Jesse Vondracek, Laurel Wassner first-place finishers in Gardiner 5K Classic

Renee Salamone and son Caden (photo by Lauren Thomas)

There’s a compelling reason why marathons and other long-distance footraces are scheduled for spring and fall. Runners don’t hold up well in the heat. They get dangerously dehydrated quickly. Even a short race like a 5K can be bedeviled by hot weather.

In the late afternoon last Thursday, the skies smiled down on the 156 runners who participated in the 16th annual Gardiner 5K Classic, a benefit event for the Gardiner fire department and rescue squad. With the air temperature at race time hovering a little under the 80-degree mark and the humidity at a comfortable level, the runners coming in over the finish line in Majestic Park were all smiles. A half-moon hung in the clear blue sky, There were a smattering of jumpers from nearby Skydive the Ranch.

A squad of enthusiastic little girls from Gardiner, organized by six-year-old Hope Goodnow, ran forward with bottles of water to offer each finisher. Two race officials from the New Paltz-based company PR Timing monitored the timestamp results being fed to their computer by the chips concealed in the numbers worn by each runner. 


Bill Defino, a physical education teacher from Lenape Elementary School, served as race announcer, complimenting each and every runner on hs or her finish. “The nice thing about the Gardiner Classic is that it’s a race for everyone,” Defino observed. “It’s a good cause, and it’s a lot of fun.”

While the majority of the competitors were local residents, a handful were drawn to Gardiner from farther afield. The overall winner, setting a tough 5:28 miles-per-minute pace and finishing at 16:58, was a visitor from Tucson, Arizona named Jesse Vondracek. In second and third place were Logan Linares of New Paltz at 17:45 and Riley Brutvan of Gardiner at 17:52.

The first-place finisher in the women’s division, and fourth overall at 18:43, was Laurel Wassner, a New York City resident who is visiting her sister in New Paltz for the summer and competes “every year” in the event. A professional triathlete, Wassner said that she had just run from Minnewaska to New Paltz the previous evening as part of her training. 

“She’s a better runner than me,” Wassner said of her sister, who was taking a break from the Gardiner Classic after having a baby. “We both started running when we were around ten.” Noting that the temperature on the day of the event had been “like 100 degrees” the last time the sisters both participated in the event, Wassner called this year’s conditions just about perfect weather. “I took only one water station, and I didn’t even drink it,” she said. “I just poured it over me to cool down.”

One new mother opting to run in this year’s Gardiner Classic was Elizabeth Sollecito of Montgomery. She came in about a third of the way down the pack at 29:35, quite a respectable finish, considering that she was pushing her seven-and-a-half-week-old daughter in a jogging stroller. “I was cleared to work out on Monday,” Sollecito said. She pushed herself hard at the race’s end when she saw that she had a chance to come in under 30 minutes. Baby Mila seemed unperturbed, half-asleep despite the jouncing of her first-ever race. The proud mother called it Mila’s “first of many [races]. Everyone wants her to train for a marathon.”

As the last of the adult runners trickled in, those who had already finished gathered under a big tent on the flat site where the Majestic Park pavilion was recently dismantled. Children too small to run a 5K got their chances to race, some of them barefoot, in a kids’ fun run at the ballfield. Volunteers from Gardiner fire and rescue grilled hot dogs donated by Hannaford as well as hamburgers, and supplied cold soda from Tops and water from Shop-Rite. Prizes, mainly in the form of gift cards donated by local businesses, were handed out to the top three male and female finishers in each age category. In what seems perilously close to becoming a Gardiner Classic tradition, once again a bald-headed man was awarded a gift certificate from a hair salon.

To view the complete results from the 2018 Gardiner 5K Classic race, visit the PR Timing website at