Paige Duca knew she wouldn’t go off course at the 23rd annual Ellen’s Run 5K on Sunday as she did in July at Jordan’s Run in Sag Harbor. Standing next to her on the starting line at Stony Brook Southampton Hospital, after all, was Erik Engstrom, a native of East Hampton who set a blazing pace in the early going before setting a new course record of 15:39.97.
“I was lucky enough to have people to chase today,” said Duca, adding that Sunday’s race was extra special because her mom, Linda, is a breast cancer survivor. Duca, 21, who is from Rockville Centre but spends summers in Montauk, was the first female to finish the race with a time of 17:18.09.
Duca is a rising senior at Boston College and an All-American miler, having run a personal-best time of 4:37 on an indoor track. She, like Engstrom, who will be a junior at the University of Massachusetts this fall, used Ellen’s Run as a final tune-up for the upcoming collegiate cross country season.
Duca, 21, and Engstrom, 20, compete in cross country and track at their respective colleges and both run the steeplechase, a demanding middle-distance event that includes barriers and water jumps, during spring track. They also both finished well clear of their nearest competitors on Saturday.
“I woke up and I was wearing a jacket before the race,” Engstrom said when asked about Sunday’s cool conditions, which set the stage for his record-setting performance. “This is my first race since Shelter Island. This one, I figured, I should test what kind of shape I’m in.”
The answer, clearly, was very good. Engstrom went out fast and ran his first mile in 4:40 before hitting the two-mile mark with a time of 9:50. The last mile and change, as a result, were a bit of a struggle. “I was just trying to hold on,” he said later.
Engstrom’s record time broke the mark of 15:40.96 set just last year by Troy Taylor. Dylan Fine, 21, was a distant second in 16:16.34 and Carter Weaver, 16, was third in 17:12.10.
Duca finished fourth overall and was more than a minute faster than the next female finisher, Jenny Donnelly, 27, who crossed in 18:21.19. Marielle Quintana, 29, was third in 18:27.89.
Complete results listing all 812 participants are available online at iresultslive.com.
Ellen’s Run is the signature fundraising event of The Ellen Hermanson Foundation and its breast health center at Stony Brook Southampton Hospital, where no patient is turned away for lack of insurance or inability to pay. The foundation also supports Ellen’s Well, which provides psychosocial support to its clients through counseling and group support.