Hundreds of runners remember Meghan - Tewksbury Town Crier: Sports

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Hundreds of runners remember Meghan

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Posted: Saturday, April 5, 2014 12:12 pm

Despite tough weather conditions, runners still hit the pavement

TEWKSBURY --Not even frigid air and driving rain were enough to keep the people of Tewksbury from rallying together in support of a good cause.

On Sunday, over a hundred Tewksbury residents of all ages stepped to the starting line of the fifth annual Meghan McCarthy 5K road race at the Tewksbury Memorial High School and defied the elements.

This outpouring of support from the community was not lost on race organizer Jordan Russell, who was effusive in her praise for the people, Tewksbury-native and otherwise, who braved the elements to participate.

“I think for what we were given, it went great,” Russell said. “It was truly phenomenal to see how many people still came out, in spite of the weather.”

The race was created five years ago to honor the memory of fallen Tewksbury teen Meghan McCarthy. McCarthy succumbed to a brain tumor in 2010, leaving a hole in the lives of her family and friends. All proceeds from the race are contributed to fund cancer research at the Dana Farber Institute, and provide support to the Flying Henry’s charity bike team.

Meghan’s mother, Lee, was overwhelmed by the strong showing even against the weather. For Lee, it was a reminder of just how important Meghan was to the town of Tewksbury. Even years after her passing, Meghan continues to shape and empower the people of Tewksbury.

“Meghan had a real impact on this community,” Lee said. “She brought this community together, and by coming to her race, the town can remind themselves of just how much good they’ve done.”

Since its inception, the 5K race has continued to grow and evolve, this year featuring donated assistance from and FM Radio Station 103.3. While the weather put a damper on the hoped for day-of registrations, pre-registration still accounted for over three hundred sign-ups.

But in spite of its evolution, the race remains firmly rooted in Tewksbury. Even years later, the crowd of racers was still packed with teachers, coaches, and friends of Meghan and the McCarthy family, all eager to show just how profound an impact Meghan had had on their lives.

“When I first started assistant coaching for the girls varsity basketball team, that was when I first met Meghan,” said Mike Hayes. “I’ve been doing this race since day one. I’m not from Tewksbury, but you can tell how the town comes together and rallies around what they’re trying to accomplish.”

So many people were on hand to support the cause and of course remember their dear friend.

“I knew Meghan when she was at the Ryan School in the fifth grade,” said Gretchen Martel. “I think it’s good for kids to see that through difficult and tough times, something positive can come out of it. Supporting Meghan’s family and friends, fund-raising, those are great things.”

Fellow Ryan School teacher Nicole Zwirek concurred with Martel about what an inspiring sight the race continued to be.

“What I love about the race is just the community coming out to remember Meghan,” Zwirek said. “She was such a great kid, and her family is so supportive of everyone doing the race. It’s great that we’re out here to remember an amazing kid and her family who support the town in so many other aspects.”

That community sense was pervasive throughout the entire race experience. Walking into the high school, racers were greeted with poster boards filled with photo collages of Meghan, not to mention happy welcomes from Lee McCarthy. As always, Lee is a constant presence of warmth and gratitude, brightening up even the coldest, wettest runner.

“There are so many loyal, faithful people who come every year,” Lee said. “Meghan had such a great group of friends and supporters, and it’s always wonderful to see them.”

That same spirit of community was present even in the final results. This year’s race was won by Michael Cusson, a Chelmsford resident who finished with a final time of 19:43. Even though Cusson is not a Tewksbury native, the town and the cause played a major role in bringing him out on race day. Cusson’s wife is a friend and co-worker to Lee, giving him a personal stake in arriving on race day and giving it his all.

“It’s a great cause and I hope they managed to raise a lot of money,” Cusson said. “These sort of races are fun because you normally see the same people at each one. It can become like its own little running group.”

And representing an even closer tie to Meghan was the second place finisher, Karie Judge. A close friend of Meghan since the first grade, Judge travelled back from UMass-Lowell to tear up the asphalt in memory of her friend, finishing with a time of 20:09.

“It is always so great when Meghan’s friends come back and run and do such a great job,” Lee said.

After Judge, the other top ten fmale finishers included: Trish Bourne (20:31), Nicole McKenna (22:08), Devyn Vetis (22:42), Kristin Spinosa (22:48), Marli Piccolo (23:38), Kimberly DiCredico (23:43), Kim Burdyk (24:42), Chelsea Paulin (24:46), and Jane McKenna (25:35), with each woman hustling through the downpour to finish strong.

The top ten male runners were Jakob Warner (21:51), Jaryd Palmer (21:59), David King (22:40), Joe Ginsburg (22:42), Ben Bourne (23:04), John Keough (23:11), Zach Hines (25:16), Christopher Maxwell (25:40), and Michael Jensen (26:39). Palmer was the first male finisher from Tewksbury.

The organizers of the race were grateful to everyone who dared to show that they would not allow the raw weather to deter them from their drive to provide support to all those still battling cancer, and to keeping Meghan McCarthy vital in the town’s memory.

Russell has already turned towards next year’s race, with the hopes that better weather and an early marketing push will prompt an even greater turnout. With more and more sponsors lining up to donate time and resources, it seems as though the race is only going to continue to expand.

“This year’s race proved to us that this race is something that can keep happening,” Russell said. “There were people who didn’t even know Meghan, who I didn’t recognize, and they still came to support her. It’s so nice to hear from people that want to do more.”

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