravina-Wohlleb were the women’s relay champs, “because,” according to the latter, “Beth [Feit] got lost. Otherwise, she and Caroline [Cashin] would have won.” 

McCobb said there was no need for an asterisk. “In trail runs you’re supposed to follow the arrows,” she said.

The mixed relay winners were Diane O’Donnell and Kevin Barry.

McCobb and Henrika Conner announced that morning that Isabella Swanson, an East Hampton High School senior, would receive the club’s first $1,000 scholarship in memory of the late Bill O’Donnell, the OMAC William A. O’Donnell Youth Swimming Award, at the high school’s senior athletic awards banquet on June 7.

The scholarship is to be awarded each year to a swimmer “because swimming was Billy’s passion at the end,” McCobb said.

This fall, Swanson, a five-year letter winner, captained the high school’s league-champion girls swimming team, which placed sixth among 28 entries in the county meet, “a fantastic achievement for our small school,” Conner said.

In addition, the recipient-to-be has been on the Y.M.C.A.’s youth swim team, the Hurricanes, since she was a sixth grader, has lettered in softball for five years at the high school, represented the United States in the world lifesaving championships this fall, and has been on the United States Lifesaving  Association’s high performance squad for four years. She’s also been a front-runner in I-Tri’s sprint triathlons, and last August paddled from Montauk to Block Island, a 20-mile distance, as part of a Paddlers for Humanity fund-raiser.

“Her various swim coaches” — Tom Cohill, of the Hurricanes, and Craig Brierley, of the varsity team, among them — “readily agreed that she should be this award’s first recipient,” Conner said.