Stewart captures Northmen/Navigant 5K

Stewart captures Northmen/Navigant 5K

Above left, North Smithfield’s Cat Reyes, who was the second female finisher in a time of 22:44, and North Smithfield High teacher Hunter Stewart, who won the race in 18:18, pose for a picture during the post-race awards ceremony at last Saturday morning’s Northmen/Navigant 5K at the Northmen Athletic Complex. (Breeze photos by Eric Benevides)
Third place last year, high school teacher wins with 18:18 time

NORTH SMITHFIELD – Chalk one up for the North Smithfield High faculty.

Hunter Stewart, an English teacher at the high school, won the Northmen/Navigant 5K Run/Walk Challenge on a sunny Saturday morning, as he topped a field of 162 participants in an 18:18 time that was 26 seconds faster than the runner-up finisher, North Smithfield’s Chase Fuller.

Stewart, who placed third in last June’s race to South County road racing standout Bronson Venable, who seized first place, and Northmen cross country star Oliver Hazard, who was wrapping up his junior year, improved his time from last year by 46 seconds.

On Saturday, Stewart was the only one of the three back at the Northmen Athletic Complex – Venable was competing in another road race and Hazard was running in the 3,000 at the RIIL Track & Field Championships at Brown University – but he still had some competition to deal with.

The 3.1-mile race, which started on Providence Pike next to the entrance to the turf field/track facility’s parking lot and proceeded downhill, saw Stewart, Fuller, West Kingston’s Stefan Cox, and North Smithfield High freshman Jarrod Dube jump out in front of the pack in the early stages.

But as the field circled the middle and high schools and toured the hills through the neighborhoods on Grange Road, Stewart began to break away, and when he raced around the loop in front of North Smithfield Elementary School, he had a sizeable lead on Stewart with a mile to go and was well on his way to victory.

“I went out a little faster than I wanted to, forgetting about the first hill and how steep it was,” noted Stewart. “But it really came down to the temperature out there. I think that a lot of people were hurting and hydration was probably an issue. The NSES loop was really, really hot – you hit the top of the hill there and you had to run around the parking lot, fully exposed (to the sun). That was tough.”

Cox, who finished fourth in the George Nasuti Novans Pride 5K that took place in Woonsocket on Memorial Day morning, ended up taking third in 19:38. Dube was fourth in 20:18, and East Greenwich road racing veteran Dave Schaad, who placed second in the 2013 race, rounded out the top five finishers in 20:31.

The women’s winner, Warwick’s Issy Nielson, also placed sixth overall, more than a second behind Schaad. She was the second female finisher in 2014.

North Smithfield’s Catherine Reyes was the runner-up female for the second year in a row, but her time of 22:44, which was good for 21st place, was also a monster improvement from her 24:38 time from a year ago.

After Nielson’s finish, North Smithfield’s David Haffner placed seventh in 20:41, Raffi Manzo, a junior on the North Smithfield High outdoor track and field team, seized eighth in 20:57, and Nathan Masi, an 8th grader at North Smithfield Middle school, was ninth in 20:59.

“The seniors had their prom last night, so we didn’t see a lot of them,” Stewart said with a smile.

But what Stewart did see was an excellent turnout and another outstanding event that was hosted by the volunteers of the North Smithfield Athletic Association and saw the proceeds again go toward the town’s athletic programs.

“(The field) wasn’t as stacked, but I still think there was a lot of great people who came out to support the race,” remarked Stewart. “This is a nice race and a good community here, and I enjoy teaching here and supporting this race as much as I can.”

Florian Dube, center, walks on the track with his son, Mike Dube, left, and grandson, Devan Dube, on the final lap of the Northmen/Navigant 5K. Dube, who is 90, was pushed on a stroller by his son and grandson for the first 2.88 miles before walking with them the rest of the way.
North Smithfield’s Paul Pare, who has run in all five Northmen/Navigant 5Ks, gets ready to head onto the track for the final 0.22 of a mile.
North Smithfield High athletic director Matt Tek got in a tough workout during last Saturday’s Northmen/Navigant 5K at the Northmen Athletic Complex, as he pushed his son, Xavier, left, and daughter, Charlotte, in a stroller on the hilly 3.1-mile course finishing the race in a time of 25:37.