Rite of Spring: a 5K Race to Main Beach

Doug Milano had a winning time of 17 minutes and 51 seconds
The prospect of a 5K run to the beach from the Reutershan parking lot inspired some of East Hampton’s middle school students to run to the starting line. Craig Macnaughton

Doug Milano, an East Hampton Middle School math teacher who recently ran his first marathon, “dying” after having moved up to fifth place in the Newsday race by the 18-mile mark, had a much easier time of it in the Bonac on Board to Wellness 5K on May 23, crossing the Main Beach finish line ahead of 637 fellow participants, a number of them students or former students of his, in 17 minutes and 51 seconds.

“I’ll get him next year,” Omar Leon, an East Hampton High School track and cross-country competitor who was three seconds behind his former math teacher, said with a smile.

It was the second Bonac on Board win for Milano, who won this race two years ago in 17:27. His chances rise whenever the Gubbins Running Ahead store does not enter a ringer, as it often has in the past.

The area’s best milers, Kal Lewis of Shelter Island, third-ranked in the state in that distance as of a week or so ago, and Ryan Fowkes of East Hampton, were nonparticipants too, focusing, as they were, on the state qualifier meet that is to be held tomorrow and Saturday. Lewis won this race last year, in record time.

Barbara Tracey, the middle school’s nurse, who, with the now-retired Ginny Reale, began the Bonac on Board to Wellness fitness and nutrition program 14 years ago — an effort that earned the two a community service award from the Old Montauk Athletic Club, which foots the bill for the race’s timers — agreed, as hordes of young students, some of them on the run, gathered for the start at the Main Street entrance to the Reutershan parking lot, that she had a tiger by the tail.

It didn’t take long for the aforementioned 600-plus participants to cross Main Street — the only time in the year that it is closed to traffic for such a massive crossing — on their way to the beach by way of various village lanes.

Alyssa Bahel, a field hockey player and long-distance runner at Denison University in Ohio, where she is a junior, was the female winner — and eighth over all — in 19:26. The week before, she finished not far behind her father, Mike Bahel, at the Hither Hills Half-Marathon he puts on every year in Montauk.

“It’s always a battle when I go up against him,” she said. “I’m closer to beating him than I’ve ever been.” She’ll spend the summer in Denver as an environmental science intern.

Besides Milano, Leon, and Bahel, the top 10 comprised Joshua Vazquez Alvarez (third in 18:05), Amari Gordon (fourth in 18:17), Evan Masi (fifth in 18:19), Aidan Klarman (sixth in 18:28), Tyler Gulluscio (seventh in 18:44), Isaiah Robins (ninth in 19:30), and Eric Armijos Calle (19:40).

The good news, according to Leon, is that Vazquez, Gordon, and Masi are to come up to the high school’s boys cross-country team in the fall. (Presumably Luke Castillo, a talented 11-year-old who finished 13th in 19:30, won’t be far behind.)

Steve Redlus, a phys ed teacher at the middle school (and East Hampton’s former varsity football coach), said that Vazquez, an eighth grader, was “one of the most gifted athletes I’ve ever coached. He did 53 pull-ups, 60 push-ups, and ran the mile in 5:16 in our fitness test, posting the best cumulative scores ever.”

Vazquez Alvarez’s time was 47 seconds faster than last year’s.

“Definitely, we’ll have a good team, with Ryan [Fowkes], Ethan [McCormac], Matt [Maya], me, and these guys,” Leon said.

The middle school’s team won the Bonac Cup, which it always has done. 

Asked why, John King, a phys ed teacher at the Springs School, said, “They have more kids who run, though we’ll have our own track team this year and maybe our own cross-country team.”

Redlus said, with a laugh, that the answer lay in the fact that he was the middle schoolers’ phys ed teacher.

“We do daily cardiovascular conditioning in every phys ed class,” he continued. “They love to work hard, they love competing, they’re a great group, and they’re very eager to do their best.”

Besides Vazquez Alvarez, Gordon, Masi, and Armijos Calle, others on the winning East Hampton Middle School team were James Amaden V, Tenzin Tamang, Daniela Chavez, Nashaly Penafiel, Emma Hren, Brylinn Bushman, Nicolle Ortiz Perez, and Leslie Guichay.

Cara Nelson, a middle school teacher who not long ago ran seven marathons on seven continents in seven days, placed 53rd, in 22:17.