Blackstone Valley Tourism Council president Robert Billington (left) and R.I. Cherry Tree Running Festival co-race director Anthony Gemma (right) talk at a press conference for the May 21 event. The Running Festival, which will take place in Pawtucket, will feature the Blackstone Valley Half Marathon, Cherry Tree 5K, and Cherry Blossom Youth 1K.
It may not be the Running Capital of Rhode Island, but Pawtucket is sure going to seem that way in the coming months.
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Just a couple of months after an expected 3,000 participants invade the historic city for the inaugural Irish 5K on March 5, throngs of runners and walkers are predicted to be back on the downtown streets for another first-time event, the Cherry Tree Running Festival on May 21.
The Running Festival will consist of three races â€“ the Blackstone Valley Half Marathon, the Cherry Blossom Youth 1K and the Cherry Tree 5K. Charlie Breagy, the man behind the scenes for the Irish 5K and nine other road races in the state this year, including the CVS Caremark Downtown 5K, will be back in Pawtucket. Only this time heâ€™ll be teamed with Anthony Gemma, the race director for the popular Gloria Gemma 5K in Providence and founder of a marketing firm called mediapeel. The main goal for the tandem is to make the latest road-racing event in the Ocean State a beaming success and draw interest to the economy of Pawtucket and its vicinity.
â€śWe decided everything is lined up for that to happen,â€ť Breagy said. â€śWeâ€™ll put all our resources together and get it going. We just announced it this week and already 100 have signed up.â€ť
â€śI met Charlie at the Gloria Gemma 5K and we talked about doing a race together,â€ť said Gemma, who used the assistance of Breagy to boost the field in his Oct. 9 race, which had 2,640 finishers. â€śThe Cherry Blossom Festival is a great cause. They do a lot of great things for Pawtucket and Central Falls.â€ť
The Running Festival will be held in conjunction with the Blackstone Valley Tourism Foundationâ€™s second annual R.I. Cherry Blossom Festival. The festival did kick off with a 5K race last year, but only drew about 100 participants.
Based on their backgrounds, the Cherry Blossom committee approached Breagy and Gemma about running the event. Both agree that the three-race event will be an asset in bringing numbers to the starting line. The 5K and 1K will take place entirely in the city with the kidsâ€™ race solely on Cherry Tree Lane. The half marathon, which begins and ends at the City Hall, will showcase the Blackstone Valley area. Its out-and-back course will go through four communities, including Pawtucket, Central Falls, Cumberland and Lincoln.
A good portion of the 13.1-mile race will run along the Blackstone River with at least five miles of it on the flat and scenic Blackstone River Bikeway.
â€śWe just thought the Blackstone Valley had a lot more to offer,â€ť Breagy said. â€śThe whole concept of the course is to see all the historic sites.â€ť
â€śThereâ€™s a half marathon in the central part of the state and thereâ€™s one in the southern part of the state,â€ť Gemma said. â€śWe thought it was a good thing to bring one to the northern part of the state. We are promoting this event quite heavily.â€ť
The three races will incorporate the B-Tag, a timing device thatâ€™s located on a participantâ€™s race number. For the best deal, Breagy encourages participants to register before Jan. 31 where the online cost for the half marathon will be just $40 as opposed to $55 on race day. The first 2,000 participants that register for the half marathon and the 5K will receive a Technical T-shirt, while all other registrants will receive a standard T-shirt.
â€śOur goal,â€ť Breagy said,â€ť is to get 3,000 into Pawtucket on May 21.â€ť
Proceeds from the event will benefit the Blackstone Valley Tourism Foundation and the Gloria Gemma Breast Cancer Resource Foundation, a Pawtucket-based organization whose goals since its inception in 2004 are to raise breast cancer awareness, increase education and to generate funding for breast health programs . All the money raised goes local.
For additional information about the event, check out the raceâ€™s website at cherrytreerun.com. The Running Festival is still looking for more sponsors. If interested, e-mail the race committee at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A former area coach, a current area coach/onetime star and an ex-Woonsocket High standout turned in some strong performances at Sundayâ€™s Greater Boston Track Club Invitational, held at Gordon Track on the campus of Harvard University.
Sean Livingston, who coached at St. Raphael Academy and Shea High earlier in the decade, captured the masters mile. The 41-year-old Livingston, now the menâ€™s and womenâ€™s track and cross-country coach at Roger Williams University, was timed in 4:33.78 on the banked oval.
In the open 3,000-meter run, Mount St. Charles cross-country coach Roland Lavallee, an all-stater at his alma mater in the mid-1990s, was a more than six-second winner with an 8:40.01 clocking.
Woonsocket alumni and all-stater Corey Brunelle, a junior at Providence College, was a runner-up in the open mile run with his time of 4:17.36.
With the dual-meet season finished, a few local athletes still remain among the best in the state in their respective events.
Central Falls senior Aleide Fernandes has not relinquished her top spot in the 20-pound weight and shot put since the start of the season. Fernandes has a best of 53-4 Â˝ in the weight, a distance that ranks No. 5 nationally. Her No. 1 ranking in the shot is 37-8.
Three high-jumpers are tied for second with a height of five-feet even. Woonsocketâ€™s Kaylnn Pitts, Ponagansetâ€™s Cat Dominick and Mount St. Charlesâ€™ Ali Sayles, who finished in that order at last yearâ€™s outdoor state meet, trail Charihoâ€™s Amy Roy by an inch.
Sheaâ€™s Fred Gobewole is still perched atop the list in the 55-meter dash with a time of 6.3, a clocking he has hit several times this season. Cumberlandâ€™s Chris Duarte is second in the 55 high hurdles based on his time of 7.8, achieved at last weekâ€™s meet with Lincoln and Mount St. Charles.
On a side note, I reported in Sundayâ€™s story in The Call that Cumberland swept the hurdles in that meet. The Clippers did achieve a sweep against the Lions, but Mounties were able to get a second-place effort from Thomas Kishkovich (9.0) and a third-place showing from Ryan Oâ€™Leary (9.9).