Runners Go Cross Country In Challenging, Hilly Holcombe Hill 5K
They zig-zagged back and forth along the trails, up and down the hilly Holcombe Hill Wildlife Preserve property at 65 Great Hill Road, on June 9. Competitors — 47 in total — put their endurance and off-road running capabilities to the test in the Holcombe Hill 5K Trail Run to benefit the Newtown Forest Association and Reach. Participants were treated to comfortable, low-humidity, low-70s, sunny conditions.
Justin Halmose, the hockey goaltender-turned-runner who has become a household name in the world of Newtown road races in the past year, led the field by completing the ultra-challenging course in a time of 18:25.
To give an idea of how much more strenuous this scenic course is than even somewhat hilly road races in town, Halmose’s time was about a minute slower than his Run4Hunger 5K first-place finish a month ago.
“It’s challenging with the hills. I’m better at downhill than I am at uphill. I took the downhill speed, especially at the start, to gain momentum for my speed and kept pushing the pace,” Halmose said.
Halmose's Newtown High School cross country and track squad teammate Nick Jacobs was second in 19:22. Jacobs ran the race a couple of years ago and, along with his mom, Brandy Jacobs, conquered the course. Nick Jacobs has seen a lot of cross country courses through his high school competitions, and he has participated in 60-some road races, he estimates.
“Even for cross country, this has a surprising amount of hills. I still say this is the hardest 5K I’ve run in my life,” Nick Jacobs said.
Kathryn Hanson, for the second year in a row, was the top female runner; she completed the course — which ends with a steep uphill climb for good measure — in 11th place overall with a time of 29:27.
Mitchell Goden was third in 23:30; Bart Caterino came in fourth in a time of 26:07; Max Hanson was fifth in 26:12; Jonathan Gamble came in sixth in 26:31; Henry Prout finished in seventh, clocking in with a time of 23:40; Luke Albrecht was eighth in 26:49; Eric Hanson came in ninth in 27:11; and Mike Madden was tenth in 28:45.
There were as many as 60-plus years separating the youngsters and the most experienced runners. And it was a family outing for some, including Jen Humphreys, who laced up the running shoes along with children Jack and Jamie.
Regardless of age, level of competitiveness, and racing experience, the hilly terrain was both a struggle and welcomed setting for all involved.
“There were a lot of winding trails. You didn’t know what was around the next corner,” Kelly Urso said. “I like it for a change of pace for sure.”
Not only did the course feature ups and downs, but there were sunny and shady spots — about a 50-50 mixture, Urso said.
“It’s a very challenging course in that it’s both on trails and disproportionately hilly. But it’s for a great cause. Reach is a cause we’ve supported for a very long time,” Brandy Jacobs said of the nonprofit organization with a mission to connect kids and build relationships that change lives.
Newtown Forest Association is the oldest private land trust organization in Connecticut and is dedicated to preserving forests, agricultural lands, nature preserves, watersheds, and other open space lands in Newtown for the ongoing benefit of the plants, animals, and citizens of town.
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