Ugly Christmas Sweater 5K Draws Some Interesting Attire

By David Biggy | Dec 18, 2019
Photo by: David Biggy Alex Kinon, winner of the ugliest getup award for the annual Ugly Christmas Sweater 5K, heads for the finish line on Dec. 14.

Stafford Township, NJ — Alex Kinon made the final turn and thrust his arms out as if flying like a plane. Then he performed a slow pirouette. Finally, he flexed his biceps. But that stretch run toward the finish line was nothing but a diversion.The real entertainment was covering his body for the seventh annual Ugly Christmas Sweater 5K on Dec. 14.

“You know, you walk into Walmart or other stores, and you just kind of find these things hanging around,” said the Manahawkin resident, sporting a bright-red leisure suit with Santa Claus faces, Christmas trees and white dots all over the jacket, pants and tie. “This was in Target, way in the back. We kind of found it by accident. But as soon as I saw it, I said, ‘That’s the one,’ and here it is.”

It’s worth noting he also donned a red fisherman’s hat his sister-in-law gave him 30 years ago. On the brim it read, “If I’m wearing this hat, it’s a Christmas party I’m at,” and included “relative repellent” attached to the back side.

“Two years ago, I won with a llama sweater, and last year I had some kind of crazy shirt,” he said. “But I don’t know if I can top this. I’m already working on next year’s outfit.”

The occasional Spartan Race competitor was nowhere near the front of the 5K field, which started and finished at the Stafford Township Municipal Complex. He crossed the line 33rd with a time of 38 minutes, 34.5 seconds.

“I’m definitely not out here to win because I pretty much finished last (fifth from last, according to the final race results),” he said. “We live here, we love the community, and so we do whatever we can to help out. I’m here to support a great local event.”

Race winner Michael McCarthy, who doesn’t live far from town hall, did the same, except he made certain to get out to the lead quickly, then remained there as he crossed the finish line in 21:15.2.

“It was really wet, so I didn’t want to get too cold,” said McCarthy, who had hoped to run the California International Marathon on Dec. 10, but an injury sidelined him and he had to alter his training schedule. “I just wanted to get it done as quick as I could. My goal was to run seven-minute miles. The conditions helped keep my body temperature down, so it wasn’t actually too bad.”

Compared to the Gobble Wobble two weeks prior, McCarthy ran through the 50-degree, drizzly conditions without any hindrance. As soon as he started, he zipped by one runner immediately in front of him and took off into the lead.

“I couldn’t get to the front at the Gobble Wobble. There were a lot of good runners and hundreds of people in the race,” he said. “But this was easier to navigate, and, thankfully, the police did a great job of keeping cars away from us on the right side of the road.”

Of course, Carrie Merritt was among the field again. The Ocean City first-grade teacher has been nursing a hamstring injury for the better part of a year, but she and her dad, Greg, were back for a seventh straight time. She finished first among the women, one overall spot behind second-place finisher Patrick Pietrefesa of Long Beach Township (21:29.4), with a time of 22:19.9.

“I’m running in honor of my mom, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s, and even though my hamstring has been tight, I keep running,” she said. “She’s my motivation, so  I had to do this race again. I have to keep moving, and this is a tradition for my dad and me.”

One of the ugliest getup winners in past years, Merritt directly contrasted her fear of squirrels by running with one on her hideous sweater, complete with a squirrel hat and matching earrings.

“They really freak me out, and my first-graders love it. They think it’s hilarious,” she said. “So today, I embraced my fear.”

Behind Merritt, German Cortez Jr. finished fourth overall in 22:47.3, alongside Joy Chiong, who was awarded the fifth spot. Efrain Pineda placed sixth in 23:18.5, while Connor Morris took seventh in 25:51.9, Christopher Goscinski grabbed eighth in 26:01.6, Brian LoMonaco swiped ninth in 27:10.2 and Charles Hester finished 10th with a time of 27:22.1. Jaime Hester (27:37.9), Serena Socha (27:49.9) and Erin Moran (29:34.2) were third through fifth in the women’s division.

The Ugly Christmas Sweater 5K benefits St. Mary Academy in Manahawkin.

— David Biggy

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