2017 Race Story

10K male winners 2017​First-place ​Bridge of Flowers Classic 10K winner John Busque (center) from Manchester, CT with second​-place ​winner​ Glarius Rop (left) ​of Agawam, MA, and ​third-place ​winner Scott Mindel ​of ​Burlington​, MA​, on the winners' platform after the 2017 race.​

Deeper field results in new winners for 39th Bridge of Flowers 10K

By Christian Avard

Special to the Independent

SHELBURNE FALLS – Former Bridge of Flowers Classic Race Director Mike McCusker made a big announcement before the 39th Annual Bridge of Flowers 10K Road Race on Saturday, Aug. 12. Five hundred-sixty-nine runners had registered for this year's 10K, “the highest quality field of runners in 10 years,” McCusker said.

That's for sure. There were two first-time winners in this year's Classic.
John Busque, 25, of Manchester, CT won the men's division with a time of 31:48 (5:08 pace) and Holly Rees, 24, of Somerville, MA won the women's division with a time of 37:05 (5:59 pace).

Dan Smith, the Classic 10K's new Elite Athlete Coordinator, attracted top runners through his connections in the Cambridge area, “the hub” for elite racers, he said. Greenfield Savings Bank sponsored this year’s Elite Runners.

Smith and new race Director Carole Appleton are applying for the Classic to be a New England Grand Prix race, as it has been in the past, for the 40th anniversary in 2018. The New England Grand Prix race series attracts top runners from all over New England and cash prizes are awarded. Smith and Appleton hope the Classic 10K will become a top destination for these runners.
“What's nice about this race is it's a challenge,” Smith said. “(Crittenden Hill) is an equalizer. You get fit people who run flats, and the hill gets them.”
Mother Nature, which brought hot, hazy, humid weather for the 2016 race, causing some runners to fall to the ground at the finish line and even heat exhaustion, this year brought an overnight rain that continued to the early morning, causing momentary dismay for Appleton.
“I woke up early [Saturday] morning and it was raining out. I said, 'No, this can't be happening!'” she said with a laugh. “[But] the weather became clear around 5 a.m. and I knew then it was going to turn out just fine.”

Steve Lewis Subaru 3K Charity Run/Walk

Two hundred-fifty-five runners and walkers participated in the Saturday’s Steve Lewis Subaru 3K Charity Run/Walk.

Wilbraham's Joni Beauvais, 32, ran in the 2016 race, when she was eight months pregnant, after having stress-fractureded her tibia in a May 2016 road race. Beauvais finished 23rd overall. She gave birth to her son Owen last fall and returned to win this year's 3K with a time of 11:55 (6:24 pace). Benjamin Roberts, 16, of Sunderland also finished with a time of 11:55 (6:24 pace) but Beauvais crossed the finish line first.
“I slowly came back to running in February, after I gave birth to Owen. I felt like my leg was going to break again and I really couldn't run more than one day a week. I slowly came back and I felt good today,” Beauvais said with a smile.
Toby Hughes, 13, of Shelburne Falls finished third in the men's division. His older brother, Owa, was last year's 3K winner.
“I've been running this my whole life and I wanted to place in the top three. It took throwing up in the end, but I finally did it. I'm satisfied,” Hughes said with a grin.
Rounding out the top 10 men were Bryan Dole, third place, 15, of Buckland with a time of 12:01; Edward Przybyla, 12, of Southampton at 12:56; Matthew Herron, 14, of Shelburne at 13:11; Samuel Jonas, 27, of Washington, D.C. at 13:14; Jake Mayer, 46, of Greenfield at 13:21; Jeff Quell, 37, of Stratford, CT at 13:27; David Lipinski, 61, of Adams at 13:29; and Anthony Lombardo, 62, of Portland, CT at 13:30.              

  Rounding out the top 10 women were second place finisher Elena Musiak, 35, of Easthampton at 13:05; third place finisher Heather Pierce, 27, of Buckland at 13:21; Hannah Poirier, 13, of Greenfield at 14:27; Deborah Zukowski, 60, Shelburne Falls at 14:46; Kaylee Shaw, 10, of Hubbardston at 14:53; Quincy Cayton, 21, of Stratford, CT at 14:57; Maggie Herlihy, 16, of Greenfield at 15:02; Johanna Guiod, 14, of Greenfield at 15:03; and Emily Dame, 16, of Baltimore, MD at 15:14.

The 10K Challenge

Busque held off 2016 winner Glarius Rop, 32, of Agawam, to win the 2017 Classic 10K Challenge on Saturday. Busque, Rop and Scott Mindel, 30, of Burlington, MA broke away from the front pack in the early going. Mindel fell behind Busque and Rop after the first mile, and it became two-person race.

Busque ran strong up Crittenden Hill, maintaining a 10-second lead over Rop. The two runners made it to the top of the hill and began their long descent. The descent is Rop's strength. Rop won last year's race by blazing past runner-up Eric Blake on the downhill section.
Near the bottom of the hill, Busque looked back and saw Rop running on his tail. Rop took over the lead going into the fourth mile, but Busque made his move on the flats. It was all over from there.
“Larius is a good downhill runner and he made a move at the top,” said Busque. “I let him go a little bit, but I wanted to stay in contact with him. At the flats, I pressed it and opened up some space. At the five-mile mark, I wasn't too gassed and I felt great.:
For Rop, a repeat win was not in the cards.
“I can do better when (the weather) is hotter,” Rop said, laughing. “I felt a little bit tired. I did a lot in the early going. My lead wasn't any better and by the four- to five-mile-mark I was just flat. I couldn't make any moves, and that's where I accepted my destiny.”
Holly Rees won the women's division wire-to-wire. Runner-up Emma Spencer, 27, of Cambridge finished five seconds behind Rees with a time of 38:10 (6:09 pace). Apryl Sabadosa, 33, of Westfield finished third in the women's division in last year's race and she finished in third place again this year. Her time was 38:20 (6:11 pace).

Rees, originally from Cambridge, England, was vacationing with her family in France prior to the race. They were staying in a hilly area and Rees took advantage of the hills to prepare for Crittenden Hill.
“My goal . . .was I wanted to run as slow as I could and to avoid having to walk. Once I do that, there's no way I'll get back running again,” Rees said. “I was so happy I didn't have to walk, and after the hill. I didn't know how the other ladies were going to fare, and I thought when I got up the hill, I thought maybe I could get it. It was a beautiful course.”

Rounding out the top 10 men were second-place finisher Rop with a time of 32:31 (5:14 pace); third-place finisher Mindel with a time of 33:15 (5:21 pace); Nicolai Naranjo, 28, of Allston at 33:25; Dennis Roache, 18, of Springfield at 33:44; Erick Blake, 38, of West Hartford, CT at  33:58; Kevin Quadrozzi, 29, of Wayland, MA at 34:14; Dan Smith, 39, of Shelburne Falls at 34:28; Jake Stookey, 41, of Clifton Park, NY at 35:22; and Morgan Marlow, 22, of Amherst at 35:23.                           

Rounding out the remaining top women were Karen Bertassa, 33, of Albany, NY at 39:10; Jenna Gigliotti, 24, of Northampton at 39:12; Pascaline Jevotich, 22, of Agawam at 40:26; Kelsey Allen, 34, of Wendell at 40:37; Hannah Brooker, 26, also of Albany at 41:10; Melissa Cooney, 38, of Holyoke at 41:36; and Meghan Davis, 16, of Plainfield.


Hilltown runners
More than 60 runners competed from the local hilltowns this year. The top finisher again was Smith, 39, who ran the same net time as he did last year, 34:28.

“It felt much easier for me,” Smith said of Saturday’s race. “The weather was much worse last year. The pace didn't feel as hard but the times were the same. I felt way better.”
Runner-up was Sam Rode, 19, of Colrain at 40:25 (6:31 pace) and third was John Schatz, 37, of Shelburne Falls at 41:07 (6:37 pace).

Rounding out the remaining top 10 male hilltown runners were Matthew Lamontagne, 21, of Plainfield at 41:13; Charles Leach, 37, of Shelburne Falls at 43:01; Nicholas Hertzler, 20, of Plainfield at 43:05; John Herron, 34, of Shelburne at 43:20; Seth Hoynoski, 17, of Shelburne Falls at 43:23; Sean Dacus, 47, of Conway at 43:26; and 2016 3K winner   Owa Hughes, 16, of Shelburne Falls at 43:50.
Finishing first among women hilltown runners was Meghan Davis, 16, of Plainfield with a time of 42:19 (6:49 pace). Runner-up was Madison Boucias, 20 of Buckland with a time of 44:20 (7:09 pace) and third was Angela Schatz, 34, of Shelburne Falls with a time of 47:26 (7:38 pace).  

Rounding out the remaining top 10 female hilltown runners were Lilliana Wells, 16, of Shelburne Falls at 47:28; Jackie Wells, 14, of Shelburne Falls at 47:29; Paulina Baltazar, 38, of Shelburne Falls at 49:36; Molly Cantor, 50, of Shelburne Falls at 50:42; Halley Glier, 20, of Shelburne Falls at 50:46; and Sandra Habel, 56, of Conway at 51:07.


A special hilltown runner

Again on the course for the 3K on Saturday was Ray Willis of Charlemont. Willis, 88, is a legend at the Classic and he didn't miss a beat this year.
Willis was graduated from Greenfield High School in 1947. He attended UMass/Amherst the following year and ran on the track team. He held two UMass track and field records in the 400 and 600 meters and left university, returning at the ago of 39 to obtain a degree in education. He taught at North Adams Middle School and Drury High School and coached their cross-country and track and field teams. Willis went on to the Franklin County Technical School in the late 1970s, where he was hired as athletic director. During his tenure, he started the boys’ and girls’ high school cross-country and track and field teams.
Willis ran off and on during those years, but at age 40 he starting running in road races. He has run the 10K Classic 26 times. His best time in the 10K Classic was 41 minutes . . .at age 52.

At 85, he switched to the Steve Lewis Subaru 3K Charity Run/Walk. This year was the third time Willis has run the 3K and, for the third straight year, he won the men's 80-and-older division. He finished overall in 199th place with a time of 30:47 (16:31 pace).  

Willis and runner-up Peter Nimkoff of Tomsham, ME raised their arms Saturday on the winners’ stand with medals around their necks as the crowd applauded.

Asked how much longer will he keep running, Willis said he has no plans to stop.
“I'm going to run as long as I can,” Willis said with a laugh. “It’s my hobby. Yesterday was a great race.”

Passing the torch
This year's Classic 10K saw a changing of the guard as McCusker, who founded the race 39 years ago, stepped down as race director — although he remained part of the process and as master of the award ceremony — and Appleton assumed those duties. When asked what it was like working with McCusker, Appleton said, “I couldn't have done this race without him . . .it’s a well-oiled machine for him.”
Appleton has never run in the Classic 10K but she's been a spectator over the years. When the opportunity arose to become the new director, she eagerly applied.

“It was kind of in my wheelhouse but for different logistics,” said the former bank manager and community relations specialist. “I thought it was a great opportunity and a great adventure.”

Appleton was pleased with Saturday’s race.

“We kinda knew the weather was going to be junky in the beginning and would clear up for the race. . .but people appreciated there were people cheering them on the route, and it really helped to have an Elite Athlete Coordinator that brought in runners from all over western Massachusetts — that gives us something to build on. . .They were very receptive racers,” Appleton said. “They had a good time and they were all appreciative of what we did, and it brought the community together.”

This year, the long-time finish line, registration, and tee shirt coordinators also retired, said Appleton, and she’s looking for new blood next year on the volunteer team.

“One of our goals for next year is to inject a different generation helping out. A lot of our volunteers have been doing it for years and want to take a step back, which is totally understandable. . .we still certainly appreciate all the knowledge that people have given.”
As to what’s in store next year for the special 40th Annual Bridge of Flowers Classic 10K, Appleton plans to start the process next week.

“I can't tell you everything,” Appleton said, laughing. “We are going to present to become a Grand Prix again, and we’re going to send out surveys to all the runners and volunteers, and we’re really going to listen to those folks to get some input to how we can move to the future. . .you’ve got to move with the times . . . but we don’t want to take away from the essence of the race.”


Virginia Ray contributed to this story.


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