Rain Fails To Dampen the Spirit at Katy’s Courage 5K

Runners at the start of Saturday's rain-soaked Katy's Courage 5K in Sag Harbor. Gavin Menu photos

With rain coming down in buckets, Nina Landi was watching the clock. She was ready by 6 a.m. but by 7:30 she was concerned. The rain was plentiful, but runners for the annual Katy’s Courage 5K were scarce.

“And I thought to myself, ‘Well, what can you do?’”

But as the longtime race organizer saw in eight previous races, the community showed up once again for Katy’s Courage, despite a literal deluge on the appropriately-named Water Street in Sag Harbor.

“You didn’t notice how big the crowd was because they were all condensed in the tent,” said Landi, a kindergarten teacher at Sag Harbor Elementary and a friend of Jim Stewart and Brigid Collins, the parents of Katy Stewart, who died at the age of 12 after suffering from a rare form of pediatric liver cancer. “But went I went down to the starting line, there were a million people there. How great is it that everybody came out in this weather? Everyone is soaking wet, but they’re happy.”

East Hampton senior Ryan Fowkes was the overall winner on Saturday.

The rain was at its hardest for the start of the race but calmed a bit later as East Hampton High School senior Ryan Fowkes crossed the finish line in 15 minutes and 55 seconds to win his second consecutive Katy’s Courage 5K.

Fowkes, who runs on the East Hampton track team and specializes in the mile and 800 meters, bested his time from last year by 54 seconds. The George Washington-bound runner said the conditions, though difficult to navigate because of all the puddles, were actually favorable.

“It’s definitely a good cause and I was happy to come out here and run this race,” Fowkes said as he stood among an army of other runners from local track and cross country teams.

Former Southampton track star Gustavo Morastitla finished second in 16:00.74 and Pierson’s Ben McErlean was third in 17:59.61.

Ava Engstrom, another strong runner out of East Hampton, was the top overall female finisher in 20:37.78, and was followed closely by her teammate, Isabella Tarbet, who finished second among females in 20:58.80. Sofia Mancino (21:01.80) and Penelope Greene (21:15.17), who have both excelled on the Pierson cross country team in past years, finished third and fourth, respectively.

Kiera Martin, 9, an impressive up-and-coming young athlete at Sag Harbor Elementary, won the short course race is 18:58.68.

Complete results are listed online at elitefeats.com.

“We had some of the athletes say they enjoyed running in that kind of weather because it was a bit cooler and it made it easier on them,” Brigid Collins said later about the race conditions. “We’re friendly with so many people in the schools and all these people really help keep the charity alive. It’s always a fun event.”

The race is a major fundraiser for Katy’s Courage, which was founded in 2012 as a way to raise funds to support pediatric cancer research and to provide scholarships for local children. Katy’s Kids @CMEE is a relatively new program, located at the Children’s Museum of East Hampton, that supports children and families dealing with the loss of a loved one.

“We are always looking at how we can expand our services,” said Collins “We’ve had some good conversations recently in Riverhead with members of the school district there. We’re looking to expand our services in a Riverside facility along with CMEE when CMEE establishes their new space over there. We’re learning and growing.”

Pierson’s Ben McErlean pushing toward the finish on Saturday.

And speaking of learning and growing, Katy’s Courage for the last eight years has marked the beginning of the East End road racing circuit. It has also served as a stage for some of the area’s best young runners, including Pierson’s McErlean, who on Saturday said he has been training harder than ever. He also shaved considerable time off his finish in the same event last year.

“It’s a great way to start the season, third place against two of the best runners around,” said McErlean, who is only a sophomore. “There were also some great runners behind me. I just have to keep working hard.”

The race had a news sponsor this year in St. Charles Orthopedics, which was on site to provide therapy to runners both before and after the race. With the growth of road racing on the East End, there has been a corresponding increase in the amount of interested young runners, something Keith Levinson, the lead sports medicine physical therapist with the Port Jefferson-based company, keeps a close watch on.

“We like to tell runners you shouldn’t run to train, you should train to run,” Levinson said before the race. “We like to provide a lot of tools for runners in terms of strength and balance and coordination,” attributes, he noted, that would come in handy as the rain came down in sheets on Saturday.