By Pete Fontaine
The Johnston Community Center Association (JCCA) and Citizens Bank established a new Rhode Island sports tradition Sunday morning in Johnston.
It was officially entitled the JCCA-Citizens Bank 5K Run/Walk that attracted upwards of 100 participants to the international financial corporation’s new state-of-the-art campus off Greenville Road.
Perhaps it was fitting that Geoff Nelson, a 33-year-old Providence resident who has been running since his junior year at New Fairfield High School in Connecticut and later ran cross country and track at Syracuse University, won the race.
Nelson works in the investigative compliance department inside the Citizens Bank building. He circled twice and finished first in 18 minutes and 39.4 seconds.
“That’s a 6-minute mile,” Glenn Carroll, the JCCA president who along with Vice President Mark Gilmore provided color commentary at the finish line. “Wow, he (Nelson) blew through this course.”
Anthony Colaluca – another Citizens Bank employee who works in the physical security area – finished second in 24 minutes and 13.8 seconds. He and Nelson both won specially designed medals but more importantly established course records that noted “will make next year’s race even much more exciting.”
Likewise, Leah Cure, who is also a Citizens Bank employee, wrote her name as the firs-ever women’s division winner. She covered what runners called a hilly course in some areas in 24 minutes and 29-4 seconds.
Warwick’s Michael Deveaux was fourth overall and came in behind Cure with a time of 25:52.5. Joe Petrucci of North Kingstown completed the top five finishers in 27:09.8.
The first Johnston male finisher and sixth overall was Eric Benevides, veteran sports editor for the Valley Breeze newspapers, with a time of 27:41.7.
Cam Caso, the 12-year-old son of CB Executive Chris Caso, was the first in the category for runners age 17 and under. The Uxbridge, MA. youngster turned in a time of 28:07.3 and finished several overall.
“Great job Cam,” said Mike Knipper, the Citizens Bank Executive Vice President and Head of Properties who steered the massive construction job at Citizens new complex. “Great job Cam; we’re all proud of you today.”
Bill May of Barrington was eighth overall in 28:18.1, Lincoln’s Donna Mathias was ninth overall in 28:29.8 and Jared Gilmore, 15, of Cranston who is Mark Gilmore’s grandson, completed the top 10 overall finishers in 28:35.7.
Winners in various age categories won medals as well as $50 cash prizes and it was announced by both Carroll and Knipper that there will be a JCCA-Citizens Bank 5K Run/Walk in 2019.
“We’re thrilled to have this event and all you runners here today,” said Knipper, who has become an integral part of Johnston ever since two years ago when Citizens Bank announced it was going to build the campus. “It’s actually our first such event but we plan to do more; it is our intent to become part of this great community.”
As noted, there were many runners from all over the state who came to Johnston for Sunday’s special event.
Prior to Knipper sounded the starting horn, Carroll paid tribute to many people, the first being Heidy Thomas, who he said “was the very first person to register.”
Some 31:00.0 after she stepped off, Thomas became the first female runner from Johnston to finish and thus will have her name forever in the 5K’s history book.
Likewise, another Johnston resident, Town Councilman Robert V. Russo who is known for his athletic prowess and most especially in running, dashed through the finish chute and recorded a time of 33 minutes, 31.8 seconds and was 30th overall.
“This is an important event for Johnston and Citizens Bank,” Russo said while talking with Knipper and other officials after the race. “It’s now a tradition that can and I’m confident will get better and better with each passing year.”
Russo then thanked Citizens Bank for sponsoring this race and said “all runners were especially impressed with how well-organized and professional every part of this race was, from start to finish.”