The Genesee Valley Conservancy hosted the 12th annual running of the Oak Tree Half Marathon & 5K run/walk over Labor Day weekend. The event was a major success with 599 finishers helping to raise important funds for local conservation efforts by the non-profit. The half marathon had 279 finishers, while the 5k had 320 finishers.
Runners from 11 States descended on Geneseo Sunday for the morning race, which saw perhaps the best race-day running conditions ever experienced at the Oak Tree. There were many highlights; record time finishes, first time 5k and half marathon finishers, and one wedding party!
Oak Tree Half Marathon
In the half marathon, Rochester’s Kenny Goodfellow captured his first Oak Tree Half Marathon victory in a time of 1:15:21. Goodfellow (RoadKill Racing) is no stranger to the course, having run the previous two years, finishing second in each of those previous appearances. Last year’s finish was just 2 minutes and 33 seconds off of the lead time. There were 145 male finishers this year. Runner-up Ace Serianni (Gensee Valley Harriers) finished just 2 minutes and 30 seconds behind, hailing from Genesee Junction. Serianni finished fourth in 2015 with a time of 1:20:02. The battle for third was even tighter this year with Darren Schutt (1:19:17) edging out Jeffrey Cavallari (1:19:46) by 29 seconds in a year where thirteen males ran under 1 hour and 30 seconds. In the previous 11 Oak Trees, in 7 years have any males run under 1:20 and in only four years did more than 1 runner put in a sub 1:20 effort. The weather this year proved to be ideal for elite runners looking to put in extremely fast times over a very difficult course.
For the women, Fairport’s Karen Blodgett made her first appearance in the Oak Tree Race and captured the female Oak Tree Half Marathon title in a time of 1:26:34 in a very competitive year for the women. In the previous eleven years, only five women had run under 1 hour and 30 minutes on the challenging course which includes running up the 1 mile-long Nations Road hill, climbing 210 feet. This year, four women went under 1:30 with second place Dawn Sudol of Victor just 17 seconds behind Blodgett, and there were only 20 seconds between 3rd place Laura Anderson (2011 and 2012 winner) and 4th place finisher Jessie Evans of Canandaigua. Anderson set a new personal course record as she continues to run faster with each Oak Tree appearance. In all, 134 women finished this year’s race.
Jeffrey Cavallaro of Rochester won the masters division in 1:19:46 for the men and Tamara Loos of Freeville captured it for the women in 1:41:51.
Three age group records were set in the half marathon. Jeffrey Cavallaro of Rochester set a new 40-44 record with his 1:19:46, which also won him the masters division this year. Cavallaro beat Robert Christie’s 2014 time of 1:19:56, however Christie remains on the record board with his 5k performance this year. The 70+ record, set in 2007 by Ron Rancher was bettered by Farmington’s Liam Finnigan in 1:57:36, a 9 minute 27 second faster time. Only one record was set in the female division. Overall winner Karen Blodgett’s time of 1:26:34 improved the 40-44 year old record by 10 minutes and 6 seconds. Ronda Davis had run a 1:36:43 in 2010.
The Geneseo champions for the half marathon this year are John Killigrew (1:23:39) who finished 7th overall and Jennifer Reschke (1:35:54) who finished 6th female and 30th overall.
Oak Tree 5K
There was no surprise in the 5k as Geneseo native Evan Magnussen defended his 2015 victory with an ever more impressive performance in his fifth appearance at the Oak Tree. Magnussen ran 30 seconds faster than last year’s victory and went just under 16 minutes with a 15:58, just 10 seconds shy of the all-time course record. Previously, only one runner had ever run under 16 minutes on this very challenging 5k course, which involves running up the hill from Main Street to Highland via Center Street. That other runner is Bobby Henchen, who set the course record in 2011 with a 15:49. Henchen is also a native of Geneseo and has 4 Oak Tree titles to his name including capturing the inaugural race in 2005. In second place, Nunda’s Jacob Blanchard finished in 17:32, edging out Nick Cunningham of Piffard by just 4 seconds who finished in 17:36. Robert Christie (17:37) was 1 second out of 3rd place and finished first from Geneseo. Christie was followed closely by Paul Rellstab (17:40) and Joshua Williams (17:47) who finished just 1 and 3 seconds behind, and who each also hail from Geneseo.
Livonia’s Hayleigh Palotti won the women's division with a 19:07. Palotti runs for the Livonia Central School cross country team. In second place was two time Oak Tree champion Melissa Senall who ran a 19:41. Lakeville’s Clarissa Hensler finished just 3 seconds behind to capture third place in 19:44. In only 7 of previous 11 Oak Trees had women run under 20 minutes. In six of those years only the winner was able to do so. 2009 was the only other year that multiple women ran sub-20 when two went under 20 minutes. Perhaps the highlight of the women’s race was 9-year-old Catherine Staley who broke her own 9 and under age group course record with a 20:44 as she competed for the last time in the youngest age group. Staley’s performance also crowned her as Geneseo’s first female finisher this year.
Geneseo’s Robert Christie captured the masters division for the men in 17:37, while Melissa Senall of Fairport captured it on the women’s side in 19:41.
Five age group records fell this year including one set the first year of the Oak Tree. For the men, masters winner Robert Christie of Geneseo ran a 17:37 to set a new 40-44 record, bettering Ray Lawson’s 2010 run of 18:43. Tom Dutton of Livonia, holder of the 60-64 and 65-69 age group records, did it again setting the new 70+ age group record at 24:39. This is 1 minute and 36 seconds faster than Otto Freezer’s record set back in 2006, the second year of the Oak Tree.
The women set three new 5k age group records. Catherine Staley of Geneseo bettered her own performance last year by 1 minute and 33 seconds to re-set the 9 and under age group record in her final year in that bracket. Overall winner Hayleigh Palotti, 16, also set a new 15-19 year old bracket record with her 19:07, 48 seconds faster than Samantha Johnson ran in 2010. The final record to fall was set in 2005 by Linda McGuire in the 55-59 bracket. Donna Mager of Warsaw, 56, ran a 23:32 to leave only one female age-group record left standing from the inaugural Oak Tree in 2005.
Many volunteers assist with pulling off this major event in the Village and Town of Geneseo which requires road closures and year-long preparations by the race committee. In addition to many individuals, the Geneseo Central cross country team, York girls soccer team, SUNY Geneseo cross country and hockey teams, and St. John Fisher cross country team all assisted with the race. Other groups volunteering included SUNY Geneseos delta phi epsilon, Faith Fellowship Church, Livingston-Wyoming ARC, and Geneseo boy and cub scout troops.
For the third year, the Oak Tree Half Marathon was the featured distance race as part of the Rochester Runner of the Year Series, an annual running series featuring the area’s top races. Runners compete in distances from 1 mile up to the Oak Tree Half Marathon, earning points based on how well they place; at the end of the racing season the top male and female runners in Rochester are crowned.
While the race is a favorite among local runners, it is also supported strongly by local businesses. Tompkins Bank of Castile, Insurance Agencies, and Financial Advisors have been leading sponsors since the inaugural run in 2005. Genesee Valley Jeep provided a Wrangler to lead the race, Once Again Nut Butter contributed premium nut butters to runners and all of the volunteers, and GioVanna’s Pizza and Pasta helped refuel runners with post-race food. Many other businesses also participate, contributing financial support, product, and volunteer hours to help the Conservancy make this one of the great local running races in western New York.
Results can be found here.
The 2017 Oak Tree Race will take place the Sunday of Labor Day weekend, September 3, 2017.