ABSECON — Simple city and residential streets became a platform for athletic prowess Saturday.
The 10th Annual Pedal, Paddle, Run sent more than 100 participants traveling about 10 miles by road and waterways to benefit the Absecon Education Foundation.
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Akin to a triathlon, racers in the multisport event started at Heritage Park biking for six miles, kayaked 1½ miles in Absecon Creek and made a 2½ mile run back to the park.
Despite the length of the course and a warm late-September morning, there was no shortage of those up for the challenging event, which raises thousands of dollars for the education foundation to donate to Absecon schools.
Participants ranged from school children and teachers to workout fanatics and elite athletes.
“We draw both serious competitors and family teams,” said Daren Dooley, president of the education foundation. “It’s a nice mix.”
One of the organization’s former presidents, Bill Parker, began the event a decade ago after partaking in a similar competition in Virginia a number of years ago. He rode the bike portion this year as a member of a team.
Racers were divided by age, gender and whether they competed individually or with teammates in a relay fashion.
Among the early finishers was Bobby Spicer.
A sixth-grader at Emma C. Attales Middle School, he raced with friends Erin Shober, Meredith Miller and Calie Miller on team “Sparkle and Spice.”
Spicer, 12, competes in cross country but admitted the end of the run was a test.
“You have to use all of your energy for it,” said Spicer, who clocked a time of 1 hour, 18 minutes for his team.
It was his first time in the race.
Rose Guerrera, on the other hand, has made it to the event each of the past four years.
Guerrera is a basic skills teacher at H. Ashton Marsh Elementary School and receives motivation to continue to compete from the students and her own children.
“As a teacher it’s fun because you see the students and as a parent because your kids get excited,” Guerrera said.
She was the kayaker for the Hawaiian-shirt dressed “Bahama Mamas” team that finished in 1 hour, 24 minutes.
Absecon Mayor Peter Elco and school Superintendent Jim Giaquinto were among the first people to congratulate racers at the finish line.
Giaquinto said the hard work of the participants and event’s volunteers help contribute to the money used by the school district in areas such as fine arts programs. He added that the number of staff members in the race was impressive.
The top overall woman, Absecon resident Chrissy Adams, had a time of 1 hour, 13 minutes and is a substitute teacher.
“For whatever reason, we have an athletic (group),” Giaquinto said.
Sean Brennan, of Hamilton Township, Mercer County, finished first overall in 50 minutes, 36 seconds and won the male division.
Brennan previously paddled for the U.S. national team and outdid his older brother, Kevin Brennan, of Oreland, Pa., who finished second overall with a time of about 54 minutes.
“This is a great race because it’s a fundraiser for the schools and a real hometown race,” Sean Brennan said.
The sense of a tight-knit and supportive community was evident when racers and spectators alike crowded the finish line to cheer in Jacob Hackett and “Team Absecon.”
Hackett, a sixth-grader, uses a wheelchair but completed the race nonetheless with help from fellow students and teachers Vic Rogers, Kim Saparito and Brian Southrey. He rode along on a four-wheel surrey bike and in a canoe but handled the final 50 yards himself by walking with the help of a walker.
Rogers and Saparito are health and physical education teachers and asked Hackett to join their team at the end of the school year in June so long as he was the one to cross the finish line.
Hackett afterward said he wasn’t feeling too tired and recalled his thoughts when he was approached by Rogers and Saparito.
“Wow, I could actually do it,” Hackett said.
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