SPARTA, NJ - Runners were greeted by the first frost of the season, and with low temperatures to match, however it did not keep runners and walkers away from the fifth annual Spirit 5K run at Sparta’s Pope John XXIII High School.

The race, which was sponsored by Thorlabs, was comprised of two separate events. The first, a 1K “Fun Run," was held on Pope John High School’s track. The second race was the 5K, which looped around the neighborhood adjacent to the school in Sparta.

The 5K started at the 1500 M dotted line at the school’s track, then continued through Upper Lake Mohawk to South Shore, and Alpine Trails. The race proceeded onto Summit Road, and then the Alpine Path adjacent to the Alpine School. The race’s final stretch took place along Andover Road, and finished at the northwestern side of the track, at the100M finish line.

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Many runners celebrated by running in costumes.

The event started with opening remarks by race director J.R. Giacchi, then a prayer, and the National Anthem. Giacchi said he was pleased with record crowd of over 400 runners.

Local school mascots ran a race after the kids' fun run, which had around 40 participants ages 6 and under. The race was fierce in the mascot race, as the knight lost pieces of her armor sprinting to the finish line.

Though sunny with blue skies today, the 5K race commenced with a brisk start, in terms of temperatures, and pace. Some of the young runners crowded the start line, and took off like the race was a 100-yard dash.

Giacchi said, "The spirit cup is something all the schools take a little pride in winning."

Joseph Dragon, a 14-year old varsity member of the High Point Regional High School Cross Country Team, won the race with a time of 17:52.

"The first part of course was easy with the downhill, then the uphill section in the middle was a challenge,” he told The Alternative Press about the course. "And the last downhill part of the race worked to my advantage."

Dragon also stated he was looking forward to the upcoming races with the cross country team, where he is currently the top runner.

Sara Disanza a 17-year-old from Wantage, took the overall female title in the 5K with a time of 20:08.

The second place overall female with a time of 21:26, and top masters runner was Catherine Borkowski of Hamburg, who, a few weeks ago, was the top woman runner at the Sussex County Sheriff’s Crime Stoppers 5K race (click here for the story by The Alternative Press).

Giacchi also added he was not surprised by a 14-year-old winning the race.

"We knew Joe was going to run fast, and be running with a group from Pope John, and a youngster usually wins the race,” he said.

Next year’s goals are to have another great day with nice weather, and even more participants, Giacchi said.

Click here for full race results. 

Editor's Note: Reporter Brian Thomas also participated as a runner in the fifth annual Spirit 5K run.