PEDERSEN, DYKE RUN TO VICTORIESAT 58TH ANNUAL ASBURY PARKPOLAR BEAR RACES ON BOARDWALK;PAUL AND LOGAN LEAD RACEWALKERS.
By ELLIOTT DENMAN
ASBURY PARK - The Asbury Park Polar Bear Races - held to a limited few participants by the Covid pandemic raging at Holiday Time 2020 - were back at virtually full strength for their 58th annual edition on Sunday morning, December 26th, 2021.
That was the very good news delivered at the Day-After-Christmas special, the gala event whose history dates back to 1964, which attracted nearly 300 participants and crowds of onlookers to the Asbury Park boardwalk. All the racers were sent on their way by the
honorary starter, Asbury Park councilwoman Eileen Chapman.
The featured 5K race winners were a coast-to-coast combination.
As Robert Pedersen Jr. of Santa Rosa, California was racing to a men's 5K triumph in the Polar Bear record-time of 15:14.18, Perth Amboy resident Kerry Dyke, a star member of
host Shore Athletic Club's women's distance racing team, was leading the women's division in 18:49, quick but not up to her own Polar Bear-record pace of 17:35, dating to 2019.
Maria Paul of Long Branch and Bruce Logan of New York City captured top honors in the 5K racewalking event, with respective second-places earned by Panse Geer of Hazlet Township and Fred Linkhart of Ocean Township.
Pedersen did something very special - cracking the Polar Bear 5K record of 15:23 set by the famed Marty Liquori 46 years ago.
It was the remarkable Liquori, then of Cedar Grove, whose brilliant career started at Essex High School in Newark and continued on at Villanova University, and reached both the
1968 Mexico City Olympic Games and the top echelons of the world track and field scene, with brilliant performances from the on-mile distance to the 5K (3.1 miles), who had clocked that 15:23 in 1975.
Polar Bear racing distances have varied over the years - often adjusted to the severe weather conditions that have beset past editions - but the 5K route is now the distance of choice, and is run over a two-loop course, a two-miler, and a 1.1-miler - on the boards south of Convention Hall, to Ocean Grove and return.
For Pedersen, it was a return to his New Jersey roots - and he wore a "CR" running vest, in tribute to his father's racing days at Cedar Ridge High School of Old Bridge Township.
"Wow!" he said, "to break a Marty Liquori record, that is a really cool fact !!
"I'm going back to California, where I've moved after college, and where I now coach and run for the Empire Runners Club of Santa Rosa. "But I'm glad I had the opportunity to run in the race. And I hope to visit New Jersey again soon."
Recent Monmouth University star Kyle Mueller ran second in 15:45.27, with Middletown brothers Brian (15:45.30) and Kyle Hill (15:46.44), both former Christian Brothers Academy stars, in 3-4. Completing the top five was Kyle Spector of Manalapan (16:02.04), now excelling at Georgian Court University.
Racing home on Dyke's heels in the women's division were Howell's Kellee McEwen (20:07.90), Jennifer Malavolta of Reeders, Pa. (20:20.23), Jillian Dowling of Princeton Junction (20:29.75) and Michelle Navarro of Red Bank (20:40.01.)
Just one Polar Bear runner has been at the event for all 58 years - and that is Middletown's Harold Nolan, a member of both the Shore Athletic Club and National Masters Halls of Fame. A nine-time Polar Bear champion over the years, Nolan continues in excellent form. He was clocked in at 25:55.47 in 93rd place, and second spot just nine seconds back of Monmouth Beach's Mike Washakowski atop the men's 70-74 division.
Nolan was given special recognition at the start of the race by Shore AC president Walter MacGowan, he was serving as meet announcer.
"Thanks for the personal mention of my 58 years," said Nolan.
"Good job on (organizing) the Polar Bear," Nolan told event director Erin O'Neill. "It was nice to see a big turnout; it was a good day for racing."
In additon to New Jersey, New York and California, states represented included Pennsylvania, Maryland, Massachusetts,
New Hampshire, Florida, Louisiana, Tennessee, Georgia, Kansas, Nebraska and Texas.
And a big part of the event, once again and as as he's been doing it for many years, was Mr. Dave DeMonico of Ocean Township.
Clad as Santa Claus, DeMonico, the former Rutgers University track and cross country star, again saluted the nation and the event with his pre-start trumpet rendition of the
national anthem. And when it was over, he led a small parade of participants in the traditional dip into the Atlantic Ocean.
"Of course, it was cold, " said DeMonico. "But not that bad, either. Over the years, you get used to these things."
RACE RESULTS HERE