Mary Zengo broke the female course record she had previously set, and Patrick Cavanaugh edged out friend Geoff Williams to claim first place in Saturday's Westport Road Runners race, a 9.3-mile run, in the Compo Beach area.
Zengo, a Wilton resident, finished in 58 minutes and 50 seconds, besting her old mark by almost two and a half minutes.
"I'm psyched. I've had a great summer of training," said Zengo, who placed seventh overall.
Cavanaugh, 22, from Norwalk, completed the course in a time of 53:03. Williams, 26, from Stamford, was only a second behind.
On a day in which Zengo set a record, the field nearly broke a record, too. There were 162 runners, just three shy of the high mark for this particular competition in the ten-race series. Nice weather, featuring low 70's temperatures and minimal humidity, attributed to the high turnout.
"This is about as perfect as you can get in late August," Williams said.
"It was great weather, and definitely a tough course, so I was thrilled to see the finish line at the end there," Cavanaugh added. "There are some big hills right in the middle of the race that make it difficult to keep a steady pace."
The weather also gave Zengo plenty of confidence.
"Yesterday I checked the weather and I said `I'm going to go for the course record,'" said Zengo, adding that she typically doesn't make bold statements but noted modestly that the conditions made it possible to reset the mark.
The motivation generated by having a fast running partner in the race helped the top two finishers. Cavanaugh and Williams have known each other for a handful of years. Both runners attended college together at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
"It makes it a little easier when you have someone to push you a little bit," Cavanaugh said.
Zengo was motivated by the strong finishers she was chasing.
"There's always good competition here. There are people ahead of me, people I can't catch," she said.
Not many caught her despite the strong field. Westport's Paul Greenberg, 52, placed 13th in a time of 1:01:47. He said he generally finishes higher in these races but attributed the placement to the level of competition.
"I look at that as a good sign," said Greenberg, adding that it shows the race series is going strong and drawing good runners.
Greenberg had plenty to be proud of. By virtue of this and past race performances, he said he locked up his age category title (men ages, 50-59) for this year's series.
The 9.3-mile course was challenging in more ways than one. The increased course distances require that different colored arrows be painted on the roads each week. This week runners followed green arrows.
"It's an obstacle course because you're trying to follow the green arrows while dodging cars and keeping up with the runners ahead of you," said Westport's Jim Wilkinson, 43, who was 26th overall in a time of 1:06:21.
Zengo accidently added a couple tenths of a mile to her effort by getting in a zone, enjoying the run, and adding a hill to her course by accident. That still didn't stop her from easily topping the course mark.
The top Westport finisher was 15-year-old Chase Gornbein, who was eighth in 59:47. Fellow Westporter David Allen, 43, also cracked the top ten, finishing in 1:00:19.
Andy Hutchison is a freelance writer
Top 25 finishers
1. Patrick Cavanaugh, Norwalk, 22, 53:03; 2. Geoff Williams, Stamford, 26, 53:04; 3. James Osborn, Ridgefield, 34, 54:46; 4. Chris Barrett, Fairfield, 26, 55:03; 5. Dan Lennox, Bedford, N.Y., 33, 56:35; 6. Larry Ikard, New Canaan, 38, 57:48; 7. Mary Zengo, Wilton, 48, 58:50; 8. Chase Gornbein, Westport, 15, 59:47; 9. David Allen, Westport, 43, 1:00:19; 10. Fred Wills, Shelton, 28, 1:00:58; 11. James Drummond, Middletown, 50, 1:01:27; 12. Bert Howard, Shelton, 45, 1:01:39; 13. Paul Greenberg, Westport, 52, 1:01:47; 14. Roger Boxley, Weston, 44, 1:02:10; 15. Eric Sydor, Westport, 34, 1:02:23; 16. Patrick Sullivan, Westport, 52, 1:02:32; 17. Julie McElroy, Sleepy Hollow, NY, 46, 1:02:42; 18. Peter Hohmeister, Stamford, 55, 1:03:03; 19. Niels Olsen, Westport, 47, 1:04:27; 20. K.C. Klegar, Westport, 44, 1:04:38; 21. Stephyn Velazquez, Bridgeport, 17, 1:05:00; 22. Brett Jones, Bridgeport, 27, 1:05:12; 23. Rob Wynn, Trumbull, 27, 1:05:31; 24. Rob Simmelkjaer, Westport, 41, 1:06:08; 25. Josh Lander, Westport, 40, 1:06:19.