2019 Oak Tree Race
There were 562 finishers in the 15th Oak Tree Half Marathon & 5K that took place in Geneseo on September 1, 2019. The event, which benefits Genesee Valley Conservancy, raised over $20,000 to support land conservation efforts in the Genesee River watershed. The Conservancy currently protects 19,375 acres of land and this year’s race will help the organization surpass the 20,000-acre mark before 2020.
This year’s Oak Tree Race winners are, in the half marathon, Alexander Burks (1:11:48) and Melissa Johnson-White (1:20:32) and in the 5K, Steven Haagsma (16:19) and Ali Briggs (21:11).
Oak Tree History
The Oak Tree Race began 15 years ago as a special event to celebrate Genesee Valley Conservancy’s 15th anniversary. The year of 2005 was dubbed by the Conservancy as the “Year of the Oak” and the half marathon and 5k courses were designed to feature several Conservancy projects as part of its anniversary celebration.
Fast forward 15 years and the Oak Tree Race is celebrated its own 15-year anniversary this year and has become a featured running race in western New York. This year was the sixth time the Oak Tree Half Marathon was the featured distance race included on the Rochester Runner of the Year Series of races. The Runner of the Year series features a dozen events, from 1 mile up to the half marathon, to determine the fastest male and female runners in the Rochester region.
Course Record Falls in Half Marathon
In the Oak Tree Half Marathon there were 239 total finishers. The overall and male Oak Tree Champion is Alexander Burks in a time of 1:11:48. Burks, a SUNY Geneseo alumni and Geneseo resident, improved from last year’s 3rd place finish as he took 4 minutes and 6 second off of his time to win by an 8 minute margin.
The female course record, which was set in 2008, was crushed today as Melissa Johnson-White of Fairport returned to defend her 2018 victory. Johnson-White, also a SUNY Geneseo alumni, ran a 1:20:32 to improve the women’s course record by 3 minutes and 7 seconds. Her time also improved the 35-39 age group course record she set last year.
Behind Johnson-White, by just 2 minutes and 4 seconds, was Sarah Danner of Buffalo who ran a 1:23:28, also beating the previous women’s course record, which was set by Danner’s mother in 2008, who attended this year's race to watch her daughter. Danner’s time beat the previous course record held by her mom by 11 seconds. Danner holds the second fastest female time on the Oak Tree Half Marathon course and her mother holds the third fastest female time in the Oak Tree's 15 year history.
After 15 years of the Oak Tree, the age group records for the course are extremely competitive. Just one male age group record was broken as Tim Dwyer, 59, bested his own 55-59 age group course record set as a 55 year old. Dwyer lowered this age group time to 1:25:53 and continues to hold the age group records from 45 up through 59 year olds.
Four female age group course records were set this year including each of the top three finishers. Melissa Johnson-White bettered her own 35-39 age group record set in 2018 by dropping 4 minutes and 9 seconds to a 1:20:32. Runner-up Sarah Danner also set an age group record in the 25-29 group in 1:23:28, dropping 37 seconds off the record set by Kathryn Potter in 2017. Third place finisher Megan Luckner, in her first appearance at Oak Tree, set a new age group record for 20-24 year olds with her 1:24:03, dropping 3 minutes and 18 seconds from the 2010 record set by Laura Iafrati. In the senior most group, 70+, 72 year old Darby Lewes ran a 2:23:57 to drop over 25 minutes from the record set in 2017 by Donna McKendree.
Oak Tree 5K
There were 323 finishers in the 15th anniversary Oak Tree 5K. Steve Haagsma of Buffalo took 19 seconds off of his 2018 Oak Tree 5K victory to defend his title and capture his second Oak Tree victory in 16:19. Haagsma had a comfortable gap at the finish, bettering Evan Magnussen, a two-time Oak Tree champion by 23 seconds.
Ali Briggs of Geneseo captured her first Oak Tree title, leading in the females with a time of 21:11. Briggs also had a comfortable lead at the finish, with a 58 second gap to the second place female finisher Brittany Sullivan.
Just two age group course record fell at this year's Oak Tree as Barbara Sauer, 71, dropped 4 minutes and 17 seconds from Marie Owen's record set in 2012. The 70+ group record is now 27:43. Lynne Marus set a new 65-69 age record, lowering the previous 2008 record by 3 minutes and 32 seconds to 27:15.
15 Years 15 Finishes
Two local runners continued their streak of finishes at the Oak Tree. Jeff Matthews (Geneseo) and Annette Brenner (Honeoye Falls) each completed the Oak Tree Half Marathon for their fifteenth time. No other runner has completed the half marathon race every year since 2005.
Several aspects of the Oak Tree Race are aimed to make the event sustainable and reduce carbon and pollution created from hosting such a large event.
Single use plastic bags, formerly used at packet-pickup by runners, were replaced this year by Tompkins Bank of Castile with reusable tote bags. These tote bags can be reused by runners for grocery shopping and at other stores as New York State begins to phase out single use plastic bags that cause significant negative long-term environmental impacts.
For the first time, the Oak Tree Race also hosted a used shoe collection this year. In partnership with Al Sigl, used shoes of all styles and types were collected at packet pickup and race day with the goal of providing runners a way to divert worn out running shoes from the landfills and give them to microbusinesses that will salvage reusable materials from the shoes.
A race program was also put together this year. This program contained race information and business sponsor information and is fully recyclable. Previously, materials coming from business supporters were not always recyclable.
At the finish line, reusable cups provided by Dublin Corners Farm Brewery reduced waste at the race and provide runners a keepsake cup that can be used for years to come.
One Down – Trio to Go
The Oak Tree has marked the first running race in the Geneseo Trio series of races for eleven years. On Saturday September 7, the Arc of Livingston-Wyoming will host the Arc 5k Run/Walk starting at the Saint Mary’s Church. To conclude the series, the SUNY Geneseo Cross Country Teams will host the Knight's Fall 5K on October 26 on the college’s campus. Runners completing all three events have their times compiled to crown the fastest male and female runners.
Josh Harter (50:25) of Avon currently holds the male record he set in 2014 for the Geneseo Trio series and Catherine Staley (1:00:01) of Geneseo holds the female record which she set in 2017.
For errors on the race results or any other issues/comments, please email Ben at firstname.lastname@example.org