By Larry KelleyFor the Bulletin

Dec 7, 2019 at 8:12 PM Dec 7, 2019 at 8:12 PM

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NORWICH – Bronson Venable knew he didn’t need to run a 15-minute, 5K to defend his Norwich Winterfest 5K title Saturday.
Williams Sanders, the event’s winner from 2013 to 2016 and runner up in 2017 and last year, did not attend the Winterfest’s 7th annual race for the first time. Thus, Venable wasn’t required to run a blistering 15:05 as he did last last year when he was 15 seconds faster than Sanders.
On Saturday, Venable still ran fast by most standards, winning by over two minutes in 16:04. Still, the 29-year-old from Warwick (R.I.) faced challenges.
First, he and the rest of the 280 entrants navigated a new, hillier course in front of Kelly STEAM Middle School and through Mohegan Park. Secondly, Venable is making a much more serious adjustment. For the first time this year, he’s competing as a father, managing parenting his seven-month old son with his road race training.
Venable looked in good form Saturday, winning the Winterfest again. Tyler Crabb, a Norwich Free Academy sophomore long-distance runner, was second in 18:44.
Carolyn Nye of Essex was third overall and the first woman to finish in 19:06.
“This is one of the first times my son has been awake for a race,” Venable said. “I’m blessed to have a wife, in-laws and friends who help me to let me get out and train. Today, I was adjusting to the new course, which started out hilly, got flat for a mile and a half then ended on a hill where your legs are pretty much toast at that point.”
The course also winded through bike paths around Spaulding Pond at Mohegan Park. As one of the area’s few winter races, participants got in the Christmas mood with several wearing holiday-themed running wear looking like Christmas trees, Santa and Elves on the Shelf.
“The previous course was all on streets,” Venable said. “The bike paths were pretty narrow – allowing three-wide at best – so it added a little wrinkle to the run. I liked the course. The Hartford Marathon always puts on a good event. There are never any glitches and offer great swag.”
Crabb ran evenly with Venable down Mahan Street but wasn’t attempting to keep up with the more mature, regionally-ranked runner.
“I ran an indoor track hill workout yesterday, so I was not racing for a PR,” Crabb said. “[Venable] is a serious runner and I lost sight of him after a while. They needed to send out a second pace bike out for me to chart the course.”
Crabb ran a PR 17:27 as NFA’s second-fastest runner at the CIAC Class LL meet and State Open. He’s gunning for a 4:50 mile time in indoor track.
Venable, who ran at Bishop Hendricken High (R.I.) and Iona, also has indoor track plans.
“I ran a 14:30 indoors in a 5K at Boston University last year,” he said. “I want to get closer to 14 minutes.”
While Venable welcomed his son into attending races this year, the Winterfest’s female winner is getting her 8-year-old son, Dylan, into racing himself. He won the Winterfest’s children’s half-mile race.
“We’ll share bragging rights today,” the 37-year-old Nye said. “This course was very challenging. I didn’t realize we would circle a pond, which made it even colder.”
Nye is coming off a peak performance in the Hartford Half Marathon in October where she finished 8th among women with a 1:20.0.
Elizabeth Fengler of Wallingford was the second woman to finish and fourth overall in 19:41. The rest of the top 10 had a local flavor. Jeff Brown of Norwich was 5th (20:56), followed by David Crowley of Uncasville and Kevin MacDonald, 63, of Norwich tied for sixth (21:23), Mike Weckworth (22:22) and Anthony Gulotta (22:29) of Norwich, and Travis Boyer of North Stonington (22:47).
Reliance House Inc., a non-profit community mental health center from Norwich, sponsored the event again.