Rain can't slow down Zem's race


NORTH BENNINGTON -- Rain in the forecast couldn't put a damper on Sunday's Steve Zemianek Bennington Road Race.

More than 300 runners and many more spectators dodged raindrops at North Bennington's Park McCullough House for the 36th annual event, which was dedicated to longtime educator Gail Harwood, who passed away in January.

"It's a real honor that the Zemianeks thought about dedicating the race to Gail," said James Harwood, Gail's husband. "She was all about the community, about giving back."

More than 120 female runners competed in the event, including 82 in the 5K.

"Gail would be happy to see the number of females running, as she did so much with [Girls on the Run]," said Dave Frederickson, a former teacher in the SVSU and a part of the race committee. "She would find that very gratifying. And Steve would be pleased that this has carried on."

Zemianek, a long-time track and cross-country coach at Mount Anthony, passed away in 2000.

Shaftsbury Elementary School principal Jeff Johnson won the 5K overall, blistering the course in 24 minutes, 56 seconds.

Second place for the men was Chernoh Jalloh in 27:17, with Tim Perry in third at 27:58.

For the women, Hoosick Falls field hockey coach Denise Campbell was the top runner in 27:15. Shaftsbury Elementary School student Sarah Umphlett was second in 27:34 and Kathy Zemianek was third in 29:18.

But for Gail, it was never about winning and losing.

"It was about the runner interaction, not just [being] competitive, but working together and helping each other," Harwood said. "She developed so many friends through running."

Gail's daughter, Melissa Senecal, said the community support seemed to be heightened this year.

"There's always an atmosphere of community, but this year, with the [MAU middle school] jazz band playing, parents bringing their kids and then a lot of those [musicians] playing and then running the race ... it made it really special," said Senecal, who finished the race in 36:32.

"She would have been so impressed that everyone is here, in the rain, cheering [the runners]," Harwood said.

Teens made up a good chunk of the entry list, including runners from athletic teams at Mount Anthony.

"It's amazing, we had the Interact Club from the high school, lacrosse, softball and track athletes involved, it's so great," Kathy Zemianek said.

The competitor who traveled the farthest was Georgia's Seth Ertell, a former runner for Zemianek, who came with his son Ethan to run the race.

"You always see a lot of Zem's old runners, they get together to do it," Frederickson said. "That's one of the nice things about running, it's a very social event. It appeals to a lot of people because it's a social event and something you can do for the rest of your life."

For full results, go to www.barttiming.com.


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