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Year in Review: 10K hosts small crowd and huge Island spirit

COURTESY PHOTO Jennifer Keller, moments after being the first Island woman across the finish line of the 2015 Shelter Island 10K race, with Meb Keflezighi.

COURTESY PHOTO | Jennifer Keller, moments after being the first Island woman across the finish line of the 2015 Shelter Island 10K race, with Meb Keflezighi.

A 35-year record was broken at the 2015 Shelter Island 10K Run, but it wasn’t set by runners.

Mother Nature was the record breaker at the 36th annual running of the Island’s signature sporting event.

For the first time in the history of the race, it poured throughout the late afternoon.

Many runners prefer overcast days and even light rain, but the torrents of water lashing them Saturday made breaking any course records impossible. Several athletes out of the 2,017 registrants said even if they were able to maintain their pace throughout much of the course, when they entered the final lap at Fiske Field, slippery grass and mud became the enemy, forcing them to slow down to avoid falling.

The usually thick crowd of supporters at the starting line was absent until just before the horn signaled the start of the race. Crowds suddenly appeared from inside the school, showing the spirit that Islanders have always brought to their race.

Runners later said they found the same enthusiasm from crowds as they wound their way around the Island.

Eliud Ngetich, a 21-year-old Kenyan, took top honors in the men’s division, breaking the tape at 28:49, just 16 seconds off the course record set in 2012 by fellow Kenyan

Simon Ndirangu and nearly a minute ahead of 2015’s second-place finisher.

The top female finisher was 29-year-old Ethiopian Elfish Melaku, who runs out of Silver Spring, Maryland, at 34:03. She came in 6 seconds ahead of Katie DiCamillo, 27, of Providence, Rhode Island at 34:09. Ms. Melaku’s time is tops for a female finisher since fellow Ethiopian Bizunesh Deba ran 33:52 in 2009.

For Tyler Cardillo and Jennifer Keller — the first Island man and Island woman across the finish line — fierce rain, a sloppy course and a tough hill near the end of the race presented no serious problems.

For Mr. Cardillo, a summer resident who ran the 10K in 35:09 seconds, the spectators carried him home past any fatigue.

“I loved seeing the people in their rain jackets, hearing the ringing of cow bells,” said Mr. Cardillo, who winters in Punta Gorda, Florida. ”They focused me.”

It was a family affair for Ms. Keller, who ran her third Island 10K in 43:56. The Deer Park Lane resident had her husband, Michael, and two boys, Rhys, 7 and Dax, 4, and other family members at the finish line as inspiration.

“The boys were waiting for me,” Ms. Keller said. “They were actually more excited to see Meb, but that’s O.K.,” she added, speaking of racing professional Meb Keflezighi, who is rapidly becoming a folk hero to Islanders.

Her sister Erin Brosch ran with her, as well as a new addition to Ms. Keller’s family, Cody George, “my new stepbrother,” she said.

The last mile had special poignancy this 10K, she added. Her sister Erin is a captain in the U.S. Army and will be deployed to Afghanistan by the end of this year.

Across the finish line was her waiting family. Her exhilaration was not just an adrenaline rush, not just a sense of accomplishment, but something more.

“I was telling myself this is a special Island,” she said.

Mr. Cardillo crossed the finish line on the wet grass of Fiske Field to cheers. He too, had an inescapable thought: “I love the heart of this Island.”

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