Vitabile Edges Scoogie to Repeat as Run For Hope Triathlon Winner

Jun 21, 2017
Photo by: David Biggy Steve Vitabile heads for the finish line en route to a second straight victory in the David’s Dream and Believe Foundation Run For Hope triathlon on June 17.

David Caldarella couldn’t help but smile. He had just managed the start line of the 5K race, directed cyclists to the transition area during the triathlon, and at about 9:30 a.m. on June 17 gazed at the crowd gathered near the gazebo next to Lake Manahawkin as some of the runners still finishing the triathlon cruised by the finish line.

“Just look at this,” he mused, a moment before a man stopped by to shake his hand and thank him for another great event. “This is just tremendous. There’s such a positive vibe here. This is all part of a lean, mean fighting machine.”

The David’s Dream and Believe Cancer Foundation’s Run For Hope is but one leg of that “fighting machine” that has helped some 500 families during the past 2½ years, but as Caldarella shook hand after hand he summarized the purpose of the foundation aptly bearing his name.

“Everything we do is all about the patients with cancer and their families,” he said. “We’re so much more than a grant check. We’re about the wellness services, the counseling, the massage, the acupuncture ... the hope. That’s why we exist. The hope, the emotional support we can offer, is priceless.”

Of course, with the support of nearly 300 competitors of various kinds taking part in either the triathlon, duathlon, aquabike or 5K races, the “fighting machine” that has become David’s Dream and Believe raised more funds to continue its mission.

“This is a great race and a great cause,” said East Windsor’s Steve Vitabile, who swiped the top spot in the triathlon for a second straight year, clocking a time of 56 minutes, 51 seconds. “I’m always happy to come and compete in this triathlon. It’s a great, fast course and there’s some great competition.”

The 24-year-old Vitabile didn’t lead from start to finish, but he wasn’t far off the pace coming out of the lake following a quarter-mile swim, as he trailed friend Mike Caputo by 38 seconds into the first transition. After cutting the gap by 19 seconds during the transition to the 12-mile bike portion of the race, Vitabile chased down Caputo and then left him behind.

“I went by Mike a couple of minutes into the first loop of the bike,” said Vitabile, who’s competed in the race four times. “And then I put the hammer down. I felt comfortable going into the second transition, but I knew it was a closer race than it seemed at that point.”

That’s because 49-year-old Scoogie Snyder, who had started the race as part of the second wave of competitors three minutes after the first wave was launched, was maintaining a similar pace. Vitabile kept an eye on Snyder during the bike course loops and later during the 3.1-mile run portion of the race.

“It kind of sucked being in the second wave, but that’s the way the race was set up,” said Snyder, a race director who operates Scoogie Events out of Doylestown, Pa. “I didn’t really know where I was in the race when I finished the bike. When you’re not in the first wave, you just kind of go through on time trial and go as fast as you can.”

By the time Snyder headed out of the second transition for the run, he was only nine seconds behind Vitabile’s pace.

“I knew where he was and had an idea of the pace he was running,” Vitabile said. “I knew it was close. And it was closer than I wanted it to be, let’s put it that way. So I kept a strong pace all the way to the finish, hoping it would be enough.”

Once Vitabile was clear of three minutes following his finish, he breathed a bit easier. Snyder hit the finish line 28 seconds later in 57:19.

“It feels great to come back and repeat,” Vitabile said. “And to do it against very good competition is even better. I’m very satisfied.”

Snyder, who has won the Run For Hope triathlon multiple times and knows race director Ross Reynolds, was upbeat despite the second-place finish.

“I knew who the target was, and I was trying to beat him,” Snyder said. “I don’t like losing. But, hey, the kid who won had a heck of a race and I’ve got to give him credit.”

Caputo finished third in 59:47, while Belmar’s Don Griffin was fourth in 1:00:12 and Manahawkin’s Adam Frager was fifth in 1:02:56. The first woman to cross the finish line was 53-year-old Midge Kerr of Avalon, who clocked in 12th overall at 1:07:45, just 21 seconds ahead of Barbara Feinstein, who won last year.

“It’s such a great race and for a great cause, and I really wanted to make sure I was part of it again this year,” said Kerr, wife of former Philadelphia Flyer and New York Ranger Tim Kerr who helps operate Tim Kerr Charities in Avalon. “This was a great, competitive race, and I had to throw it into another gear during the last mile of the run.”

Kerr cruised through the swim in 5:46, zipped through the bike in 34:20 and blazed through the run in 25:27. Feinstein closed the gap during the run, but fell short of Kerr, finishing in 1:08:06, while Manahawkin’s Jennifer Delaney wasn’t much farther behind in 1:08.46.

“It was a lot of fun, especially with the race being so close for the women,” said Kerr, who will be race director for the Islandman and Islandkids triathlons this weekend. “I love it when the race is tight because it really brings out the best in us. I was hurting on that last mile, but I knew I had to keep going.”

In the duathlon, Nathan Tressler of West Chester, Pa., took the top spot with a time of 1:05:21, while Scott Burton of Southampton, Pa., was second in 1:06:16, and Carlos Garcia of Weehawken was third in 1:06:21. Manahawkin’s Ryan Ott was the first local across the finish line, clocking in at 1:18:26 to take eighth.

The aquabike race, which included the quarter-mile swim and the 12-mile bike, was won by Brian Talerico of Fairless Hills, Pa., in 47:12, while Paul McCavitt of Suffern, N.Y., was second in 47:45, and Denise Smith of Princeton was third in 49:44.

For the 5K, Waretown 15-year-old Keoni Lieter was first with a time of 17:58, followed by Manahawkin 15-year-old Sean Elliott in 18:02 and Manahawkin 14-year-old Jayant Jani in 18:27.

— David Biggy

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