Eli Ruiz | Democrat
Barry Lewis of Woodbourne shows the strain of the last few yeards in Saturday's Falling Colors 8K Walk. Lewis finished second in the Walk Division.
Falling Colors honors fallen track star
Story by Eli Ruiz
ROCK HILL November 5, 2013 A gorgeous, crisp, cool but sunny autumn morning provided the perfect backdrop for the 13th iteration of the Sullivan Striders- sponsored and aptly-named, Falling Colors 8K Run/5K Walk on Saturday at Emerald Green in Rock Hill.
This year there was even more meaning. There were recent memories to keep alive Saturday because this year's Falling Colors race was dedicated to a Monticello High, and most recently, Columbia University track star, lost to the world far too young: Jessica Fingers.
Fingers died tragically on March 31 at Columbia. Fingers leveraged her prowess on the high school track circuit, as well as in the classroom, into an invitation to attend the Ivy League school.
"I miss her so much," said the man whom Fingers called "daddy," Robert Bellamy. "I'm honored that they're doing this for her today. She had a real relationship with this club and just running in general,” said Bellamy. “It [running] was her first love. She was such a wonderful, insanely motivated person and I think it's a mark of that they're doing this here for her today."
Fingers, who graduated from Monticello High School in 2009 and holds several school track and field records, received a Sullivan Striders scholarship award that same year. And the club hasn't forgotten the amazing runner, student, and person that Fingers was.
"The decision to hold the race in memory of Jessica was a group decision by members of the Striders," offered race organizer and Strider Tom Manza. "We all felt a connection with Jessica after giving her a scholarship from the proceeds of the 2008 Falling Colors race. She was such a pleasant young woman.
“We respected her phenomenal running career and wanted to honor her life that was cut short, but one that touched ours and many others."
Finger's mother Athena was emotional: "She was my superstar," she said. "This is amazing that they would do this for her, but it's a testament to how many people she really touched in her short lifetime."
As for the races, Kevin Wippel of Pine Bush won the 8K with a time of 29:41.8. In second place was local running stalwart Raymond Revell from Wurtsboro in 30:22. Crossing third for the runners was SUNY Sullivan’s Omar Lopez of Grahamsville in 30:28.
"This is my first time running this one," said a winded Wippel. "It was really hilly. Up and down everywhere you came around a turn." Asked if the 4.970-mile circuit was a challenge, Wippel said, "Oh yeah. Brutal. Definitely not an easy course at all."
For the women it was April Ackerman of Cochecton who heaved her chest over the finish line first in 33:39.0. Patty Insignares of Goshen and Jacque Schiffer of Olivebridge rounded out the top three ladies in 34:46.1 and 35:26.5, respectively.
For the walkers, Pine Bush native Bob Harjes was way ahead in first in 31:25.2. Barry Lewis of Woodbourne walked second with a time of 36:54.0 and Marian Harrison of Forestburgh was third in 40:28.8.
But there was one runner for whom competition or place were but petty considerations on Saturday. For her the race meant far more because she was running for her fallen friend and former high school track teammate Jessica.
Doviana Sabatino of Monticello dedicated her run to Fingers and even wore a homemade t-shirt bearing the words "Running for Jessica."
"She was a great friend and teammate," said Sabatino, who was inspired to start running again shortly after Fingers' death. "We all looked up to her on the team. She was something special on the track but also as a friend. She's so very missed."
As Sabatino crossed the finish line exhausted, and late in the race, she quickly fell into the arms of a waiting Bellamy, who along with wife Athena, waited for their daughter's friend to finish the grueling route. "She's another special one," said Bellamy of Sabatino. "Her enthusiasm and drive remind me a lot of Jessica. You know, it's really tough to find closure when you have a child that dies unnaturally. This [race] provides a little bit of that closure for us because we're sharing Jessica with the community.”
FALLING COLORS RESULTS
8K Run Top Finishers
Overall Top 10
1. Kevin Wippel, Pine Bush 29:41
2. Raymond Revell, Wurtsboro 30:22
3. Omar Lopez, Grahamsville 30:38
4. Brian Grodin, Wurtsboro 30:45
5. John Sellstrom, Liberty 31:12
6. Michael Bassett, Rock Hill 31:22
7. Mac Thurston, Pine Bush 31:33
8. Erik Sellstrom, Liberty 32:09
9. Frank Colella, Campbell Hall 32:46
10. Ken Devries, Hopewell Jct. 33:13
1. April Ackerman, Cochecton 33:39
2. Patty Insignares, Goshen 34:46
3. Jacque Schiffer, Olivebridge 25:47
5K Walk Top Finishers
Overall Top 5
1. Bob Harjes, Pine Bush 31:25
2. Barry Lewis, Woodbourne 36:54
3. Marian Harrison, Forestburgh 40:28
4. Jill Thurston, Bullville 41:37
5. Carmen Rivera, Middletown 41:39