ATLANTIC BEACH — A mix of old and new faces surrounded the finish line Saturday at the N.C. Seafood Festival’s newly-named Triple Bridge Road Race.
Packed into a parking lot on the Atlantic Beach causeway, runners and their friends, family and supporters mingled as new finishers trickled in from the half marathon, 10K and 5K courses.
The News-Times previously reported there were only 151 finishers among the three races. A weekend update of the results revealed there were 181 finishers with 42 in the half marathon, 69 in the 10K and 77 in the 5K.
This year, the festival took over sole control of the race from the Morehead City Parks and Recreation Department. It was a new but welcome challenge for first-time race director Curtis Weychert, the organization’s Sporting Committee chair.
“I haven’t done something like this before and it was a lot to do, but I had a lot of help,” he said. “Everything ran as smoothly as I could have hoped. Honestly, there was probably a little over-prep of anticipation and logistical work. But it seemed like everything worked well.”
Run for 31 years as the “Twin Bridges” 8K race, the new Triple Bridge iteration needed a new course. Not only did the race need to include a third bridge, but also accommodate a half marathon (13.1 miles), 10K (6.2) and 5K (3.1).
“It was really difficult trying to keep a similar race route while adding in a third bridge,” Weychert said. “We also wanted to add the 5K with a starting point that tied into the festival’s footprint with a timing that would get them in with the main running group. It was a lot of sitting on Google Earth and testing things out. It took about a month for us to finalize everything.”
All but two of the six overall winners were repeat champions, including half marathon winner Leon “Frenchie” LeFreniere. The New Bern resident won the 8K in 2015 with a time of 29 minutes, 25 seconds. On Saturday, he won the first-ever half marathon with a 1:24:51.90 clocking.
“I’ve run the Twin Bridges before, but this was a new challenge,” he said. “I’m a little older, I turn 49 in seven days, so I was surprised no one zoomed by me.”
LaFreniere’s top finishes and love for running didn’t come naturally; it was a talent acquired later in life.
“I was 37 and I had had a couple of a kids, worrying about them and not my body,” he said. “One day I looked in the mirror and I weighed 193 pounds and I said, ‘I’ve got to do something.’ So, I started running. I was 39 when I did my first race ever in my life, the New Bern Bridge Run in 2009. I came in 12th place out of 325 people, which felt really good.
“The addiction grew from there, and then I just kept running. Today was my 13th half marathon and next year’s Boston Marathon will be my seventh running in that race.”
Peter Ciullo placed second in the male division and fourth overall with a time of 1:31:13.93, while Andrew Voss rounded out the division podium with a 1:31:38.13 clocking good for fifth overall.
The female division winner in the half marathon, Kimberlie Meeker, is a first-time winner at Twin Bridges but not a first-time participant. Running alongside her 16-year friend Heidi Tucker, the 39-year-old from Raleigh clocked a 1:26:31.27 to finish second overall.
“(Heidi and I) have run some races together down here before,” she said. “I love coming here. Everyone is so friendly. It’s a great running community. I was nervous about the bridges, but they were fine. It was actually kind of exciting on the last one because you know you’re almost done.”
The out-of-towner was also grateful for the cool weather, with temperatures remaining in the low 70s all morning.
“It was 100 degrees in Raleigh on Thursday,” Meeker said. “It was so nice this morning. Maybe 10 degrees cooler would have been ideal, but it was really lovely with the breeze at your back.”
The two friends treated the race as a training exercise for marathons they will run later this year, Meeker in the City of Oaks Marathon in Raleigh on Nov. 3 and Tucker in the New York City Marathon on Nov. 1. A three-bridge race is a challenge for most, but neither runner felt too burdened by them.
“The last bridge wasn’t the backbreaker you think it might be,” Tucker said. “The first two bridges are on the first two miles, and then you get a 10-mile stretch of flat. So, it wasn’t like we were already beaten down going into it.”
Lauren Dicktel rounded out the podium in the half marathon with a time of 1:39:22.31, good for third in the division and eighth overall.
The 10K category, the one most closely associated with the now-defunct 8K, had a familiar name along the top of the results page on Saturday. Joseph Mooneyham, 21, of Pikeville who also won the Twin Bridges in 2017. His time of 37:00.80 in the 10K was blazing, helped just a little by a tailwind.
“As soon as you started, there was a tailwind,” he said. “Honestly, the hard part was going downhill. The wind is really pushing you down the bridge. You have to use your legs to almost hold yourself up.”
Mooneyham has become a staple of the major road race podiums in the county recently. He also won the Mosquito Run 10K and Core Sound Run 10K races earlier this year, the Lookout Rotary Half Marathon in 2018 and the 10K in 2015, as well as the Historic Beaufort Road Race 10K in 2018.
“The running community is what draws me here,” Mooneyham said. “Honestly, I love doing races all across the state. I usually take myself, but my parents like to come watch.”
Beaufort native Tyler Pake, 36, was only 38 seconds behind Mooneyham, finishing second in the male division and second overall with a time of 37:38.35. Joshua Lyle, 40, of Newport rounded out the male podium with a 40:12.90 clocking, good for fourth overall.
Like Mooneyham, 10K female winner Katherine Price is a staple of county road race podiums. Her 38:39.65 clocking for third place overall Saturday marked her third straight division win in the race and her fourth in five years. The 39-year-old from Beaufort also commented on the helpful tailwind.
“It pretty much shoved us the whole way. It was lovely,” she said. “You could just kind of sit in it and find your pace, and it pushes you down. I like a tailwind. I ran way faster than I thought I would this morning.”
This year alone, Price has won the female divisions of the Emerald Isle Half Marathon, Historic Beaufort Road Race 10K and Core Sound Run 10K.
Kelli Fox, 28, of Morehead City placed second in the 10K female division and 11th overall with a time of 49:01.76, while Carolyn Pushaw, 24, of Morehead City placed third in the division and 12th overall with a 49:01.92 clocking.
Kyle Graham, 17, of Wake Forest won the 5K race with a time of 20:28.57. Twenty seconds behind him with a 20:48.98 clocking was Croatan boys basketball coach Jeff Hawkins. The 50-year-old Emerald Isle resident was there supported by his family for an exercise in competition he rarely indulges in.
“First and foremost, I am thankful to God for giving me health and the opportunity to enjoy running,” Hawkins said. “I run every day, some days more than others. I just enjoy it. You might say I’m addicted to it, especially running on the beach. But I don’t run very many races because I’m a little too competitive by nature. This is actually only my fourth-ever race.”
Hawkins moved to Emerald Isle and began teaching at Croatan in 2016, relocating from western Virginia.
“We’re from the mountains, so the bridge today was a little to my advantage,” he said. “And the tailwind wasn’t bad at all. It was actually really helpful.”
Wilson Holcombe, 16, of Wake Forest rounded out the 5K male podium with a 21:21.49 clocking, good for third overall.
Hannah Thompson, 27, of Beaufort was the fastest female runner in the 5K with a time of 21:36.06 that placed fourth overall. Kyndall Horned clocked a 22:38.29 to finish second in the division and seventh overall, while Hannah Graham, 15, of Graham placed third in the division and ninth overall with a time of 23:07.79.
Here are results of the race:
2019 Triple Bridge Road Race
Overall: 1, Hannah Thompson, 21:36.06; 2, Kyndall Horne, 22:38.29; 3, Hannah Graham, 23:07.79.
19-and-under: 1, Hannah Graham, 23:07.79; 2, Sarah Graham, 25:33.17; 3, Eliza Craig Parker, 26:17.47.
20-29: 1, Hannah Thompson, 21:36.06; 2, Audrey White, 24:03.93; 3, Carrington Wooten, 26:19.97.
30-39: Kyndall Horne, 22:38.29; 2, Kourtney Sloan, 24:48.89; 3, Amanda Lyle, 25:42.25.
40-49: Kirsten Furtner, 26:24.46; 2, Karen Graham, 28:17.64; 3, Shelley Pace, 28:37.19.
50-59: 1, Evelyn Register, 26:26.38; 2, Deborah Wright, 30:02.48; 3, Beth Nelson, 32:05.00.
60-69: 1, Debbie Walter, 40:36.24; 2, Jayne Black, 42:07.67.
Overall: 1, Kyle Graham, 20:28.57; 2, Jeff Hawkins, 20:48.98; 3, Wilson Holcombe, 21:21.49.
19-and-under: 1, Kyle Graham, 20:28.57; 2, Wilson Holcombe, 21:21.49; 3, Zachary Graham, 21:55.84.
20-29: 1, Dan Veneziano, 28:32.18; 2, Corey Thompson, 29:28.35; 3, Jared Cox, 41:45.94.
30-39: 1, Bobby Partusch, 22:35.72; 2, Joshua Arthur, 24:37.11; 3, Joseph Furtner, 25:19.25.
40-49: 1, Anthony Pace, 28:52.92; 2, Michael Graham, 37:36.49; 3, Brian Peck, 37:43.97.
50-59: 1, Jeff Hawkins, 20:48.98; 2, Brick Brown, 29:15.32; 3, Cliff Ransdell, 33:41.67.
60-69: 1, Bernard LaValley, 22:49.50; 2, Doug Brady, 29:13.11.
70-and-over: 1, Charles Graham, 37:36.5.
Overall: 1, Katherine Price, 38:39.65; 2, Kelli Fox, 49:01.76; 3, Carolyn Pushaw, 49:01.92.
19-and-under: 1, Amelia Peck, 52:25.22; 2, R. Bronstetter, 55:07.38.
20-29: 1, Kelli Fox, 49:01.76; Carolyn Pushaw, 49:01.92; 3, Isabelle Goodwin, 56:17.24.
30-39: 1, Katherine Price, 38:39.65; 2, Sara Schulte, 59:10.17; 3, Melissa Whitley, 1:00:10.60.
40-49: 1, Anna Peck, 53:21.66; 2, Stephanie Carter, 54:14.97; 3, Andrea Smith, 56:07.90.
50-59: 1, Josie Bloom, 1:04:49.71; 2, Annie Eastman, 1:07:07.76.
60-69: 1, Marsha Vick, 56:52.05; 2, Karen Yahyapour, 56:55.08; 3, Kathy Marcheselli, 59:46.04.
70-and-over: 1, Sally Kelly, 1:12:16.83.
Overall: 1, Joseph Mooneyham, 37:00.80; 2, Tyler Pake, 37:38.35; 3, Joshua Lyle, 40:12.90.
19-and-under: 1, J.T. Lawrence, 52:03.58; 2, Nate Lawrence, 1:04:14.49.
20-29: 1, Joseph Mooneyham, 37:00.80; 2, Joshua Winks, 43:55.71; 3, Kent Pittman, 47:48.91.
30-39: 1, Tyler Pake, 37:38.35; 2, Brian Sears, 44:51.94; 3, Marcus Truskey, 46:25.80.
40-49: 1, Joshua Lyle, 40:12.90; 2, Brent Wheelwright, 48:26.08; 3, Tim Bronstetter, 55:07.88.
50-59: 1, Tom Ishee, 49:21.71; 2, Tommy Tucker, 52:13.87; 3, Joel Goodwin, 52:58.89.
60-69: 1, Kazem Yahyapour, 51:48.95; 2, Ted Bales, 55:17.94; 3, Gary Davis, 58:13.85.
Overall: 1, Kimberlie Meeker, 1:26:31.27; 2, Heidi Tucker, 1:28:26.34; 3, Lauren Dicktel, 1:39:22.31.
20-29: 1, Megan Sibley, 1:47:11.34; 2, Kelly Dobroski, 2:31:16.61.
30-39: 1, Laura Kirk, 2:01:37.47; 2, Kelley Burton, 2:12:34.12; 3, Katrena Niemisto, 2:15:36.91.
40-49: 1, Sara Delamar, 1:46:49.41; 2, Jenny Modlin, 2:10:22.75; 3, Roxie Emunson, 2:16:42.93.
50-59: 1, Emily Carter, 2:11:57.59; 2, Robin Ruffin, 2:24:44.48.
Overall: 1 Leon LaFreniere, 1:24:51.90; 2, Peter Ciullo, 1:31:13.93; 3, Andrew Voss, 1:31:38.13.
Wheelchair: 1, Paul Kelly, 1:56:18.30.
20-29: 1, Allen Lee, 1:45:48.29; 2, Jess McDonald, 1:53:27.02.
30-39: 1, Christopher Lowe, 1:38:48.82; 2, Jeremiah Belokur, 1:39:24.88; 3, Greg Reichert, 1:40:36.80.
40-49: 1, Denny Lawrence, 1:38:20.33; 2, Brian Nowell, 1:39:30.16; 3, Clark Jenkins, 2:03:33.22.
50-59: 1, Dean Marson, 1:40:15.09; 2, Dean McDonald, 1:55:08.80; 3, Andrew Kiluk, 1:56:18.68.
60-69: 1, Gordon Yowell Jr, 2:09:47.25; 3, Gary Taylor, 2:10:54.49.