By Gavin Menu
It was fitting that the winning result from the race named after Katy Stewart came down to a sprint to the finish between two spirited teenagers.
Erik Engstrom, a freshman track star at East Hampton High School, won the third annual Katy’s Courage 5K in Sag Harbor on Saturday with a course-record time of 16:32.8, less than two seconds faster than his teammate, Adam Cebulski, 17, who finished in second place.
Engstrom, 14, said afterwards that he went to preschool with Stewart, who died in 2010 at the age of 12 after battling a rare form of pediatric cancer, a fight that inspired entire communities across the East End.
“It’s true that out of suffering comes beauty sometimes,” said Sinead FitzGibbon, who, for the second consecutive year, was the overall female winner with a time of 19:15.1. “What’s equally amazing is what her family has done for the community. This event has kids from every school and adults from all walks of life.”
Stewart attended Sag Harbor Elementary School, her mother, Brigid, taught in East Hampton and Southampton, and is now an assistant principal in the Montauk School District, and her father, Jim, is a longtime teacher and coach at East Hampton High School. The result of those connections was a field of at least 1,200 runners and walkers —organizers ran out of registration forms and estimated hundreds of more participated—and a large crowd of spectators as well.
“This is a real community event,” Brigid Collins Stewart said after the race on Saturday, sending special thanks to Sag Harbor Elementary School teacher Nina Landi, who helps organize the race. “People who really loved Katy come out and support us.”
According to Stewart, Katy’s Courage raises funds to be split between scholarships for students at Pierson and East Hampton high schools, pediatric cancer research at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and plans to one day build a bereavement center on the East End for families struggling with cancer.
“Everyone here has been inspired or influenced by Katy,” said FitzGibbon, 42, who owns Manual Sports Physical Therapy in Sag Harbor and will be training this summer for the Hamptons Marathon in September. “This is one of my favorite courses, even though the 5K is the most painful distance.”
Engstrom, who runs the mile and two-mile in spring track for East Hampton, said Saturday’s time was a personal best for him in a 5K. Talk before the race began had Engstrom as a favorite considering the times he has been posting on the track this season.
“I thought I had a chance but I wasn’t sure who would show up,” said Engstrom, who barely outran Cebulski, his equally impressive track teammate in East Hampton. “I felt pretty confident.”
“It’s good to have someone to work with who can push you,” said Cebulski, adding with a smile, “but I think I’ll have to get him in the next one.”
Rounding out the top-three finishers was Rick Trojanowski, 38, who finished in 16:44.3. James Perry (17:25), Chris Reich (17:33.1), Jason Hancock (17:34.3) and Richard Temerian (17:44.2) placed in the top seven, all winning their respective age groups.
Tara Wilson, 26, finished in second place behind FitzGibbon among female finishers in 19:15.7. Dana Cebulski, 15, Adam Cebulski’s sister and another East Hampton track standout, was third among female finishers in 19:47.7.
For a complete list of results visit island-timing.com.