MHS trio dominates Martinsville 5K race

March 26, 2012

By CHAD ADAMS - Bulletin Staff Writer

Martinsville High School’s Joseph Halpin finished the 5K portion of the second annual Martinsville Half Marathon and 5K on Saturday just the way he finishes runs in cross country practice: leading teammate Thomas O’Neal while their coach, Gregg Dean, followed close behind.

What made this finish different was that Halpin, O’Neal and Dean were taking the top three spots against hundreds of competitors in a rain-soaked event. But the crowd and weather conditions didn’t deter Halpin, who was running as the 5K’s defending champion.

“I was pretty confident,” he said Sunday. “I knew there was going to be a lot of people, but I knew I had a good shot at winning. ... We ran it just like what we do in practice.”

About 500 people from 13 states took part in the Martinsville Half Marathon and 5K, down from the 725 runners who had registered. Organizers attributed the decrease to the rain.

Halpin, a junior, won the 5K portion of the second annual Martinsville Half Marathon and 5K for the second time, securing the victory with a time of 18:27.

Although he didn’t quite beat his time last year of 18:20, he made good on his plans to compete in the 5K again and wants to continue that success.

“It’s just a great feeling,” Halpin said. “It’s the first race I won two consecutive in a row. It feels good to be No. 1.”

O’Neal, an MHS sophomore, finished the race with a time of 19 minutes. He came close to besting Halpin at one point but couldn’t pull off the win. Dean, their cross country coach, had a time of 19:19, putting pressure on the two not to fall behind.

“(O’Neal) is always loose behind me in practice,” Halpin said of his teammate. “... He got really close to me in the last mile, but he keeps me on my toes.”

The trio’s top finishes came despite no recent distance running practice at school. Dean said the school program is in “track mode” right now instead of cross country. So any training for the 5K was done outside of school.

Halpin trained lightly the week before the race. He said he did only one workout, and he ate pizza the night before — a tradition that seems to work for him.

Come race day, Halpin said, he didn’t know what to expect of his competitors. He saw one person take off ahead and worried that there might be faster runners, but his fears settled when that runner fell behind him in the first four or five minutes of the race, Halpin said.

“Once I settled in and passed him, I held that position so I didn’t risk anything,” he said.

Then came O’Neal and Dean staying strong behind Halpin, despite the 3.1-mile race’s challenges.

“It wasn’t the easiest course,” Dean said. “Once you go down to the farmers market, you’ve got to track up hill. ... The biggest thing is the rain. ... Wet shoes add a pound or two to your weight, but everyone had to go through it.”

Halpin agreed that the rain made running heavier, but he didn’t seem to have much a problem with it otherwise.

“The rain stunk, but at the same time, I liked it,” Halpin said. “I never ran an open race in the rain, but it was really fun. ... It was a little slippery going around the tight corners. Other than that, it wasn’t too bad.”

He also had the support of his family — not on the sidelines but in the race. His mother, brother and sister ran with him while his father, who wasn’t able to participate, watched his son take the victory.

“It was fun,” Halpin said. “It is one of my favorite races I ran.”

The event raised money for the Martinsville-Henry County Family YMCA’s Invest in Youth Fund. The fund provides financial assistance to those who cannot afford the typical fees of the Y and helps ensure that no one is turned away because of an inability to pay.


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