WASHINGTON TWP. – Runners in Long Valley like to work up an appetite for their Thanksgiving Day meal.

The Memorial 5K Turkey Trot race/walk held at West Morris Central High School was a roaring success on Thursday. The initial offering boasted 453 runners, more than 300 more then organizers were expecting.

The run was originally held on Memorial Day to raise money for several school scholarships. It was taken over by the township recreation department this year and moved to Thanksgiving.

“It was fantastic,’’ organizer Sue Coscia said. “We thought we were going to have 100 people. I think we raised a lot of money. Yesterday, we had 345 entries and then we did a ton of walk-ons today at registration. It was really great. Since this race is now run in November we had the girls lacrosse team. The coach told the whole lacrosse team to run. There were a lot more students that were able to do it because they are not graduating. We had alumni coming back. We also had people who are here for Thanksgiving and were looking for something to do locally.’’

Runners from the township and surrounding communities braved the 30-degree morning chill to take in a two-lap romp around the grounds of the school.

Close To Home

The Kinney family, Laura, Jim and Mike, from Califon, were looking for a running event that was close to home.

“We decided to do one that didn’t have 20,000 other people running in it,’’ Jim Kinney said. “We went on-line to find the nearest one. Once you do it a few times it becomes part of the Thanksgiving Day tradition.’’

The West Morris Central Memorial 5K that was normally held in May started 11 years ago in the memory of West Morris athletes Kyleigh D’Alessio and Tanner Birch who died in an auto accident in 2005. Later on the event also included a memorial to former student Stephen Berstler who died of drowning a few years later. Over the years, the event funded the trio’s memorial scholarships as well as new recreational projects for the benefit of the township.

Sophomore West Morris lacrosse players Sarah McMahon and Julie Garry were too young to know the race honorees. However, they did know the run was beneficial for them. They were out with the rest of their team, staying active in the off-season.

“We did interval training after school to get ready for it,’’ Garry said. “We just do it to keep in shape. We are having a competition between ourselves.’’

David Barney, a Florida State University graduate student and track runner, took the men’s honors with a time of 17:01.4. He was visiting his friend, Taylor Brown, a 2014 West Morris graduate, who was planning to run but injured her foot and had to cheer him on from the sidelines instead.

“I was persuaded to do it,’’ Barney said. “I ran for all the people who couldn’t.’’

Andrew Brackmann placed second with a clocking of 17:55.7 and Luk Lusskin was third at 17:55.7.

Long Valley native Sierra Castaneda, a sophomore runner at Princeton University, was home for the holidays and won the women’s race. The 2015 West Morris graduate has strong feelings for the event.

“It has a special place in my heart,’’ Casteneda said. “I got my love of running from the (memorial) race. I run at Princeton and this is my first workout coming back from cross country. I’m getting ready for indoors. A race like this brings more people together, especially alumni like myself who wouldn’t be home in the middle of May. Everyone knows its for a good cause.’’

Casteneda won the women’s division of the 5K with a time of 20:55.7. Julia Trethaway, another West Morris grad, finished second at 21:46.7 and Brianna Deming placed third at 21:58.1.

The students of Benedict A. Cuccinella School were also given a school spirit cup for having the most entrants. The new honor, which will be shared among the grade schools, was initiated in order to get more younger runners involved in the race.

The event was the first running race ever sponsored by the township. Coscia said the Recreation Committee will meet next month to determine what changes need to be made for the following year, but for a first running, it went as smooth as could be expected.

By Mark Kitchin

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