Saturday Spotlight – Melissa Castka (6/20/20)

Saturday Spotlight: Name: Melissa Castka

Age: 41 (for the next week)

Marital status: Is it ridiculous that I need a paragraph to explain this? Married in 2005-2010 (looks like a resume lol)- my ex lives .25 miles away and we have a good co-parenting relationship. We have two children together- Noah and Lily Mach.

Remarried in 2015 to Keith Castka, my childhood neighbor, and boy next next door


we have known each other since we were 3. We share his son, Aedan, with his ex wife and her fiancé who live in PA.

Kids: Noah (13), Lily (10), and bonus son Aedan (11 on 6/23)

Occupation: Dean of Students and English teacher at Floral Park Memorial High School

Hobbies: Running, camping, kayaking, biking, hiking, dancing, reading, beaching….I am convinced I am solar powered

Hometown and current town: Bellmore (I am back in the house I grew up in since my father passed in 2012. It is hi-ranch set up as a mother-daugher, so my mom is no longer alone. As a kid, we shared this house with my grandparents also.It has always had at least two generations in it. Moving back in after losing my dad, made me feel like home again also).

College: SUNY Albany for BA and MS, CW Post for Administration and Adelphi for Cultural Diversity certificationFavorite

Race: Bridge Hampton Half 2018….my first and only non virtual half after signing up for two prior, but having to drop out due to injuries (fractured a hip and then fractured an ankle and tore tendons…good times). I also do love running any race with my kids. I love seeing them push for their goals. Frequent running spots: the streets of Bellmore, Eisenhower Park, Norman J Levy, and of course the Hills


Personal message: I am super excited to share my story so that people know me more. I absolutely love this group. I have never met such welcoming people in my life. This group has been one of my major bright spots of 2020.

Saturday Spotlight – Elizabeth Moran Evans (6/13/20)

Name: Elizabeth Moran

Marital Status: Married

Age: 33

Children: a fur child – a crazy googly eyed Boston terrier named Noah

Occupation: Attorney – prosecutor

Hobbies: Running!

Hometown: Lindenhurst

Current: Still in Lindenhurst

My Story:

So my entire life I was anything but athletic – that didn’t mean I wasn’t active – but sports weren’t really my “thing.” When my family moved back to Long Island (we are a military family)– I started to dip my toe into sports. I remember my parents letting me sign up for a PAL track team in Massapequa – it went horribly, and at 10 years old I concluded that without question – running wasn’t my “thing.” Eventually my family ended up in Lindenhurst and during middle school and high school I joined the school soccer and lacrosse teams (convinced that I still hated running – but of course picked the sports with the most running lol) and was without a doubt the least athletic person on those teams.

I went away to college in D.C., and in college I would run 1-3 miles a day on a treadmill as a form of ritualistic torture/way to keep off the “freshman 15” – I remember one time I tried running outside and quit immediately when I realized how hard running outside was (there was no AC, no TV, and so many hills!!!).

 I transferred colleges to SBU and swapped running for kickboxing classes. After college I went off to law school, and while in law school I didn’t have the time to study and go to my kickboxing classes– so I quickly packed on about 20lbs. When I graduated law school and began studying for the bar I realized I needed to change my habits and forced myself through a couch to 5k program (after seeing my Dad Vincent Moran

get into running that way). I still hated running at this point;

I hadn’t quite made that jump from “running is torture to burn calories” to “running is the best!” I made it through the summer of studying for the bar – and got ready to enter the working world. Once I started my job, I decided to try to keep up with running and knew I needed to stay active. One of the first races I did was the LI Marathon Weekend 10K – I signed up with my Dad, I remember walking multiple times during the race and thinking that 6.2 miles was an impossible distance multiple times, it was so hard, but I got it done. I eventually decided that if I actually trained, I could probably run farther and would probably not want to quit as much as I did during that 10k.

I decided to actually commit to a training plan and to sign up for a half marathon. I convinced one of my friends at work and we signed up for the Diva Half Marathon in October. I googled “how to train for a half marathon” and ended up using a Hal Higdon half marathon training program. For those that don’t know me, I’m incredibly stubborn and type A – I was committed, I needed to stick to that training plan exactly as written, and I must get to the half marathon, and most importantly I needed to finish that half marathon. During that Spring/Summer – I jumped over physical obstacles, and more importantly mental obstacles and realized – hey! I feel better after running – it cleared my mind and my body felt great. I pushed through the training runs and discovered a few things like chafing (ouch), and the need for fueling, and realized that running wasn’t so bad. After that half marathon – I was hooked! I set my eyes on a marathon – and eventually (over the course of the next 4-5 years) ran 3 (NYC in ’16, Chicago in ’17, and NYC in ’18).

Fast forward to 5 years later at the Great South Bay Brewery’s Aloha Run in 2019– I ran (it was so humid!!) and my Dad volunteered. While volunteering, my dad met Lou and I later met Lou at the after party and we began talking about the Selden hills. A few weeks later my Dad and I traveled the 20 something miles east to Selden and discovered the hills and there’s been no looking back since. It’s great to find a place to run that is always challenging, but also a great community! Thank you Lou for asking me to be Warrior of the Week! I’m looking forward to the rest of the week!!

Saturday Spotlight – Jennifer Owen (6/6/20)

Lou asked me to be WOTW so here it goes….

Name: Jennifer Owen

Age: 41

Marital Status: Married

Kids: Olivia (5) Colette (3)

Occupation: Recently became a stay at home mom, though I previously worked as a Credentialed Alcohol and Substance Abuse Counselor for 15 years.

Hobbies: crafting, cooking, decorating, throwing parties (I love a good theme party)going to shows and concerts

Hometown: Flushing, Queens and Central Islip,NY

Current Town: Holbrook

College: Suffolk Community and St Joseph’s, Patchogue

Favorite Race: Cow Harbor

Frequent Running Spots: Generally my neighborhood, the hills and recently discovered the Greenbelt Trail

Hi everyone who takes the time to read this I’m a newbie on the hills (ran my first classic February 2) I started to add to my training for the NYC half (which unfortunately was cancelled) I thought I was going to just run here and there on the hills but I very fortunately made some great friends already and everyone has been amazingly supportive.

So a little bit about me in regards to running- I only started running about 2 years ago. my sister in law who is a regular runner, signed me and my husband up for the summer run series and from there caught the running bug. I used run a bit in the past but never this committed. Recently I have found that running has been a great release for me, especially with staying at home. I’m a total sucker for medals, I will run any race that has a medal for finishing I just love the excitement of racing and it’s setting a great example for my daughters who now take interest in too.

A little about me- well I’ve been married for 7 years. We actually met by being suggested as friends on Facebook and low and behold we grew up in the same town and mildly knew of each other. We have 2 daughters who are the absolute loves of my life but also drive me crazy! I’m very much a goof ball, I love to be silly and make people laugh. I enjoy vacationing (who doesn’t) especially Disney, going to concerts ( I’ve seen John Mayer 5 times now) and wine! I feel I’m a very loyal and caring person but I tend to not take crap from anyone (especially if someone is being mean or hurtful)

I guess as the week goes on I will be able to express more about myself, I didn’t realize how hard this was going to be! Sorry for the delay in posting, kids really suck up a lot of my time . Thank you Lou for asking me to do this!

Saturday Spotlight- Jennifer Vargas (5/30/20)

Name: Jennifer Vargas

Age: 40

Marital Status: Married to Charlie (16 years)

Kids: Cruz (Junior Warrior, 11 next week), Mateo (8) and Lola (5)

Occupation: High School English Teacher, bartender on the side.

Hobbies: Running, being outdoors, rescuing animals, volunteering, going to farmer’s markets, cooking, gardening.

Hometown: Selden

Current Town: Commack

College: SCCC, St. Joseph’s College (undergrad), Touro College (masters)

Favorite Race: NYC Marathon

Frequent Running Spots: Sunken Meadow and the Hills

Personal Message:

Hey everyone! I’m so excited (and a little bit nervous) to be Warrior of the Week! This group has given me such a warm welcome since I joined in January.

In the past, I would run as a warm up, never as the main event. The first time I ran a 5K was a few months after giving birth to my first child. I was so out of shape. It was the Brentwood Pancake Run 2009, which many of you know is in early December. It was so cold and snowy. Afterwards I was sore for days, but I did it. I can’t believe how far I’ve come, that 3 miles used to be a huge deal and now its nothing.

After that I would run occasionally, never more than a mile or two. Fast forward to 2017, I was having a conversation with my kids about the people in their lives and what they like to do. My kids said that their father likes to play sports. I asked them what they think I like to do, and they said “cooking, cleaning, you know, mom stuff.” I looked in my daughter’s eyes and realized I needed to set an example for her that women are more than just caretakers. We are strong. We are powerful. We are determined, fierce and capable of doing hard things. Shortly after that I signed up for the 9+1 and my road to the NYC marathon started.

After driving into NYC for races basically all of 2018, I spent 2019 training for and running the marathon. In 2020 I decided I would shift my focus and run strictly local races (we all know how that ended up). I wanted to run just for the love of running for the first time since becoming a “serious” runner. After many failed attempts to convince any friends to start running with me. I realized that I needed to find people who didn’t need convincing. That is where the Selden Hills Warriors came into my life. I have seen this group at so many races, and you had the vibe I wanted; chill people running together and having a good time, regardless of pace. I met Jen Genova while completing my 9+1, so I reached out and asked her to lead me on my first classic. I ran it right after the Patchogue 10 Mile Run to the Brewery. SHW has become a family to me, and I have made many amazing friends who share more than just a love of running. It has been more than I could imagine.

I hope that throughout this process I learn more about myself as I open up and you all learn more about me as well. Thank you for reading my story. Thanks to Lou Lafleur for choosing me this week. More to follow…

Saturday Spotlight – Brad Hartman (5/23/20)

Name: Brad Hartman

Age: 33

Marital Status: Married to Cheryl Hartman (6 years this July)

Kids: Adam (3 years old)

Pets: 2 Cats – Layla (6 years old) and Zoey (a year and a half old)

Occupation: Wind Ensemble and Symphonic Band Director at Bellport High School

Hobbies: Cooking, woodworking, puzzles, playing golf, and running

Hometown: Sayville, N.Y.

Current Town: Ridge, N.Y.

College: Bachelors of Music in Music Education and Performance from C.W. Post Campus of Long Island University (Brookville, N.Y.), Masters of Liberal Studies in Education from Stony Brook University (Stony Brook, N.Y) and Masters of Music in Wind Conducting from Messiah College (Grantham, P.A.)

Favorite Race: The Sayville Summer Running Series – Keith Nintzel 5k, Diamond Dash/Sayville FD 5k, Community Ambulance 5k, CF Waffle Run 4-miler, and the Hon. John P. Cohalan Sayville Summerfest 4-miler. As someone who grew up in Sayville, it’s great to see friends from high school and previous teachers while running through the “old neighborhood “.

Favorite Running Spots: Selden Hills (of course), Port Jeff Greenway, Old Field Lighthouse, The EPCAL Path at Calverton (although it has been overcrowded with large groups lately-for obvious reasons)

Hi Warriors! First, a big “thank you” to Lou for reaching out to me to take on this honor. It was quite a surprise, considering that I am still a bit of a “newbie” since I only joined last December. Since then, I’ve been added to all of the Roll Calls, except for the Gauntlet, so I guess I’m not as green on the hills as I thought. I was all set to race for our team at this year’s Kings Park 15k but we all know what happened there…

So here’s my story…

As a kid, sports were always important, but music always took precedence. I played soccer on a travel team through eighth grade, where I injured my patellar tendon by colliding with someone as we were going to head a ball (he landed spike-first on the back of my leg). As a result, I was out for the remainder of the season. The team broke up after that and there went my soccer career.

High school was a very difficult time for me. I was battling several “demons” which led to excessive weight gain, terrible acne, and hypothyroidism. Add this to not being part of the “cool club” and I’m sure you can figure out my high school years. Luckily for me, most of high school is blur, but luckily the music department practically adopted me for those four years.

So where does running come into this story? Well after I graduated C.W. Post, I finally admitted to myself that I was not ok with my physical appearance- specifically, my weight. I was starting to change my eating habits from college (I ate a lot of carbs, fried foods, and drank way too much soda) and downloaded the Couch 2 5k app. Knowing nothing about running, I reached out to fellow Sayville HS alum Brendan Barrett at the Sayville Running Company to help me find shoes to guide me on my journey. That October, I ran my first 5k on October 28th, 2012- right before hurricane Sandy hit with an official time of 25:37.

Since then, I’ve certainly caught “the bug”, entering many other distances from 1 mile to full marathon. Even though my last 5k (Winter Run Series at Sunken Meadow) was a 20:32, I’ll be the first to admit that I have no idea what I’m doing. I just go out and run. Maybe some day I’ll figure it out, but for now, I’m thankful to the many books I’ve read and to my coach.

While I don’t know too many of you, I look forward to being able to participate in group runs and races again, whenever that may be. As someone who dislikes working out at the gym with anyone, I’ve learned through this pandemic how much I appreciate the presence and company of other while running.

I hope that all of you and your families are safe and well during this different time. Thanks for reading this long post- I look forward to sharing more with you as the week progresses.

Stay safe and be well,

Saturday Spotlight – Steve Frankle (5/16/20)

Saturday Spotlight

Name : Steve Frankle

Age: 44

Hometown: Rosedale,NY

Current town: Bethpage NY

College: Hofstra

Relationship Status: Single/Divorced

Occupation: Data Analyst, Healthcare

Favorite Race: Anything between 6 to 8 miles

Running Spots: Blydenburg, East Hills, Selden hills, Bethpage HS Track

Hi there everyone! First I want to Thank Lou LaFleur for all he does to make this team so amazing and for picking me to be the Warrior of the week for this week. Even though I don’t run the hills as often as many of you, I am very proud to be a member of this amazing team. Its in times like this where this team shows that not only made up of amazing runners but amazing people.

Now to the hard part telling my story. I have to say if anyone told me when I was young that I’d be a passionate obstacle course racer and runner in my 30s and 40s I would have laughed. Although I always loved sports, I learned from playing little league and youth soccer that I wasn’t much of an athlete. That lack of skill set caused me to lose my motivation as a teen. That though all changed after college.

As a kid even though I wasn’t athletic I was always very active and lanky. Once I graduated college and was working behind a desk for a few months I started to feel unhealthy as well as put on some weight. This motivated me to begin working out and from my first day on a treadmill I was addicted. What began as something I just did inside the gym as part of workout plan evolved over time to almost an obsession to running, HIIT training and my biggest passion of obstacle course racing. As I got more into obstacle course racing I realized it was the running part was the aspect I loved the most. I started doing longer distances up to Spartan Beasts (Half Marathon) and said I want to and need to run more for both training and fun. That led me to begin doing a bunch of road 5k and 10k races and was became addicted to them too. One day when I was talking to Jason Taylor he told me about the SHW and that I should give the course a try and join the team. I knew when he told me that it sounded perfect. I ran my first classic in Mar 2019 alongside Peter Van Zandt, well not really alongside since he was way faster at those hills then I was lol. I have to say I did not know there were hills like that anywhere on Long Island. I loved it!

Fast forward to my first team race as a member of SHW which was Robs Run. I was on a great team with my OCR teammate Tara Carrick and Rich Sparacin.

 I had run that race solo a couple of times in the past solo but my teammates made it much more fun. As 2020 started I was really looking forward to being involved in many more events this year. Obviously the world had other plans.

So, I sit here looking forward to the days where we can return to group runs and Birthday runs. I can’t wait to see everyone again and meet so many more members who I haven’t had the opportunity to meet yet. Hopefully those days will return sooner rather than later. Until then everyone stay safe and healthy and keep at it!

Saturday Spotlight – Tim Casey (5/9/20)

Saturday Spotlight!!

Name: Tim Casey

Age: 32, or as I like to call it, 29 for the fourth time

Marital Status: Single, mingling

Kids: None yet

Pets: None at the moment, debating if I want a West Highland White Terrier or an American Staffordshire Terrier…or both. I’ve had three Westies previously.

Occupation: Quality Assurance Coach at Nature’s Bounty

Hobbies: cooking, reading non-fiction, watching the Jets, Islanders, Knicks, Yankees, NYCFC and Liverpool, finding and sharing memes, CROSSFIT…oh and RUNNING!

Hometown: Coram, NY

Current Town: Coram, NY

College: Mount Saint Mary College (Newburgh, NY)

Favorite Race: Corporate 5K at Bethpage Ballpark/Nissequoque Turkey Trot

Thank you to Lou for asking me to be the Warrior of the Week. When he messaged me and asked me I was very surprised, as I haven’t been to this Hills since the beginning of the quarantine. This is because I know I will get lost on my own! Needless to say I am appreciative and flattered.

I’m still running around the neighborhood multiple times a week and practicing on improving my running form and speed. Specifically doing sprint training now in addition to running a 10K two-three times per week. I’ve also become a bit of a sneaker addict during the quarantine and have taken a sort of Noah’s Ark approach to buying sneakers-two pairs of running shoes, two pairs of Crossfit shoes, two pairs of Jordan runners, etc. Anyways, my story…

I was never a runner growing up. As a matter of fact, I was probably the least athletic person on the planet. I used to be that kid who couldn’t run more than 1/10th of a mile without getting winded and I would be the last person to finish the mile run in Phys Ed. because I couldn’t run without getting winded. Fast forward some years later to my Junior year in college in 2009-I was diagnosed with a tumor the size of a basketball lodged in between my chest and my lungs. Thankfully, it turned out to be benign and was removed and I’ve remained relatively healthy to this day, knock on wood. That would certainly account for some of the troubles with running any distance though. With that said, I still didn’t really take up running until about five years later. I started a job as an Account Executive with the New York Cosmos Soccer Team and was promptly told I’d be signing up to run in a Corporate 5K. After some initial hesitance, I began training on the treadmill at the Carle Place Planet Fitness in the cold winter of 2015. Starting with just a quarter of a mile, I worked myself up to be able to run 3.1 miles without stopping in time for the race in July 2015. In that time, I discovered that I loved running and it became something I did both for leisure and for the joy of racing. As the years went by, my father was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer and my mom with terminal bone cancer. As the only child and primary caretaker, running became my favorite thing to do in my free time, both to decompress and to celebrate the joy that I get from running. I slowly worked my way up from 3.1 miles, to 4 miles, to 5 miles, to my now current average run of 6.2 miles around the neighborhood. For those of you that can see my run maps on Facebook, I never set out to run a route that looks like a middle finger, it just turned out that way and happens to be the most direct route of 6.2 miles from door-to-door.

My dad passed away in August of 2016 and my mom in November of 2018. During and after that time, running continued to be my favorite pastime along with watching the Jets, Knicks, Islanders and Yankees and spending time with friends and family. In February of 2019, I got into Crossfit, as I was looking to improve my running speed and strength and build upper body strength. I joined a gym and met Jess Kim who convinced me to come run the Hills. Since then, I’ve run 400 miles in a year for the first time ever and I’ll celebrate my one-year hillaversary on June 19th and and first Slaughterversary next February 12th. Happy and grateful to be part of such an amazing group of people and I look forward to sharing more with you in the coming week!