Engstrom Kicked It In at Montauk Mile

Erik Engstrom, the only county cross-country champion East Hampton has produced to date, won it, in 4 minutes and 49.7 seconds
The Old Montauk Athletic Club was well represented in Sunday’s Montauk Mile races. The races benefited East Hampton High’s boys and girls cross-country teams’ planned trip to the Flrunners.com invitational meet in Lakeland, Fla., at the end of September. Jack Graves

Kevin Barry, who coaches East Hampton High’s boys cross-country team, tried, without success, to bring in some ringers for the boys and girls teams’ inaugural Montauk Mile on Sunday, but it was a well-contested race notwithstanding, auguring well for the future.

Erik Engstrom, the only county cross-country champion East Hampton has produced to date, won it, in 4 minutes and 49.7 seconds, outkicking the Shelter Island freshman phenom, Kal Lewis, in the last 800 meters. Lewis crossed the line in 4:51. East Hampton’s Ryan Fowkes was third, in 4:58.

“Cliff [Clark] wouldn’t let him come,” Barry said at the Montauk railroad station starting line, before the women’s race began at 11:30, when asked if Arkansas’s 800-meter champion — among those elite runners Barry had been seeking — were coming.

He didn’t hesitate to pick Engstrom when asked who he thought would win the men’s race — a fund-raiser, as was the women’s race, for a trip to a highly competitive Lakeland, Fla., meet at the end of September. 

The course, along the shoulder of Flamingo Road, spanned the railroad station and Lions Field, which lies across the street from the Hank Zebrowski ball field and the Montauk Brewery, one of the races’ sponsors, where free beer was available afterward to all contestants over 21.

Seven of the top 10 in the men’s race were Bonackers, most of whom will run for Barry in the fall. Engstrom recently finished his first year at the University of Massachusetts, where he’s running cross-country and track.

However, the runner with the best mile time in Sunday’s field was a 56-year-old, Paul Hamilton, one of Engstrom’s coaches — a former county mile champion who went on to the University of Houston, where, according to Barry, he ran a 4:09.

For an initial effort, the races were pretty good draws. Thirty-two vied in the men’s race, 29 in the women’s. The winner of the women’s race, in 5:48.8, was Lindsey Gallagher, a Shelter Island junior. The runner-up, in 6:01.2, was Sinead FitzGibbon, 47, a Sag Harborite who recently earned a doctorate in physical therapy. 

FitzGibbon, who gives classes at Truth Training in East Hampton, and who trains a group of runners at the East Hampton High School track on Sunday mornings, said afterward that she had helped the Gallaghers — Lindsey and her freshman sister, Emma — recover from foot injuries in the past year. 

“I was trying to hang on to Lindsey with my mental rope,” FitzGibbon said when asked how the race had gone for her. “The nice thing about a mile is that it’s over fast.”

“Girls are running faster than ever,” she added, “so I’m going to add strength training to my running program.”

When she saw this writer’s Truth Training T-shirt, she said, “You’ll get strong just wearing that.”

Her husband, Dennis Loebs, had run a 6:37.2. “He needs a new hip,” FitzGibbon said. “If he slips to 7, we’re calling Dr. Hubbell.”

They will not be at the Shelter Island 10K this Saturday because they’ll be in Maine, she said, though a number of people she trains at the high school will. 

Kal Lewis, when asked, said he would be running in a race for top high school freshmen in Greensboro, N.C., this weekend.

Engstrom, who recently won the Hither Hills Trails Half-Marathon, smiled when asked if he were in mile shape. “After I won that trail race,” he said, “I took some time off.”

As for running on Shelter Island, “We’ll see,” he said. Erik’s younger sister, Ava, finished fourth in the women’s race, in 6:26, behind Gallagher, FitzGibbon, and Lauren Laviola Ruiz (6:11). Liana Paradiso was fifth, in 6:44, after which came Emma Gallagher (7:13), Callie Atkins (7:13), Holly Li (7:13), Kelly Crowley (7:34), and Dawn Lucas (8:07). 

Rounding out the top 10 in the men’s race were Joshua Green (5:00), Eamon Spencer (5:08), Geo Espinoza (5:09), Eric Perez (5:18), Frank Bellucci (5:26), Ethan McCormac (5:28), and Bryan Knipfing (5:34). Green and Knipfing are Shelter Islanders.