Kal Lewis ran through a pair of costly missed turns at the front of the pack as he and nearly 800 other runners dealt with hot and humid conditions in the 24th running of Ellen’s Run at Stony Brook Southampton Hospital on Sunday morning.
Despite the mistakes, which, Lewis said, were the result of confusing messages from the lead car, the rising senior and state cross country champion from Shelter Island High School still coasted to an easy victory with a winning time of 16 minutes and 15.90 seconds in the 5K distance.
“My time should have been a lot faster,” Lewis, 17, said afterward. “The lead car was going in different directions. We would go right, and they would tell us to go straight, and then we would miss the turn, and other people would say ‘We have to go right here.’ It was back and forth and we did that twice. I probably could have run 15:55, or a 15:50.”
That still would have been off the record time set last year by another local running star in Erik Engstrom, a rising senior at the University of Massachusetts, who ran a 15:39.97 in last year’s race but was not in attendance on Sunday.
Caroline LeFrak, 35, finished second overall and was the first female finisher with a time of 17:13.42. She also said later that her time would have been faster if not for confusion at the front of the pack.
“It was very warm, very humid, and they did misdirect us twice, which was a little frustrating,” said LeFrak, who was a star during her competitive running days at Columbia University. “I thought with the heat, it just wouldn’t be a fast time, and I still ran fast even with the confusion.”
LeFrak also was the top female finisher in this summer’s Southampton Firecracker 8K and the Joe Koziarz Memorial 5K, so she still excels at those longer distances.
Speaking of excelling, Lewis is just getting started with what could turn into a top-tier collegiate running career. He won a New York State Class D cross country championship last fall and is looking to defend that title this coming season, with hopes of advancing to nationals in California later in the year.
It seems that every year, at least one or two elite local runners come out for Ellen’s Run, which helps fund the Ellen Hermanson Foundation, which has proven to be a major economic engine for treating breast cancer on the East End. Sunday’s crowds included runners both young and old, men and women, and competitors of all ages and talent levels. They gathered just a few steps from the entrance to the Ellen Hermanson Breast Center, which has made major strides in treating the disease since its opening 10 years ago.
“What this all means to the hospital is that we’re able to offer state-of-the-art breast health services to our community, and it’s a community with a tremendous amount of breast cancer,” Robert Chaloner, the chief administrative officer at Stony Brook Southampton Hospital, said as he stood near the finish line to welcome runners on Sunday.
“Nobody’s really sure why there’s a higher than average amount of breast cancer out here,” he added. “What it means to the community is they don’t need to travel to get the best health care available. They can be assured we have the latest and greatest technology.”
Chaloner said the hospital has had “a tremendous amount of momentum” in recent years with the merger with Stony Brook University Hospital and the opening this summer of the Phillips Family Cancer Center in Southampton two major accomplishments that followed in the footsteps of the new breast center.
“It really began with the board’s vision 15 years ago when the hospital came out of a difficult period to just reconnect with what the community needs,” Chaloner said. “Breast cancer was the first thing and that was the first jewel in our crown. It’s all about allowing the community’s needs and voices to drive our planning.”
Reached by phone on Monday, the event’s founder, Julie Ratner, whose sister, Ellen Hermanson, lost her battle with breast cancer in 1995, said she has always felt “bittersweet” on race day due to a surge in conflicting emotions.
“I feel bittersweet because it means my sister has been gone 25 years,” Ratner said. “Every year on race day I feel exuberant, jubilant and incredibly sad.”
Ratner said she does not discuss specific amounts of money raised by the event because the fundraising efforts continue well into the fall.
“What we have now is wonderful, but it’s going to grow and be better,” she said. “I know we’ve done really well, our gala was terrific and the run went very well. I’m grateful for every bit of support we get.”
Ratner added that the hospital would like to purchase a new state-of-the-art ultrasound system, which costs around $135,000, so some of the fundraising may go toward that purchase. “All technology is great for two or three years and then it’s out of date,” she said. “The challenge is to always stay current so we can offer the best services to these women.
“Our second project that we love is Ellen’s Well, which started in 2000,” Ratner added. “Edyle O’Brien is our social worker, and she is gifted and brilliant.”
As the runners continued to pour across the finish line on Sunday, it was Seth Bender, 38, who finished third in 17:19.13, Oscar Loranzo, 30, who finished fourth in 18:08.66 and Jaron Benjamin, 39, who was fifth in 18:23.25.
Tara Farrell finished second among females in 18:59.06, while Penelope Greene was third in 19:58.46.
Complete results are available online at iresultslive.com