Polar Bear Run lures record field

Runners pay tribute to the late Wallie Jahn at Lake Waramaug

The Polar Bear road race kicked off a few minutes late Feb. 23 at Lake Waramaug, for good reason.

The popular 7.6-mile jaunt around the lake attracted its biggest field ever, and some late-arriving runners had long distances to trek from their parking spots to get to the starting line because of impressive piles of snow along neighboring roads.

No worries, said race director Dave Dunleavy, who then prefaced the race's start by offering a heartfelt tribute to the late Wallie Jahn, the event's longtime director.

Jah died in July 2013 following a long illness.

"The runners were so appreciative that this event continues to live on," reported Dunleavy, who had admitted to mixed feelings about taking over the race last year.

"There really is no race like it in Connecticut," he said. "And we all have Wallie to thank for his efforts in keeping the race alive."

"I wasn't so sure I wanted to do it," Dunleavy added, "but after feeling all the good will from the runners and the community, it was well worth it."

The race also served as a benefit for the Loaves & Fishes Hospitality House in New Milford.

"Runners brought three big boxes of food that were dropped off at Loaves & Fishes," said Dunleavy, "and we'll be donating money to Loaves & Fishes."

Key to the race's success, the race director noted, were the contributions of fellow long-time runners John Dunne and Charlie Greystone, as well as help with traffic control from Washington resident State Trooper Steve Sordi.

Once the race had started under cloudy skies but temperate mercury readings, it was all about William Sanders, 26, of Wethersfield.

The defending champion quickly pulled away from eventual runnerup James McKirdy, 32, of New Britain to romp to victory by 90 seconds in a quick 39.41 clocking.

Heather Fraticelli, 29, of Danbury earned women's honors with her 21st-place time of 50:46, outlegging runnerup Lori McKulsky, 37, of Southbury by 58 seconds.

Andrew Morehouse, 47, of New Milford was the best of the Greater New Milford area runners with his 50:45 effort, good for 20th place among a record 441 finishers.

Among the divisional champions was Iman Dervisevic, 16, of New Milford. She clocked 1:02:49 to win the females' 15-19 age group.

For the race results and divisional leaders, visit www.greystoneracing.net.

For more photos, visit www.newmilfordspectrum.com.

Norm Cummings

Photography by Norm Cummings