SOUTHINGTON – A cool autumn breeze swept through the streets of downtown Southington. Food trucks lined up as spectators waited at the finish line of the YMCA Apple Harvest Festival road race.
It’s been an annual scene in Southington for 42 years – a scene that returned Sunday morning after a virtual race in 2020.
“With the COVID year, we didn’t know what to expect this year,” said race director John Myers. “The participation was great. People are ready to meet again and get some exercise too.
The 5 mile race drew 223 runners of all speeds. Ben Spaulding was the first man to cross the finish line, clocking 29:03, 59 seconds faster than the second.
Spaulding, 39, is from Arlington, Massachusetts, but his wife is from Southington. He ran the Apple Harvest race in 2019 but skipped the virtual version in 2020.
Sunday’s victory was his first in any race.
“I have friends in my running club who (have) run this race in the past,” Spaulding said. “So it’s a good thing to brag now. “
Marzena Swietek, a 36-year-old from New Britain, was the first woman to complete the 5 mile. It was his first 5 mile race after running 5 km in the past. She crossed in 34:37.
The 5k race started at 8:45 am, 15 minutes after the 5 miles, and had many more runners: 835.
Brittany Telke, 32, from Bristol, was the best woman and the fourth overall rider with a time of 19:41. She came within 14 seconds of breaking the women’s record of 19:27 set in 2013 by Brittany Heninger
While Telke was on the verge of setting a new record, she wasn’t aiming for it. She actually used the race to prepare for the Run and Wag 5K race to be held in Cornwall on October 16th.
She said she wanted to go fast enough not to hold back her dog.
“I had no idea I was just (14) seconds off the record,” said Telke. “I’m going to have to come back and get the record next year. I didn’t know it was that easy.
Nathan Shnaider, an 18-year-old from Walpole, Massachusetts, finished first in the overall 5K at 5:41 pm. His dad has family and friends in Southington so he’s come to support them and run while he’s here.
Sunday marked Shnaider’s second time running the Apple Harvest Road Race. The first took place in 2017 during his second year of high school. He finished 27th overall with a time of 21:13.
“I enjoyed this race,” said Shnaider. “It was a great participation. I really like that when you’re done you end up in a festival area.
Shnaider studies at the University of Massachusetts, but he doesn’t run with the Division I Minutemen. He’s strictly a recreational runner now.
After the two big races were over, the “Little Fritter” race started at 10 am, with children running around Town Green.
The 1-mile YCUP race for fourth and fifth graders also took place on Sunday morning.
“It’s really good,” Telke said of having the race in person. “My son did the ‘Little Fritter’ race, so I’m pretty excited about it.
“That’s the only thing: there were still trail races and other races, but there were (no) kids races, so this is one of the first kids races available. I was pretty excited about it.
The Apple Harvest Festival continues next weekend from October 8-10. Shnaider relished the festival environment and the positive vibe.
“Everyone here has been wonderful, kind, friendly,” Shnaider said. “Honestly, it was great. “