Family rivalry in Warrior Run

TUPPER LAKE – A pair of cousins took home first place Saturday in the third annual Tupperpalooza Warrior Run at the Big Tupper Ski Area.

Gian Fontana of Saranac Lake and Austin Izzo of Ballston Spa raced across the finish line together in 57 minutes, 39 seconds for the top overall time.

Izzo said the pair decided to do the race at the urging of their other cousin, Alex Izzo of Rochester, who took sixth place in the race with a time of 1:03:26.

“My other cousin, he’s still running,” said Austin Izzo, shortly after finishing. “He does a lot of Tough Mudders and stuff. He brought us along this time and we beat him.”

Gian Fontana, 17, actually crossed the finish line ahead of his cousin but his exit to the race was premature. He had taken wrong turn and mistakenly thought he was done. Race officials quickly sent him back onto the course where his cousin caught up to him on the last stretch.

In the female race, Hailey Bitner of Saranac Lake took first place with a time of 1:00:49. That was good for third overall. She dethroned Tupper Lake native Kara Defeo, who finished second in 1:04:50. Defeo, who now lives in Rensselaer, has won the last two years.

“I was a little nervous this year,” Defeo said. “There is so many people and more competition.”

Defeo also thought the course was more difficult this year, with more muddy sections and tunnels.

“I feel like you go up a lot more times,” she said.

Defeo also struggled on the wall that is just before the finish line. She went up part way and fell back, slamming her back on one of the supports.

“I struggle every year and I forget there’s a method to it and I forget it every year because I’m so tired,” she said. “After slamming my back on the bar, I figured out what it was again. It just took two tries.”

Other top 10 finishers included Michael Carney of Norwalk, who finished fourth in 1:02:42; Lydon Gillis of Tupper Lake, who finished fifth in 1:03:01; Bryan Geiger of Tupper Lake, who finished seventh in 1:04:35; Amanda Chase of Lyon Mountain, who finished ninth in 1:05:41; and Tyler Haley of Burlington, Vermont, who finished 10th.

Gretchen O’Leary of Tupper Lake finished fourth among women in 1:08:39 and 11th overall, while Cindy Sells of Tupper Lake finished fifth among women in 1:09:17 and 15th overall.

The Jacked Saints team of Geiger, O’Leary, Mitch Harriman and Hannah Klossner finished first among teams with a time of 3:22:20, which was the total time for the team’s best three finishers.

Second place went to the Treebusters, who had a time of 3:39:50. They consisted of Joe Akey, Anthony Kozmiuk, Chris Strack and Nick Omeara.

Third went to the Lyon Mountain Miners, who finished in 4:04:02. The team consisted of Chase, Ann Marie Munn and William Chase.

Overall, there were 25 teams.

The oldest competitor was 61-year-old Stuart Nichols, who finished 155th in 2:40:48.

“It was a challenge. First time I ever tried anything like this,” he said.

Nichols decided to do it after turning 60 last year and making a promise to himself to get in better shape.

“All things considered,” he said. “I’m glad I did it. It was a lot of fun.”

Joe Salamy, one of the organizers, said turnout was about average. There were 159 finishers.

The organizers did something different this year by having bands play until the evening, in an attempt to create a more festive atmosphere. There were also more food vendors available. Proceeds from the event will go toward the Wounded Warrior Project.