By TIM KELLY
Paul Gennaro knew the 49th running of the Captain Bill Gallagher Island Run on Saturday evening was there for the taking.
Gennaro, 25, from Worcester, Mass., was cruising along at race pace with two other competitors, Patrick McCurry and Shawn D’Andrea, between miles 4 and 5 when he sensed his opportunity.
“I felt them drop off a little bit, so I threw in a surge there to try to open up some daylight,” the former Boston University track and cross country star said.
It worked. By the time Gennaro reached the six-mile mark in front of the Sea Isle City Beach Patrol Headquarters building, he had opened a lead of nearly a minute over McCurry. He was never seriously challenged the rest of the way over the 10-mile beach and Promenade course.
A fourth place finisher in 2015, Gennaro coasted home in 55:55, well off Macharia Yuot’s course record of 51:17 set in 2006, but more than good enough to secure his first Sea Isle win, by 25 seconds over McCurry. D’Andrea took third in 56:30.
Still, running in punishing 80 degree heat and 75 percent humidity at the 5:30 p.m. start, Gennaro knew he had his work cut out for him.
“There’s no place to hide on this course,” he said. “The effort required here is greater than what is usual (to achieve a comparable) time,” he said.
Katie Rodden, a 26-year-old former Penn State runner from Ardmore, Pa., ran wire-to-wire to finish 16th overall in 1:02:28 and take the women’s division comfortably over 18-year-old Grace Forbes (1:04:47) and Brittany Eberson, 31, who finished in 1:07.36.
Kathleen Jobes’ women’s record of 57:56, set in 2009, was never threatened.
It was the second consecutive win for Rodden, whose race started off with a slight issue.
“I forgot to bring my watch. I’ve never done that before,” said Rodden, who noted that the well-marked mile markers and split times along the course helped make up for the lack of a personal timepiece.
“It really wasn’t a problem,” said Rodden, who said she’s been running marathons recently, including a qualifying finish at the Los Angeles Marathon for entry into the U.S. Olympic trials next February in Atlanta. “There are a lot of times I don’t really check my watch anyway.”
“I love this race,” Rodden said of Sea Isle. “The fan support is amazing. People are yelling ‘girl power!’ at me and being very encouraging. I love that. You don’t see it at a lot of races.”
The race, organized and sponsored by the Sea Isle City Beach Patrol, attracted more than 1,000 returned entry forms. Beach Patrol Chief Renny Steele said more than 900 competitors actually started the race and 711 finished.
Complete overall, age group and team results may be found at www.compuscore.com.
At the Captain Bill Gallagher Island Run, it’s not always about the elite runners.
Spectator Jim Holden of Allentown, Pa., waited at the finish for girlfriend Jenelle Mirro of Bath, Pa., where he dropped to one knee and proposed marriage. Mirro finished 346th overall in 1:33.21 and said “Yes.”
Former Courier-Post sports columnist Kevin Callahan was running his “fifth or sixth” island run, but his first with 25-year-old son Jackson.
“My strategy is to start slow and to finish even slower,” said Callahan, 58, a Medford resident who took the 701st overall spot. “I run this every few years just to prove to myself that I still can.”
Jackson Callahan finished 225th in 1:25:03.
The title defense plans of this year’s champions took on different priorities.
Gennaro is marrying Ailisa Jeffries next August 1, a week prior to next year’s event.
“I don’t know if I’ll be able to make it back here next year, but I’m definitely not going to be a stranger to this race,” Gennaro said.
Rodden said there was no doubt she will return to try for her third consecutive women’s crown.
“Oh yeah,” she said with a smile. “I’ll be back here. Making the Olympic Marathon trials is a pretty big deal. But so is winning here,” she said.