WESTPORT, Conn. – Wilton's Mary Zengo became the third runner this summer to re-write the record book in the 50th anniversary season of the Westport Summer Series last Saturday.
Zengo, Amy Bevilaqua of Wilton and former Darien High running standout Chase Pizzonia established new marks this summer. Bevilaqua and Pizzonia did it on the same day, Aug. 11, in the 6.85-mile race.
More than just performance records have fallen this year, though. Participation has continued to explode. In five of the nine races, the number of finishers surpassed last year’s totals. The total number of finishers in the first nine races has surged from 1,384 to 1,542, an increase of more than 11 percent. The series has had record numbers in five of the nine races.
Zengo, who has won four races in the series this summer, is on track for her second straight women’s overall title. She ran 1:00:42 for 9.3 miles to break the old record of 1:01:21 set by Emily Wlliams in 2008.
The record is the latest chapter in the resurgence of Zengo, who suffered a devastating knee injury while skiing two years ago.
“It’s just my second summer coming back from the surgery,’’ Zengo said. “I didn’t know how this summer would go. It’s surprising because I’m 47. I don’t know how much more I have left. I keep testing the waters and it seems OK.”
The 10-race series concludes Saturday with a 10-mile run at Staples High School.
The records that fell Aug. 11 were 15 and 25 years old. Pizzonia bettered a mark that had stood since 1997, while Bevilaqua smashed a record that stood since 1987.
Other Westport records have been around for a while. The 5k record in Westport was set by Bruce Merrill in 1978 (14:48). Thirteen other records were set in the 1980s. Zengo also owns records for 3.8 miles (22:45 in 1997) and 4.7 miles (28:05 in 1998).
“Some of those records are outstanding,’’ Zengo said. “It’s hard to run the summer series and expect to peak. Most people in the summer are not training to race fast. Most runners are training for something in the fall and trying to build a base. It’s not a time to set records.”