Nina Landi has organized plenty of road races over the years, but none are like the Katy’s Courage 5K, which is so close to her heart.
“I was driving over the bridge this morning, and the sky was pink behind me, and the sun was rising ahead of me, and Katy was right there in the car with me,” said the longtime kindergarten teacher at Sag Harbor Elementary School who knew Katy Stewart well and on Saturday helped organize the eighth annual race that honors her memory.
“It’s the eighth year and it just doesn’t get smaller. It keeps getting bigger. The whole town is here,” Landi said, adding that the community around Katy’s parents, Jim and Brigid Stewart, keeps expanding along with their program, Katy’s Kids @CMEE, which supports families, and specifically children and teenagers, grieving the death of a loved one.
“It’s about that family and it’s about that legacy she left,” Landi said about Katy Stewart, who died at the age of 12 after suffering from a rare form of pediatric liver cancer. “It’s about courage and being strong to get through whatever life throws at you. I never saw that kid not smiling. Even in the last moments, she was helping everyone else get through everything. And now what Jim and Brigid are doing to help people — any one of us might need to be at CMEE for Katy’s Kids. They’re doing so many good things, and I’m honored to be friends with them and to be part of this.”
Eventually, the 727 entrants were corralled onto Long Island Avenue for the start of the race, and 16 minutes and 48.37 seconds later, Ryan Fowkes, 17, a junior at East Hampton High School, crossed the finish line to win the race. Brian Marciniak, 31, finished second in 17:35.23, and Omar Leon, 18, was third in 17:37.93.
“It was a little chilly out there, pretty windy,” said Fowkes, who specializes in the mile and two-mile on the East Hampton track team. “We’re full into track, so this is just another workout for me. Happy to come out of here with a win.”
With a time of 19:24.46, Tara Farrell, 39, of East Quogue, a familiar face on the local road-racing circuit, was the first overall female finisher, followed by Ava Engstrom (20:35.60) and Isabella Tarbet (20:35.60), who at 14 and 15 years old, respectively, are up-and-coming young stars on the local running scene.
Complete results are available online at elitefeats.com.
Most of the early finishers waited while hundreds of participants, young and old, runners and walkers, crossed the finish line on West Water Street.
“For us it’s always so heart-warming and touching that people remember us and support the cause,” said Brigid Stewart, who was joined by her husband and sons, Robert and Christopher, at the finish line. “It’s a special feeling. We feel Kate smiling down on us, and it feels to me like a wonderful and beautiful way to honor her memory.”
Stewart said her group is in the process of applying for a grant that will further expand the Katy’s Kids @CMEE program, which has plans to expand to Riverside when CMEE, which is short for the Children’s Museum of the East End, opens a new location in that area.
“We’re hoping this is the year we hire a program coordinator,” Stewart said on Saturday. “We’re definitely moving forward and making progress.”