By Brandon B. QuinnWhile many in the field of the 34th annual Shelter Island 10K said that knowledge of the course—known for its grueling hills as much as its scenic surroundings—is essential, Ethiopian runner Ayele Megersa Feyisa, 25, needed no such preparation.
On a hot Saturday lacking the usual Shelter Island breeze, Feyisa won the event in a time of 28:59 (4:40 mile pace), despite never before setting foot on the island.
In fact, Feyisa, brought over by his manager and translator Alem Kahsay, has spent just three months in the United States prior to competing in the race on Saturday.
Feyisa won in a relative landslide, beating the second-place finisher, Amos Sang, 24, of Kenya, by more than a minute.
Sang, who along with Feyisa was part of a pack of four runners leading the field at the outset, finished with a time of 30:05. But by mile four, there was no pack left, and Feyisa was alone with no competitor in sight.
Despite the win, Feyisa was visibly disappointed moments after crossing the finish line.
According to Kahsay, Feyisa had his sights set on the course record set last year by Simon Ndirangu of Kenya, with a time of 28:37. During training in Central Park, Feyisa had been running a 28:29 10K pace.
“He felt very good out there despite the heat, but he lost time between miles four and five. [He] also lost time at the end, which is pretty confusing, especially with no one to follow. He’s very disappointed he didn’t beat the course record, but happy to win,” Kahsay said.
Rounding out the top five for the men were Girma Gebre, 20, New York City (30:26), Glarius Rop, 28, Springfield, MA (31:09) and Abdelhadi El Mouaziz, 36, Queens, NY (31:29).
Long Island native Katie DiCamillo, 26, (34:19) was the top female finisher and took 10th overall in the field of 973. It was her first win in a 10K, she said after the race. She previously finished fourth among women in the 2010 Shelter Island 10K.
“I’ve come in second a lot,” she said. “I’m just really, really excited.”
DiCamillo grew up in Garden City and went on to run at Providence College, where she now lives and trains. Getting the win on Father’s Day also had special meaning for her.
“My father, who taught me how to run, is here. So I’m happy to win this on Father’s Day weekend for him,” she said. “I forgot the course from last time, but the cheering is awesome throughout and I love the hills.”
Rounding out the top five for the women were Hirut Beyene Guangul, 21, New York City (34:33), Tsehay Gebre Getiso, 20, New York City (34:51), Askale Merachi, 26, Jackson Heights, NY (35:16), and Atalelech Asfaw, 36, Albuquerque, NM (35:35).
DiCamillo, who competes for the New Balance Boston running team, also added she had extra motivation to win because the race was dedicated to Boston after this year’s Boston Marathon bombing. In addition to shirts handed out bearing the words “We Run For Boston,” the immediate pre-race ceremonies began with a long moment of silence honoring victims of the bombings.
Shortly thereafter came the traditional rendition of the national anthem.
Like many of the runners, the young girl tasked with singing the anthem, Ariana Loriz, began to hit a wall about halfway through.
And like many of the runners, she was picked up by those around her.
Seemingly the entire crowd of runners at the starting line began belting out the words and finished the tune in unison.
“Race day means a lot to the community,” race founder and volunteer Cliff Clark said. “We love supporting the event, which in turn supports our schoolchildren, our ambulance service, our way of life. This event permeates the community in whole and that national anthem really sums up what it’s all about. We love the running community here on the island. They come, they run, they don’t pollute and they go home. They are great people and deserve a great race.”
Shelter Island 10K regulars and competitive running legends Joan Benoit Samuelson, 56, and Bill Rodgers, 65, participated in the race. Samuelson won gold for the U.S. in the inaugural women’s Olympic marathon in 1984; Rodgers participated in the Olympics for the U.S. in 1976 and won both the Boston and New York City Marathons.
Also Shelter Island 10K regulars are Peter Hawkins, 49, of Malverne and William Lehr, 55, of Shelter Island, who were the only two entries in the wheelchair division. For a good deal of the race, spectators lining the streets got to see the two friends out in front of the pack of elite runners.
Lehr said he first started competing on Shelter Island in the 1980s and has taken part in every race since 2000.
“They are very supportive of wheelchair competition so it’s a pleasure to continue to support this great event,” said Lehr, who mentored Hawkins and convinced him to give wheelchair athletics a try.
Despite being in a wheelchair, which Hawkins has been confined to since being a passenger in a car accident his senior year of high school, where he was a football and lacrosse letterman, Hawkins finished ninth overall for the second straight year.
In the male masters division, Joseph Ekuon, 43, of Kingston won with a time of 33:41, followed by Wil Widman Jr., 48, of North Babylon (36:52) and Randy McDermott, 41, of Potomac, MD (37:24).
In the female masters division, Lyubov Denisova, 41, of New York City won with a time of 37:52, followed by Samuelson (40:39) and Jacky Jenning, 43, Baltimore, MD.
The top five runners in both the male and female divisions receive prize money of $1,000, $500, $300, $200 and $150 accordingly. The top male and female also receive two round-trip travel certificates courtesy of JetBlue.
Proceeds from the event will benefit local charities such as East End Hospice, Timothy Hill Children’s Ranch and the Shelter Island Run Community Fund. In turn, the charities volunteer manpower and “work incredibly hard to make the race go off without a hitch,” according to Clark.
In addition to the 10K race, 302 participants ran the Shelter Island 5K, with Andrew Flood of Stamford, CT, taking the top prize with a time of 28:54.
At just 11 years old, Shelter Island native Kal Lewis took second place in the 5K with a time of 23:07.