‘Over the Bridge’ Races Have Become Widely Popular After Just Three Years In Existence

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The first two years of the Hampton Bays Lions Club Over the Bridge races were considered great community events where locals would come to support various causes and charities. On Saturday morning, it was apparent at the third annual Over the Bridge 10K and 5K that the event has grown to include not only locals, but anyone who wants to be involved in a top-notch event.

A record turnout of 555 runners participated in the Over the Bridge 10K and 5K races, which surpasses last year’s turnout of about 500 people. The race is widely popular for its course, which takes runners over the Ponquogue Bridge in Hampton Bays and weaves around roads in the surrounding area before finishing at the Hampton Bays Middle School.

Greg Hayward, 32, of Glen Cove, won the 10K, or 6.2-mile race, in a course record 36:15.46, shattering the record of 38:38 set by Angel Rojas in the inaugural race three years ago. Last year’s 10K champion, Nick Berglin, finished second in 37:33.98, while Thomas Houghton placed third in 37:53.46. Christian Berglin, Nick’s twin brother, finished in fourth place at 39:03.75 and Efren Le Los Santos rounded out the top five of the 10K, finishing in 40:02.06.

Laura Brown was the first female 10K finisher in 42:16.10, which placed her 10th overall. Lauren Dorsky was the second female in at 42:47.67, while Raquel Miller was third in 42:59.03.

Hayward, who won the Firecracker 8K in Southampton Village in July and the Jamesport 10K two weeks ago, said he was gunning for the course record. Since he has family who lives in Hampton Bays, Hayward joked that there was a little pressure on him to win.

“Once we got to the bridge I took off,” he said. “I work a lot now on hills and different terrain and it helps, definitely, with the bridge, because there’s an incline, and I knew there would be. So once I got to the bridge it was all me, and a couple of the guys at the mile markers were saying, ‘You’re free and clear.’”

Brown, who runs in just about every local race, said it was her first time in the Over the Bridge 10K.

“I really liked it,” she said. “The bridge is beautiful. It was windy but very picturesque. They did a good job of holding the traffic.”

Two Westhampton Beach High School varsity runners, Roger Llivisaca and Graham Brown, crossed the finish line just tenths of a second apart in the 5K, or 3.1-mile race. Llivisaca was given credit with the win, finishing in 18:14.01, while Brown finished in 18:14.46. Eduardo Garcia finished third in 19:48.20.

Hannah Gallo was the first female to finish the 5K, 14th overall, in 22:28.80. Meg Tuthill and Devyn O’Brien were the next female finishers in at 24:08.06 and 24:08.20, respectively.

Full results for both runs can be found at www.island-timing.com.

Race director Frank Butz, one of 40 members from the Hampton Bays Lions Club involved in the race, said there are many reasons why the race has continued to grow. He said increased advertising has helped, and that the weather was perfect for Saturday’s race.

“Also, the involvement of the Long Island Board of Realtors really helped this year,” Butz said. “They are one of the platinum sponsors for the race and they featured the event on their website. There are 20,000 members in their group and they made phone calls to all of those members, so I think that helped out in terms of numbers as well.”

Proceeds from the race will continue to help people with vision problems, Butz said. This year the club is sponsoring six seeing-eye dogs through the Smithtown Guide Dog Foundation, three of which will go to returning war veterans. The Hampton Bays Lions Club also donates funds to the Dominican Sisters, who help families in need, and has also provided scholarships for students in the Hampton Bays and Westhampton Beach school districts.

The Hampton Bays Public Library, St. Rosalie’s Food Pantry of Hampton Bays, Hampton Bays Little League and local Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts all will benefit from the race as well as Maureen’s Haven, which provides shelter and support to homeless adults on the East End.

Butz said many of the volunteers should get a lot of credit for the races going as smoothly as they did.

“We had so much community involvement,” he said. “The Coast Guard was there making sure everything with the bridge went well. The Boy Scouts were doing the water stations, along with the Hampton Bays girl track teams. And a lot of private individuals who just wanted to volunteer helped out, as did high school students, who were looking to do some volunteer work.

“With everyone pitching in it went smoothly,” Butz added. “It was a lot of fun.”

Hampton Bays Lions Club president Tony Villareale said much of the work that Butz puts in year-round is what has helped make the event grow.

“He’s so disciplined about going to other races and promoting our race,” he said of Butz. “Like I went to the Jamesport 10K a few weeks ago to promote and it seems like our race is more than just a Hampton Bays run. A lot of people already knew about it and people from all over Long Island now come to the race.

“I think we take for granted the venue we have right here in Hampton Bays,” Villareale said. “Going over that bridge is really spectacular.”

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