Chris Alfond and Betsy Suda win YH 5K

Chris Alfond
Betsy Suda

(Newburyport MA) The Yankee Homecoming 5K was back Tuesday night and the weather was fabulous.

The runners are on their way in the 61st edition of the YH 5K

After Covid-19 turned the popular event to virtual last year, the sixty-first edition was highly anticipated.

The 5K is usually combined with a ten-mile race but time constraints did that race in.

Ruben Sanca before the race

That fact put everyone who wanted a Tuesday night of racing through scenic downtown Newburyport into the 5K.  And there were 1437 participants.

Highly successful, long-distance runner Ruben Sanca announced days prior to the race that he would be in the 5K and hoped to break the course record (14:37).  Matthew Ely set the record back in 1999.

But as it turned out tonight, Ruben not only didn’t set the record, but he also didn’t even win.

The winner was Chris Alfond who finished at 14:38. 

Where was Ruben?

“I’ve been pretty sick the last couple of days,” he explained afterwards.  “I was tested Saturday and it wasn’t Covid, but I missed running three of the last four days.”

Ruben, who ran for Cape Verde in the 2012 London Olympics in the 5000 meters, took second but trailed Chris by over forty seconds.

Ruben Sanca settles for second

“I had trouble even from Mile One breathing,” said Ruben, “I was really congested.”

“I didn’t try to keep up with the winner after he opened up a gap,” added Ruben.  “If I had done that I wasn’t going to be able to finish.  I just tried to maintain position after 1 ½ miles since I was already in the top three.”

It makes you wonder what we would have seen if Chris and a healthy Ruben had gone head-to-head Tuesday night.  I’m guessing that the 5K record would have belonged to someone else other than Matthew Ely after the race.

Betsy Suda won the female side of the race for the third time.  Last two times were in 2009 and 2010.  Betsy was second in 2019.

“I wasn’t near my best time,” said Betsy.  “I just wanted to compete and do my best.  I feel like I did that.”

“There was another woman (Olivia Sheffield) who was pretty close,” added Betsy.  “I always try to picture someone close.”

Olivia finished at 19:12 which was twenty seconds after Betsy.

Waiting for the race to start on a beautiful night

The weather (76 degrees) was perfect at the 6PM start.  I’ve covered this race many times and often in the past the heat has been an issue.  Not tonight.

Ben Pare (3rd)
Tim Poitras (4th)

Chris Alfond (23 years old) said afterwards that he was aware that Ruben was in the race and was intent on setting a new record.  Chris thought that they could work together to accomplish it.  But not tonight.

Betsy Suda lives in Gainesville (FL) but comes north in the summer.  Can’t blame her on that one!  “When I’m in Florida I run with a group of women out of the University of Florida,” said Betsy.

Betsy is thirty-nine and said that she has run this race every year since she was thirteen.  “This race was a lot of fun,” she said, “it’s nice to be here.”

“It was good to see everyone back for Homecoming,” added Ruben.

Ruben probably shouldn’t have run the race.  “This race is so local (he lives in Salisbury) that I wanted to take part in it,” he said.

Joseph Walsh (5th)
Cody Moran (6th)

Plenty of folks watched in downtown around Market Square.  “The crowd was great downtown,” said Betsy.  “It may not have been as big as other years, but it was definitely as loud.”

My attention was caught with the common thread among eight of the top nine men finishers. 

With the exception of Steve Dowsett (8th), every other runner is connected to the UMass Lowell River Hawks.  Every one of them!

They didn’t all attend UMass Lowell at the same time, but Chris Alfond wasn’t kidding when he told the NDN, “I brought a bunch of my UMass Lowell teammates with me so we could have a good time together.”

Chris is a graduate student while Ruben graduated in 2010.

The others with UMass Lowell connections: Ben Pare (3rd), Tim Poitras (4th), Joseph Walsh (5th), Cody Moran (6th), Justin Carbine (7th), and Liam Kimball (9th).

Crowd starts to gather for the start of the race

And now you know, as Paul Harvey used to say, the rest of the story!

Runners came in a wide variety of age groups and training levels.  They seemed to be enjoying themselves.

I have great admiration for those who push baby carriages the entire length.  However, with the recently paved road on High Street in front of Newburyport High School, it may not have been quite as difficult as in previous years.

A great source for the results is “ATH.LINKS”

(All of the pictures above and below will enlarge considerably if you click on them.)

Justin Carbine (7th)
Liam Kimball (9th)
Steve Dowsett (8th)
Cody Moran, Ruben Sanca, Steve Dowsett
Waiting in front of Newburyport High School
Dave Sawyer (Wenham) warms up
Jonathan and dad Jason Everett of Amesbury before race
Meghan Myrbeck of Merrimac
Hannah Rafferty (401 – Newburyport) and Ava Herrera (444 – Rowley)
Michael O’Connor (592 – Newburyport), Pamela Kipp (1417 – Newburyport), Ethan Jason (142 – Newburyport)
Bradley Bauer (571), Evan O’Brien (1232 – Newburyport), Antonio Espinola (439 – Dracut)
Winner Chris Alfond makes the final turn

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