For an informal and unofficial gathering, the fourth annual Falcon 5K Alumni Run Wednesday night on Fairfield Ludlowe High School's cross country course served several purposes, and did so quite well by most accounts.
The Alumni Run, established in 2011 by the school's cross country parents booster group to rekindle the tradition of a casual race with graduated runners invited, too, has become a tribute to the heritage of Roger Ludlowe High School's cross country experience. Gregg Burnett, a 1971 graduate of Roger Ludlowe High, said a run with alumni eligible to participate was offered in the preseason during his cross country days with the Tigers in the late 1960s. It was his idea to renew the tradition, though now former Fairfield High School cross country runners are welcome, too.
For the Falcons' boys and girls cross country teams, whose first official day of practice is Saturday, the Alumni Run was a time trial, a way to measure how the runners followed the offseason buildup conditioning program designed by Christina Caron, the coach of both Ludlowe teams.
This edition of the Alumni Run was a way to say hello to some freshmen, hi again to the girls team's captain in 2012 but good-bye to a one-year cross country runner who did four years of track and graduated in June, beginning his college freshman year next month. Many of the 29 high school runners were pleased with their times over the 2.98-mile course.
A runner who didn't train all summer was happy with the experience.
"A lot of these kids I wouldn't see if the parents didn't organize this," said Stratton Tolmie, who graduated in June after four years of indoor and outdoor track and just his senior year on cross country. He was on the Fairfield Ludlowe/Warde co-op boys swimming team in his first three years at Ludlowe. "It was nice to see everyone again, even the parents. You can come back here and click again."
Tolmie plans to investigate a running club at the University of Chicago in September. He'd like to stay fit, he said, as well as meet people and compete without the full-time commitment a varsity team would require. He had hoped to beat a time of 30 minutes over the nearly five-kilometer course. Tolmie finished in 20 minutes and 5 seconds, not much slower than his best on the course in a race last fall.
Sydney Foulk, the girls team's captain in 2012 who graduated two years ago, was at her first Alumni Run, giving it a firm endorsement. "I think it's a great idea," said Foulk, unconcerned with her time and who played basketball for four years in addition to her involvement with outdoor track and cross country. "It forces the (cross country) runners to get at least one run in before the season.
"It's a good way to get the parents and alumni into it," said Foulk, a sophomore at the University of Delaware but no longer competing. "It's nice to reunite with everyone."
Another runner who did not follow the summer conditioning program and had a good time on Wednesday night was freshman Keegan Simonson, who ran track at Roger Ludlowe Middle School. She attended a running camp in Vermont earlier this month, ran every day each week except Sundays throughout the summer, yet missing runs during her family vacation. Simonson had the fastest time trial among girls, finishing eighth overall and right behind Tolmie in 20:20.
"I've always wanted to do running since I was little. My mom does running," said Simonson, whose goal was to beat 21 minutes. "I'm happy."
Also satisfied with his run was junior Joey Ambury, whose time was the fastest at 17:50. He was on Ludlowe's junior varsity teams as a freshman and sophomore. That time was a considerable improvement over his previous best. "It's definitely a lot better than I've done before," he said.
Junior Aren Heitmann was the next swiftest in 17:56. He knocked off close to 50 seconds from his fastest time last year as a varsity runner.
Boys captain Luke Georgiadis, a senior in his third year on the team, had the sixth quickest time in 19:50, which is nearly a minute faster than his previous best.
"I think it's definitely a good tradition," Georgiadis said. "It brings us together as a team. It's a good way to incorporate the freshman and welcome them to the team. And it's a way to send off last year's seniors."
Pizza, beverages and cake were served after the time trial, courtesy of the parent boosters.
Burnett said the prior Alumni Runs had a few more graduates. A handful of cross country runners were at a camp in Litchfield.
"I hope we can build it year by year, little by little," said Burnett, who started the boosters eight years ago. He said the idea for the Alumni Run was two-fold. "Number one, we tried to rekindle an old tradition of a program from pre-consolidation (Fairfield High School) in the 1960s. We were trying to reestablish some of (Roger Ludlowe High's) traditions.
"No. 2, we were trying to schedule it to be a time trial, to give something to focus on, and it was a chance for the alumni to come back."
The Falcons boys and girls seasons begin Sept. 9 in Danbury in a meet with Danbury, Greenwich and Norwalk at 4 p.m. Warde's cross country seasons start the same day in Westport at 4 p.m. in meet with Staples, Wilton and Stamford.
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