The 51st annual Westport Road Runners Summer Series kicked off with a 2.3-mile race which started and finished at Staples High on a humid but overcast morning. Darien's Justin Lubeley, 36, was the first to cross the finish line, leading a pack of 208 participants in a time of 12 minutes and 37 seconds on Saturday.
The next finisher was Westport's David Mortner, 22, who completed the course in 12:47. Norwalk's Staci Huelat, 25, was the top female. She finished in 13:42.
Lubeley started running in the series about halfway through last summer's series after he moved from New York City. He had bicycled for years before getting involved with running a year ago, and is looking forward to continuing to compete in the series.
The series features weekly runs that gradually increase in distance, culminating with a 10-miler on Labor Day weekend.
"It's always a great course -- it's quick. The distance is enjoyable, it's not too long," Lubeley said. "When they get longer I'll start to feel it. I'm looking forward to it. I don't expect this type of result once they get longer."
"This is the shortest race I've run. I've been doing half marathons so I wasn't sure how this would go," Huelat added. "The course was great. It was a good challenge but not overbearing."
Lubeley said he likes the idea that the distances increase because it gives a variety of runners with different skills a chance to come out on top and test themselves.
"It mixes it up and makes it fun," he said.
Some participants did the race pretty much exclusively for fun. Fairfield's Mark Overley pushed two children in a stroller, both of whom ran portions of the course with him.
"It's great. It's the first time I did it with the whole family. My wife is out here too," he said, adding that their 1-year-old was the only family member not to participate.
Mortner has participated in the series since he was a freshman at Staples. He ran cross country and track at the University of Vermont before graduating this year.
"It feels good to be back," Mortner said. "I love coming back; I love seeing (Laddie Lawrence)," referring to the race director and longtime cross country and track coach at Staples.
Mortner said he's looking forward to competing throughout the summer.
"I'll be out there -- definitely put in my work during the week to not embarrass myself on Saturday morning," he said.
Staples track athlete Ben Foster, 15, came in fourth in a time of 12:59, just three seconds behind 23-year-old Piotr Kostyk of Bethel. Foster edged Westport's David Allen, 43, who finished in fifth, one second behind.
"It was really exciting. I was going for top 25," said Foster, whose brother Jonathan was a track captain at Staples before graduating in 2010. "This is the only time I'm looking forward to getting up at 6:30 a.m."
Westport's Susie Martin, 13, who will be a Staples freshman in the fall, was the second-fastest female finisher. She clocked in at 14:04, good for 25th overall.
"I really kicked it in at the end," said Martin, who's planning to run cross country and track for the Wreckers.
Rounding out the top 10 were: sixth, Luke McGuinness, 38 of Westport, 13:12; seventh, Stephen Marsalesa, 47 of Ryebrook, N.Y., 13:14; eighth, Paul Greenberg, 52 of Westport, 13:17; ninth, Brett Jones, 27 of Bridgeport, 13:19; 10th, Josh Lander, 40 of Westport, 13:20.
The next race is just shorter than a 5K. It's a run of slightly more than three miles which begins at Longshore on July 6. Race day registration is at 7:30 a.m. each Saturday, or runners may sign up for individual or the Westport Parks and Recreation-sponsored series online. Visit www.westportroadrunners.org for information and results.
Andy Hutchison is a freelance writer
Top 10 finishers
1. Justin Lubeley, Darien, 36, 12:37
2. David Mortner, Westport, 22, 12:47
3. Piotr Kostyk, Bethel, 23, 12:56
4. Ben Foster, Westport, 15, 12:59
5. David Allen, Westport, 43, 13:00
6. Luke McGuinness, Westport, 38, 13:12
7. Stephen Marsalesa, Ryebrook, N.J., 47, 13:14
8. Paul Greenberg, Westport, 52, 13:17
9. Brett Jones, Bridgeport, 27, 13:19
10. Josh Lander, Westport, 40, 13:20