SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – There is no better way to kick off a new year than with a quick, crisp, redemption run at the Saratoga Arts First Night 5k as both of last year’s second-place finishers rang in 2020 as champions Tuesday night on the Skidmore Campus.

RPI grad Sean O’Connor, currently from West Hartford, Connecticut captured this year’s install with a time of 14:58.0 and Saratoga Springs High School runner Ella Kurto taking the top female honors in 17:57.3.

Last year, O’Connor was beat out by former RPI teammate Ben Fazio and this year out-raced Matt Lange of Schenectady at 15:09 and Fazio at 15:18.7.

Kurto has clear sailing after finishing second last year to senior Kelsey Chmiel; she edged out Elizabeth Lagoy, also of West Hartford at 18:13.8 and Blue Streak teammate Emily Bush at 18:37.1.

“I’ve been doing this for a couple years, three or four,” Sean O’Connor said. “I just really enjoy the course and I have family from Argyle, Glens Falls area, so they came down to watch.

“I like to hang out with Ben (Fazio), Hannah and Josh, a lot of my RPI friends come and do this.”

He wasn’t out for vengeance to start the New Year, but the win was sweet.

“I just like to race with him, we go way back,” O’Connor said. “He taught me a lot about running, he was a senior when I was a sophomore at RPI, and we worked out together, raced together.

“This is a challenge, I'm training for further races this winter and I wanted a hard, hard race and this is definitely one.”

With the temperatures in the mid-30s and mixed precipitation in the forecast, less than 800 runners took to the Skidmore College and surrounding streets course. They also needed some help finding the final turn as the bank of generator lights at the top of the athletic entrance went out 10 minutes into the race. 

Volunteers were on hand with flashlights with red safety cones to direct them to the inflated finish line marker, which was also dimly lit this year.

After racing across the nation this fall for Saratoga Springs High School and the Kinetic Running Club, Kurto had a clear race plan.

“It's definitely a fun course to run, I like running at night time, it makes me feel faster,” Ella Kurto said. “I just wanted to go out there and place first as female.”

She said she trained harder before the First Night event this year and likes what the night brings for her.

“It's probably a good way to start 2020 and a good way to end 2019,” Kurto said.

While Kurto and her running teammates will remain indoors for the next few months, O’Connor will travel with some even loftier goals in mind this year.

“We both (O’Connor and Lagoy) run for this club in Hartford, Heartbeat Track Club, and trying to put that on the map is a goal of mine,” O’Connor said. “Hopefully I’ll qualify for the Olympic trials with the (Houston) half marathon and then run the marathon trials in Atlanta, that's my next goal.”

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