CUMBERLAND — Zach Hoagland came a very long way to run in Saturday morning’s inaugural Blackstone Valley Prep 5K, but that didn’t prevent the Hatfield, Penn. native from feeling right at home on The Monastery’s challenging 3.1-mile trail course.
The 23-year-old Hoagland, who was in town this weekend to visit family members in Lincoln, was impressive in topping a field of 230 runners with his winning time of 16:28, which not only was better than the runner-up finisher, Alan Bernier from the Rhode Runner team in Providence, by 43 seconds, but also outdistanced the third-place finisher, Chris Elgar of Attleboro, Mass., by more than two minutes.
“I was just looking for a fun race to hop into,” said Hoagland, who was a 2012 graduate and former standout runner at Messiah College in Mechanicsburg, Penn. “I didn’t have that much to do in the morning, so I was just looking for something to compete in and have fun. I’ve run at The Monastery a few times before when I visited my family, but I didn’t know what the course was going to be like beforehand, so I didn’t know what to expect.”
What Hoagland ended up with was a dominant performance on a difficult course that saw good finishes hard to come by. Only four runners, including Elgar (18:37) and fourth-place finisher Chris Spiker of Brooklyn, Conn. (19:56), crossed the finish line in under 20 minutes. Three more were lucky enough to break 21 minutes, and six more managed to crack 22.
When did Hoagland know he had the race locked up?
“I would say maybe a mile, a mile and a half to go,” he answered. “I wasn’t really sure how far behind (the other runners) were, but it looked like there were some good runners in the race.”
Hoagland, who attended Providence College his freshman year before transferring to Division III Messiah, admitted that he’s not a huge fan of trail running and seldom participates in trail races. “Occasionally I’ll run on a trail, and there are some good trails around where I live in Pennsylvania,” he added, “but most of the time, I’m on the roads, and right now, I’m trying to get ready for some longer races. My plan is to do a half marathon and then a full marathon later on in the fall.”
While there wasn’t much drama in the top overall finish, there was a bit of suspense in the competition for the women’s title. After Cumberland’s James Mayol placed seventh in a 20:48 time, Providence’s Cara Harrison became the top female finisher with a 21:01 time that just beat out Cumberland’s Lauren Lapierre by three seconds.
Woonsocket’s Chris Hoard, who was the winner of last October’s Race Against Racism 5K in Woonsocket, placed 11th overall in 21:08, and Woonsocket’s Dale Champagne was 12th overall, the third female finisher, and the first 50-year-old finisher (male or female) in the same 21:08 time.
Other top local finishers in the top 20 were former Ponaganset High standout runner Mike Macedo (14th, 22:09), Smithfield’s Gary Marn (15th, 22:14), Cumberland’s David Lauck (16th, 22:14), and Lincoln High distance runner Cameron Smith (19th, 22:17). On the women’s side, Cumberland’s Victoria Hunt was the 23rd overall and fifth female finisher in 22:59.4.
The proceeds from the event, which also included a one-mile fun run for children in grades 4 and under, went toward the programs of the Blackstone Valley Prep Mayoral Academy, a growing network of public charter schools that serve Cumberland and its surrounding communities, and the day’s overall success brought a wide smile to the face of the race director, Drew Madden.
“We had upwards of 300 registrants for the 5K and 75 for the fun run,” reported Madden. “We’re very pleased with the turnout. Our goal was to have 300 runners and we hit our mark, and what’s fantastic is that we had a large turnout of families and members from our community. We were really hoping to build a community event that would celebrate the end of our (school) year and the kickoff to summer, and we were able to do that.”