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Running: Fitzgerald holds off young challenger

Chalk this one up for the “older” guys.

In running, young legs help, but veteran know-how comes in handy, too.

Shawn Fitzgerald’s sense of good timing — not to mention a good time — enabled the 44-year-old Cutchogue man to triumph for a second straight year Sunday morning in the 20th running of the Jamesport Sound to Bay 10K and 5K. Fitzgerald was pushed by a runner 27 years younger than him, Riverhead High School senior Ryan Carrick.

“My competition’s not getting older, but I am,” Fitzgerald joked. “He had some fresh legs. I was using old man tricks to try and get in front of him.”

The two ran neck and neck for the majority of the 6.2-mile race, which started at Iron Pier Beach in Northville and concluded at South Jamesport Beach, before Fitzgerald made his move. He passed the 6-3 Carrick at the four-mile mark.

“He just took off,” Carrick said. “I saw him and I just didn’t have it. He found that perfect crack. He found the perfect time to pass me.”

Fitzgerald said: “I passed him on a turn and accelerated and hoped that he wouldn’t come with me, and he didn’t … I was looking over my shoulder the whole time after I passed him.”

Fitzgerald is getting older, but he may also be getting faster. His winning time of 36 minutes, 45.55 seconds — a 5:55 mile pace — was a considerable reduction from the 37:23.07 he clocked last year.

“It was much better than last year, but I was hoping to do [even] a little bit better,” he said. “I’ve been training a little bit harder this year.”

Carrick, who had never run a race longer than 5K before and is training for the upcoming high school cross-country season, couldn’t complain about his second-place finish in 37:28.80. The next runner after him was James Malebranche of Bellmore (40:12.93). Garrett Kale of Temecula, Calif. (40:19.73), Robert Murphy of Huntington (41:40.87) and Shawn Killian of Riverhead (41:47.19) followed him.

Another Riverhead High School cross-country runner, junior Christina Yakaboski, triumphed in the women’s 10K race in 41:22.95. Yakaboski, 16, wearing a pink Riverhead track and field singlet, had run in this event for the first time last year, taking second place.

“I ran a way better race this year,” she said. “I was able to maintain. I went out way too hard last year. I was really happy with this race.”

Tiffany Stack of Rockville Centre (42:58.47) was second, Heather Wright (44:47.17) third, Megan Kielbasa of Aquebogue (45:01.70) fourth, Melissa Rockwell of Orient (46:09.97) fifth, Indira Schwarting of Southold (46:29.16) sixth and Fatima Arrieta of Greenport (47:16.67) seventh. Another area runner, Anne Keillor of Wading River (48:57.10), was 10th.

In the 5K races, Jonah Komosinski (18:49.75) and Suzy Heffernan of Cutchogue (20:06.08) were the winners.

Komosinski, whose hometown wasn’t listed, finished ahead of Daniel Dern of Shirley (19:14.98) and Hunter Wilson (20:14.82). Ken Poliwoda of Southold (22:55.60) was eighth.

Heffernan’s nearest competition came from Laura Brown (22:14.30). Kathleen Kilbride of Cutchogue (23:43.02) was fifth, Patricia Kilbride of Cutchogue (24:56.46) seventh and Angela Kim of Manorville (24:57.72) eighth.

The event director, Nate Edington, said 338 runners took part in the event, an increase from last year. Reflecting on the first race 20 years ago, he said: “From there it just has grown. Now we have a company helping us out with it. It seems to be getting better and better.”

Fitzgerald, whose sons Colin, 11, and Trevor, 9, ran in the 5K race, had known about Carrick. “I’ve heard all about his accolades there at the high school, so I don’t have much longer until he’s going to be dusting me,” he said.

It’s a good bet Fitzgerald will be back next year to defend his title, but at least one young man plans to give him a good run for his money.

Said Carrick, “Next year when I’m more prepared for a 10K, I’ll be coming for him.”

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Photo caption: Suzy Heffernan of Cutchogue crossing the finish line to win the women’s 5K race in a winning time of 20 minutes, 6.08 seconds. (Credit: Bob Liepa)