DERRY — The rain was steady and cool and there was a slight breeze on Thanksgiving morning — hardly ideal weather for running a road race.
But Greater Derry Track Club Turkey Trot 5K overall winner Nico Sevilla-Connelly of Chester and female winner Heather Searles of Nashua, as well as most of the field of 225 finishers, could have cared less.
“It (the rain) didn’t bother me at all,” said the 22-year-old Sevilla-Connelly, a former Pinkerton standout now running in his fifth year at UNH. “I was just glad to have a race. Because track season was called off (by coronavirus), and I didn’t have cross country, I’ve been mainly just training.”
The training has definitely been productive as Sevilla-Connelly led from start to finish Thursday and finished in 15:33, more than a minute ahead of runner-up Zachary Aham of Nottingham, who came in at 16:43.
Since he’s been focused on competing for UNH, it was only the second road race in the last four years for Sevilla-Connelly. But he may have a bright future in road racing based on Thursday’s performance and the one two weeks earlier when he won the Octoberfest 5K with a time of 15:07.
“I definitely want to do more road races in the future,” said Sevilla-Connelly, who will compete in the steeplechase for UNH in the spring as he gets his master's degree.
As for the 37-year-old Searles, a former Andover resident who moved to Nashua two months ago, the GDTC Turkey Trot was a chance to test her revived training, which had taken a serious hit during the pandemic.
“Like a lot of people, this year has been a down year for me,” said Searles. “I didn’t feel like doing much (because of the coronavirus). When I moved, I found a little motivation and started training more. I’m now in the 40 miles (per week) range. Not like in the past when I would do 60, but I’m getting there.”
With the staggered start, Searles was the first female to start and she remained that way while finishing seventh overall in 19:08, a performance she was more than pleased with.
“I was extremely happy with that,” she said. “I was just hoping to get under 19:40 but I felt really good and felt comfortable. When I got up, it was dark, rainy and cold and I’m thinking, ‘What am I doing running this race?’ But it turned out really well.”
That seemed to be the consensus of most of the runners in attendance, who were just glad to get an actual — not virtual — race experience on Thanksgiving. Originally, 470 runners registered but the rainy conditions cut the field in half.
It was a great day for runners from Pinkerton. In addition to Sevilla-Connelly’s performance, current junior Luke Brennan was third in 17:08, Astros alum (and former Sevilla-Connelly teammate) Tom Hanlon (17:19) was fourth and Pinkerton senior Stephen Connelly was sixth (18:11).
Also, former Astros standout and UNH runner Morgan Sansing was the second female finisher, taking eighth in 19:22, 14 seconds behind Searles.
In ninth was Chester’s Mateo Connelly, who is a sophomore at Phillips Exeter and the brother of Stephen. They’re both stepbrothers of Sevilla-Connelly, so there was plenty to celebrate in that family.
The youngest finisher in the top 10 was 15-year-old Ryan Fortin, a sophomore at Londonderry High School. His time of 17:20 was just one second behind the 22-year-old Hanlon.
Pinkerton runners also dominated the Hampstead Turkey Trot 5K Thursday. Astro sophomore Ethan Charles was first with a fine time of 16:54 while 2020 graduate Nolan Preble was second in 17:39.
Former Astros’ head cross country coach Amy Bernard was the top female finisher, taking fifth overall in 18:45. There were 138 finishers.
GDTC Turkey Trot 5K
Top 10 finishers
1. Nico Sevilla-Connelly 15:33, 2. Zachary Aham 16:43, 3. Luke Brennan 17:08, 4. Tom Hanlon 17:19, 5. Ryan Fortin 17:20, 6. Stephen Connelly 18:11, 7. Heather Searles 19:08, 8. Morgan Sansing 19:22, 9. Mateo Connelly 19:39, 10. Craig Coventry 20:07