By 8:00 am on July 4, the streets leading south from Route 6 to Shipyard Park in Mattapoisett were beginning to show signs that something big was about to take place. By 8:30 am, nearly every available parking space was filled and the sidewalks and streets were swarming with people in a festive mood. Adrenaline mixed with barking dogs, laughing people cheerily greeting one another, and, oh yes, the occasional crying baby, filled the salt air. It was almost time for the 49thAnnual Mattapoisett July 4th Road Race.
Down at Shipyard Park, last minute entries were driving up the number of those who would run, walk, and, in several cases, stagger over the finish line. It was hot, and, without a cloud or breeze, the weather would prove to be a challenge for the racers.
Volunteers feverishly cut up hundreds of pounds of fruit and filled tubs with ice and bottled water. The chilled refreshments for race participants would soon be ready.
After Old Rochester Regional High School graduate Chelsea Nectow sang the Star-Spangled Banner to perfection, cheers roared as race officials prepared for the ‘ready-set-go.’ Eagerrunners, toes to the start line, patiently stood sweating with arms ready to pump and legs ready to sprint. Then it was “Go,” and they were off. Five hot miles sizzled under their feet.
In the front of the pack were runners who qualified for the position with either 30 minutes for males or 32 minutes for females. Then came all the other runners and, finally, the walkers and those participating while pushing a carriage.
At 26.01 minutes, the crowds lining Water Street announced the first runner was coming. Trevor Wysong of Taunton, 21, was the winner. The first woman was 23-year-old Mattapoisett resident Olivia Mondo clocking in at 31:25.
Mattapoisett’s local running celebrity Geoff Smith, 65, crossed the finish line at a respectable 39:44 minutes.
The youngest participants were those in the baby carriages, but of those who could actually run and registered to do so were two 6-year olds, Magnus Redsicker of Lansing, New York with a time of 53:09 minutes, and Finn Poulos of Mattapoisett with 59:57 minutes.
Colby Rottler, “70-something,” a well-known local resident, board member, and chef, did himself proud with a time of 1:07:08. Before the race began, Rottler told The Wanderer, “I’ve been doing this off and on for about 20 years.” He added, “You meet a lot of nice people; you see families and friends; it’s a nice, healthy exercise.” As far as the exercise part goes, Rottler has yet to convince his family; he has always run it alone while they cheer him on from the sidelines.
The most senior participant on this day was 85-year-old Larry Cole of Harwich. He said it was his tenth year coming to Mattapoisett, and every weekend he runs a race. His training schedule includes running five days a week. Cole is a former member of the Army’s 7thDivision 5thRCT and was in Korea between 1953-54. (Thank you for your service, Mr. Cole.)
With 2019 Road Race stats now in the digital record book, Dan White, the race mayor, and the race committee can focus on next year. A grand celebration is in the early planning stages, White said, for the race’s 50thanniversary. He said that it would be an opportunity to recognize the hundreds of volunteers who work so hard to make the event possible.
White shared that Donald Linhares has volunteered for 49 years, Ed Walsh and Ken Paste for 35 years, and Barry and Susan Perkins for 25 years. Sponsor and Mattapoisett resident Bob Brack has been a supporter for 20 years helping to defray the cost for the popular race t-shirts. Brack also ran the race over 20 times.
The history of the race is one of a community coming together. White said that back in the late 1980’s, “The original race organizers Bob and Doris Gardner and Betty and Gerry Olivia asked the newly formed ORR Alumni Association if they could take over the race. My wife Holly and I were involved with the association – we said yes.” He said that for 10 years they directed the race, stepping down in 2009. Bill Tilden stepped in as race director and White remains a vital contributor as course director and this year was the “mayor.”
Throughout the years, as the race has grown in popularity and importance to the community, the core philosophy of the organizers has remained the same, White stated: “One-hundred percent of all proceeds are for awards to graduating students who are running enthusiasts headed to college.” The organization itself is a non-profit under the ORR School district athletics program. As for the community’s support, White said, “The Town of Mattapoisett is our biggest supporter.”
To view all the race results visit www.racewire.com.
By Marilou Newell