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169 Town Running Group joins 4th Annual Raider 5K Run. Pretak, Shields finish on top.

POSTED June 07, 2015
BY Timothy W. Gaffney
Twitter: @TimothyGaffney

TORRINGTON: Got a race? This group will probably find it.

There was a new group of runners at the 4th Annual Varsity Alumni Club Raider 5K run and they have a great story and are developing quite a following.

Just don’t expect them to be around too longer after the race because they are more than likely on their way to run somewhere else.

They call themselves the Run 169 Towns Club, a group formed by Karen Rogers from Clinton, CT in 2012. Their objective is to do what the name implies, run an organized race in all 169 towns in Connecticut.

An amazing objective that has grown in leaps and bounds in just three years when a handful of runners started it and the numbers today are nearing 400 plus.

Six members were on hand in Torrington on Saturday in a race won by former Raider standout, Steve Pretak in 17:01.   

Leilannie Quintana, from New Haven, explained how she got involved and how it works.

“I actually just joined two years ago,” Quintana said, “I was number 146 so there were 145 people before me. When you complete all 169 towns, you are named queen and one women (Rogers) did it first to become queen and then a man (Bob Davis from Naugatuck) became the king when he finished.”

To date only three have completed the magic number but there was another man about to run in his 168th race on Saturday in the state.

A good deal of the racing that takes place in any of our towns happen on the weekend so the challenge of getting to the top of the mountain takes some kind of dedication and effort.

“We just go out and try to run as many races as we can,” Quintana said, “I have now run 30 in two years. Our group does a really good job of keeping us up to date on what races are coming. They post weekly schedules that list all the races in all the towns and you just pick a race.”

Showing her desire to move closer to the 169 goal, Quintana was off to Harwinton for another race at one o’clock Saturday after finishing the 10:30 start in Torrington.     

---Pretak won in a time of 17:01 on a course he has run forever.

“Whenever I’m back in Torrington I’m running on these hills,” Pretak said. “It’s nice to see my old cross country coach (Drake Waldren) and Mrs. Strawson was one of my teachers. It’s good to help contribute to the Varsity Alumni Club.”

On the women’s side, former Lewis Mills star, Anna Shields was the top female finisher with a time of 20:06.

“It was great,” Shields said, “It was my first race in a really long time so it was a great way to get back into it. I had never run the course before but I would do it again.”

---The Varsity Alumni Club has been around for nearly three quarters of a century, originally the brainchild of the legendary Connie Donahue.

Your usual suspects were on hand making sure everything the runners needed was taking care of before and after the race.

The combo of Ed Arum, Tony Turina, Gerry Carbone and Paul Denza had the spatulas flipping on dueling grills that churned out burgers and dogs while a host of other volunteers made sure cold drinks were available under the tents.

Paul O’Heron, who heads the operation, along with Mario Longobucco, made sure the day went as smooth as it has for the past four years.

It’s what makes the VAC so strong. A great bunch of people all pulling towards a common goal of making sure the scholarships continue flowing for generations of Raiders to come.

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