CLIFTON PARK, N.Y. – It was a perfect afternoon for running Sunday afternoon making every runner, volunteer, fan and organizer pleased for the opportunity to give back to the annual Nick’s Fight to be Healed 5k.
It became the ideal day for some runners to return to the Clifton Common to take on the 5k course, new locals a chance to add a new win in a different sport and a chance for the heart and soul of the event to pass the baton.
2016 Hall of Fame jockey Ramón Domínguez added a new title to his racing resume, the Nick’s Fight to be Healed 5k overall title, running the Clifton Park course in 17 minutes, 17 seconds.
The winner of almost 5,000 races as a jockey and a three-time Eclipse Award winner and Travers winner became a resident of Saratoga Springs last year and became an avid runner just 18 months ago.
“Given the dynamics in the profession as a jockey I ran quite often, but it was always a mile, mile and a-half at the most and at a very slow pace,” Domínguez said. “A year and a-half I stumbled across running, introduced to organized running and it’s something that I've been doing consistently and enjoying very much.”
Domínguez retired from racing after an accident at Aqueduct Racetrack in 2013, suffering multiple skull fractures and a traumatic brain injury. While recovered and completing successful rehab, he would not ride again as another spill could prove tragic.
Infected by the new-found racing bug, he has embraced and excelled in his new racing sport.
“I'm taking it very seriously as with anything I do, but it something that I enjoy and I can see this being a big part of my life for sure,” Domínguez said.
While unfamiliar to many of the runners at the starting line, they were all quickly left in the proverbial dust by the 42-year-old harrier.
“I started fairly close to the front runners and shortly after I ended up taking the lead and I continued on the lead from then on,” Domínguez said. “I felt great and in the last mile I tried to pick it up and I feel like it was a strong finish.”
His new racing resume: 9 starts 4 wins.
Rensselaer runner Shannon O’Meara returned to the Nick’s Fight to be Healed 5k after an eight-year hiatus, bettered her time by more than two minutes at 21:31 as the top female finisher Sunday afternoon.
“Life, work and kids,” Shannon O’Meara explained about her absence. “I've been running all along, but I was working on weekends a lot so that might have been the factor before.
(Eight years ago) I was on a work team through Community Care Physicians eight years ago, so it was a bunch of my colleagues and I,” O’Meara said. “Since then I've been doing 5ks, 10k, ragnars (relay races). Right now I'm training for my first half-marathon the end of October.”
With a start that began under and through the inflated finish arch, she chose her path carefully to become the leading female runner.
“I started out slow, which I typically do because a couple of times I've tripped kind of weaving through people in the past, a little tricky but as soon as I got open, about a quarter of a mile out I kind of went past a lot of people,” O’Meara said.
Once on the course it all came back to her.
“I remember the whole thing, I like that it's mostly flat and it's pretty smooth pavement,” O’Meara said.
Then she focused on her time and hoped for a positive outcome.
“I wasn't sure for this race because there were a lot of people who darted out way ahead of me that I couldn't see so I wasn't sure that I was going to be the top (female),” O’Meara said. “I thought I was going to be in the top few at least, but I wasn't sure.”
After the awards were handed out, to the fastest overall and top finishers by age group, Nick’s Fight to be Healed president and co-founder Janine Cammarata breathed a sigh of relief, similar to the runners who completed the 5k.
This year’s sigh was a little heavier as she will now turn the reigns over to the annual September 5k to another organization, the same baton she took from the Catie Hoch Foundation 10 years ago.
“Everything just really runs itself now and the community I think knows that this is a staple for over 20 years so now the Honsinger family will continue and I feel comfortable passing it on to them,” Cammarata said. “After 10 years I started to get a little tired, but also my writing has really stepped up, I want to spend more time on that and I think having someone new come in adds some more sparkle to it and the Honsinger family has a need. They don't have a cure for their family, for JP and to pass it on and still the fact that they help with the Melodies (Center at Albany Med).”
The Nick’s Fight to be Healed foundation was formed after the death of then 13-year old Nick Cammarata after succumbing to Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL). The foundation supports pediatric cancer patients and their families, looking to improve their quality of life during their fight and support those around them.
The Honsinger’s are fighting for their son, JP, diagnosed with Niemann-Pick Type C (NPC) a form of childhood Alzheimer’s.
The 5k is the only thing coming off of Cammarata’s plate for her and the foundation, her work will continue along with their other various fundraising events.
“We're still focusing on the financial support, but also on that emotional support for the effected families,” Cammarata said. “Once you are finished with treatment you still have so many side effects, kids have PTSD, so I'm trying to use my skills as a writer, journaling, yoga, how can we help the families during treatment and after.
“We're still supporting them financially, still in the hospital, but when the needs change you need to change and grow with it.”
Working with the Town of Clifton Park and supervisor Phil Barrett, the 5k will continue on its traditional date, but under a different banner.
“We've been meeting with them, they've been coming, they've shadowed us today and we're passing all our notes on,” Cammarata said. “It’s the best way for success and hopefully it'll continue.”