Some participants in this morning’s Derek Hotsinpiller Fallen Stars 5K Memorial Race arrived early to stretch and run a few laps before beginning the 3.2-mile course.
But there were also entire families – some with strollers, dogs and grandmas – who joined forces to raise dollars for the James and Derek Hotsinpiller Memorial Scholarship Fund. Scholarships, given annually to local graduating seniors entering a education in criminal justice or social science, continues the legacy of commitment to law enforcement, honoring Derek Hotsinpiller, who died in the line of duty serving the U.S. Marshals Service in February of 2011, and his dad, the late James Hotsinpiller, who had served with the Bridgeport Police Department.
A registered 634 racers came out for the cause, gathering on the track around Wayne Jamison Field.
Among them were 34-year-old Amy Davis of Fairmont, who brought along five of her friends.
“We look for local 5Ks and found this one and liked what it’s all about,” she said.
Lisa McElfresh, along with her husband Brad, sons Alex and Philip - and sheep dog Mack - made it a family affair.
“It’s a nice tribute,” she said. “Our kids were good friends with Derek, and Jim coached my kids in soccer.”
Nicholas Sellas had a similar connection.
“Derek was a buddy. This is a good way to honor him,” he said.
Maria Paletta and Jason Shreve made today’s 5K part of their wedding festivities. Building up to their 4 p.m. ceremony at Bridgeport Conference Center, the entire wedding party – including parents and pastor – ran the race.
“You got to get the nerves out somehow,” Paletta said.
The girls wore T-shirts that said “Run, Maria, Run.” Upon the guys’ shirts were the words, “Catch Her If You Can.”
Deputy U.S. Marshals Derek Patrick and Dan Patcher were also on board to pay tribute to their fallen brother, they said.
In just over 18 minutes, the first racer crossed the finish line. Keefe Kiser, 20, was named first place in the open men division.
Bob Klenk, 49, finished in just over 22 seconds, placing first in his age division. Running is a part of his daily routine. In fact, he had put in six miles before the 8:30 a.m. race began.
Hotsinpiller family friend and star of televised fishing series, “The Fly Rod Chronicles
, Curtis Fleming paired up with his wife Shelly and crossed the finish line holding hands.
For nearly an hour after the race started, walkers continued crossing the line – and feeling good about their course.
“This is a race for everyone,” said Ashley Hotsinpiller, organizer. “Our motto is ‘Run, walk or crawl – we’ll take them all.’ It’s not about the race, but about supporting our law enforcement.”
Pam Hotsinpiller, wife of Jim and mother of Derek, said she was blessed with the turnout.
“Just when you think God can’t get any better, look what he does,” she said, referring to both the picture-perfect weather and the tremendous level of support the race received.
She even cut two minutes off her time from last year, she said.
Director of U.S. Marshal Service Stacia A. Hylton also took part in the race. She endured the hills of West Virginia – and marveled at the enthusiasm about the event.
Several Bridgeport residents came out to see the racers off and others gathered along the route to provide encouragement.
Members of the Bridgeport Police Department and VIPS (Volunteers in Policing) were positioned along the route for safety and support. Other volunteers manned water stations, helping to cool down race participants.
Following the race, refreshments, prize drawings and giveaways preceded an awards ceremony. Trophies and/or medals were awarded in 1st through 3rd places in several age and gender categories, as well as team awards for those participating in the law enforcement challenge.
The top three finishers in the open men’s division were Kiser, Kyle Adams and Abe Merinar. The top two women finishers were Morganne Phillips and Erika Rucker.
Dustin Hotsinpiller, brother of the fallen hero honored today, said he was blown away that more than 600 racers had turned out to support the scholarship fund.
“It keeps getting bigger and bigger,” said his wife, Ashley.
Several racers provided feedback about the race, saying that it’s one of the nicest events they had taken part in.
“That means a lot that everyone has fun,” Ashley Hotsinpiller said. “We want them to go back and tell their friends they had a good time and come back again next year.”
The event was emceed by Tim Brady, director of the Greater Bridgeport Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Pastor Michael Hopkins of Simpson Creek Baptist Church opened the event with prayer, thanking God for the beautiful morning all things noble and right. “Give us laughter and joy today in Derek’s honor and memory.”
That’s just why Kenneth Grace, his wife Carolyn, 13-year-old daughter Ashley, 9-year-old daughter Alison and identical twin two-year-olds Kendall and Carson came out for race day.
“I work with the Biometrics Task Force that works closely with the U.S. Marshals Service,” Grace said. “We came to basically support Derek’s family, as well as a fallen hero.”