By Jason Tierinni/Sports Information Staff
Since its inception in 1927, the Manchester Road Race has become a Connecticut tradition on Thanksgiving morning, with upwards of 15,000 runners competing in the 4.7 mile race which is the third-largest distance race in New England.
At left: Ryan Franklin directs the youngsters during the Little Manchester Road Race.
Many groups have benefited from the popularity of nationally-renowned race, most notably the Muscular Dystrophy Association , the major benefactor - along with nearly 20 local charities.
In recent years, many area youngsters have enjoyed an association with the race through the creation of the Little Manchester Road Race, which is staged the Saturday before the Big Manchester Road Race.
And this year, members of the Eastern Connecticut State University track and field and cross country programs were there to ensure that the youngsters enjoyed themselves.
The Little Manchester Road race was started in conjunction with the Manchester Road Race. It is a free race held for kids 12 and under and it helps give back to the community. The course run by the kids was developed in Charter Oak Park in Manchester.
Over 500 children ages 12 and under were involved and it required many people lending a helping hand to make this day a success -- not the least of whom were members of the Eastern running program who were there to perform numerous tasks so that this event run smoothly.
The Eastern athletes helped assist other volunteers with showing the kids around the trail. They also helped out with registration and distributed food and handed out medals.
Senior Ryan Franklin from Glastonbury was dressed as a rabbit and helped lead the way for the youngsters as he guided them through the course. Eastern first-year track and field and cross country coach Kathy Manizza said, "This experience is something they can be really proud of. It was a fun time and I know that our student-athletes enjoyed being part of something bigger."
Eastern's contribution to the race went beyond the day of the event. In the weeks prior to the race, the entire Eastern cross country team helped with shirt packaging and mailing.
The event also allowed the members of the team to bond away from practice. Manizza explained, "In track you have many different type of track members with sprinters, jumpers, throwers and distance runners. They don't all practice together , so this is something where they interact and get to know each other better outside of track practice."
Added Manizza, "This race is going to continue to grow and we are going to continue to grow with it."
Members of the track program who donated their time, in addition to Franklin, were Tim Callahan, Ariel Dupont, Katie France, Alexa Palasky, Kylie McCartney, Sam Lew, Samone Jones-McCarthy, Alex Maciolek, Chelsea Morsey, Emily Sniffin, Sherry Gilronan, Chris Brown, Kyle Bolden, D'Vonte Chambers, Fred Hewett, Dylan Kruppa, Steven LaFlamme, Andre Reynolds, and Luis Rosado.
In the month of giving, we should give thanks to these student-athletes who volunteered their time and efforts to this event. Eastern is proud of all of you.