For 39 years, professional athletes from all over the country and the world have traveled to Shelter Island to participate in the annual 10K race. But that’s never stopped year-round and summer residents from giving them a run for their money.
Perhaps their most formidable competition comes from the ranks of Shelter Island High School’s (SIHS) cross-country and track teams, which regularly place in the top 10 at New York State championships and sends runners to compete for some of the nation’s top colleges.
The program owes much of its prestige to its founder, Cliff Clark, president of South Ferry and former SIHS distance running coach who, in 1972, missed making the United States Olympic track team by only half a second. Mr. Clark co-founded the 10K in 1980 with John Strode and Jack Faith.
Mr. Clark’s legacy is carried on by 17-year-old SIHS track and cross country star, Lindsey Gallagher, who was the first Island woman to cross the 10K finish line with a time of 41:57.21.
“The town is so supportive of the running program at the high school and there’s a great history of running on Shelter Island,” Ms. Gallagher said. “It’s awesome because you don’t get to meet Olympians every day, and we have them around all the time.”
An All-State honored athlete, Ms. Gallagher has been running since the 7th grade, but this was her first time participating in the 10K. In the fall, she will head off to Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, where she will run both track and cross country.
When asked what inspired her most, Ms. Gallagher named her coaches, Toby Green, and her dad, Brian Gallagher, but also the spectators on the sidelines. “The crowds were so motivating, it’s really inspiring to have people who know you call out your name,” she said.
Gary Baddeley, a 53-year-old entertainment lawyer and London native who has spent summers here since 1992, was the first Island man to break the tape for the second year in a row. Mr. Baddeley went into the race hoping to finish under 40 minutes. He did exactly that — clocking in at 39:56.62. Not bad for someone who has only been running competitively for the past two years.
Asked what makes the Island 10K special, Mr. Baddeley said, “Other than the course, which of course is beautiful, the most amazing thing is all of the people who volunteer for the race and all the spectators with such fantastic spirit. It’s really hard work, but that’s what makes the 10K different from any other race.”
He hopes to retire to the Island and looks forward to participating in and volunteering for future 10Ks. “It’s something I look forward to pretty much all year,” he added. “It has been going 40 years and I hope it goes another 40.”
Tara Wilson, 31, grew up on Shelter Island and ran cross country for SIHS when Mr. Clark was head coach. After placing within the top 5.5 percent of participants in Saturday’s 10K, she reflected on the Island’s culture of running.
“I think Shelter Island is such a unique place for running, and Cliff Clark has a lot to do with it,” Ms. Wilson said. “This race has grown tremendously since I ran it first when I was in college.”
Another defining aspect of 10K is “Joey’s Mile,” which honors First Lieutenant Joseph Theinert, who was killed in action in Afghanistan in 2010. Volunteers helped line the road between miles 5 and 6 of the race with 6,950 American flags, one for every American killed in Afghanistan and Iraq. Quinn Hundgen, who graduated from SIHS in 2014, was among those who ran to raise money for the Theinert Strongpoint Ranch.
“One of the things that was most indicative of when Shelter Island comes together is when Joey died,” Mr. Hundgen said. “He was such a well-loved guy, we really all grieved as a whole … This race is such a cool event as far as Shelter Island goes just because it’s the one thing that everybody really is involved in.”