Stillwater Stampede 5k to be held May 20

| 09 May 2012 | 02:23

By Laurie Gordon STILLWATER — On Sunday, May 20, runners who have run the Stillwater Stampede at Swartswood State Park for the past 17 years will have their last chance to do so. Due to more stringent regulations and fees at the park, the race will move after this year. “The Stampede is always on my calendar,” said Dean Giering of Newton. “It’s a real shame that politics are forcing it to change locations. I wouldn’t miss the chance to be there for its last year at Swartswood for anything." The Stampede has a rich history at Swartswood State Park. It started as a five mile race with a lot of prize money. Kenyan, Australian and Yugoslavian elite runners have traveled to the sleepy town of Stillwater to vie for the top prizes. About five years ago, the race directors decided to change it to a five kilometer race to entice local runners and walkers. “It was an interesting strategic change,” said Al Siuta, of Titusville, NJ, who has both raced and volunteered at the event for the past decade. “People seem more willing to give a 5k (3.1-mile) race a go where five miles can seem more intimidating.” The transition to a more locally focused race was embraced by the community, including the race’s primary sponsor - attorney Jeffrey Katz. “It’s my utmost pleasure to be the race’s main sponsor,” Katz said. Proceeds from the event will benefit the Bears Youth Running Program. “I see as such a positive opportunity for our area’s youth,” Katz said. “Instead of sitting in front of a television or computer, kids get out in the fresh air and enjoy the many physical and mental benefits of the sport.” The race got a surprise visit in 2010 from elite Kenyan runner James Kiman, who shattered the course record with a time of 15:04. “No one had ever seen him before,“ said long-time race participant Gary Rosenberg, who often finishes first himself. “But you could tell by his outfit and shoes that he meant business.” Rosenberg placed second that year with an impressive time of 16:08. Unlike most running events, the Stampede hasn’t raised its entry fee much over the years. “Where most races are now $25 to $30, it’s stayed at $15,” Siuta said. The race’s organizers would rather seek out a secondary sponsor than charge the runners more. The Stampede will furnish t-shirts for all participants and the race’s hallmark post-race buffet, which will feature baked goods prepared by parents of children in the Bears Youth Running Program and Polar Bears Winter Track and Field program. Tran and Ruth Whitley will DJ the Stampede this year, getting people up and dancing as well as playing requests. “I’m going to request the song ‘Dynamite,’" said Emily Popek, a first-grader at the Stillwater Township School who plans to run the one mile race that follows the 5k. “It’s country, it’s hometown, and its just a lot of fun,” said Sean Meyer, a regular runner at the Stampede from Lafayette. “The course is great and it starts and finishes by the lake.” Although this will be the last chance to run the Stillwater Stampede at Swartswood State Park, the race isn’t going anywhere and will remain as a spring rite of passage. Race organizers said they are thrilled that the Fredon Recreation Department and Lodestar Park will welcome the race with open arms in 2013. This year’s Stillwater Stampede will take place on Sunday, May 20, at 10 a.m.. at Swartswood State Park on Route 619 in Newton. The 5-kilometer (3.1-mile) race will be followed by a one mile Fun Run at 11 a.m. The 5k will feature cash prizes to the top male and female finishers as well as awards to the top three male and female finishers in ten-year age categories. Walkers are welcome, too. For more information, call 973-383-7933 or e-mail More information can also be found at