November 23, 2022

Record-Breaking Effort by Ukraine’s Veretska Highlighted HiTOPS Princeton Half Marathon

FAST COMPANY: The top three female finishers in the HiTOPS Princeton Half Marathon are all smiles after the race which took place on November 13. Pictured, from left, are Sarah Walker (3rd place), Valentyna Veretska (1st), and former WW/P-South and Cornell track and cross country star Caroline Kellner (2nd). Veretska, who recently came to the U.S. from Ukraine, set a new female course record with her time of 1:18.06. Princeton resident Kanato Goto placed first of 1,383 finishers in a time of 1:11.07. (Photo provided by HiTOPS)

By Bill Alden

Setting the pace at the 10th annual HiTOPS Princeton Half Marathon, Kanato Goto placed first of 1,383 finishers in the November 13 event.

Princeton resident Goto, 33, covered the challenging 13.1 mile course in a time of 1:11.07. 

But perhaps the most emotional and historic performance at the race was produced by Valentyna Veretska, who recently came to the U.S. from Ukraine. Veretska was the first women’s finisher and third overall, clocking a time of 1:18.06 to set a new female course record.

Veretska, 32, is an accomplished runner and is ranked 444th in the world of female runners. One of her many accomplishments in the sport include winning the Jerusalem Marathon one month to the day after fleeing Ukraine, wearing borrowed gear and without her coach (and husband). Her husband and daughter were on the sidelines in Princeton to cheer her on.

After the race, she posted a heartfelt message on her social media account.

“Finally my first steps in sports life in USA are made,” wrote Veretska. “It’s a cold rainy day today, but that didn’t stop it. The competition was great! Friendly almost family atmosphere, support throughout the race track, many new acquaintances and a lot of kind words in support of Ukraine. Princeton you will forever be in my heart. First place with a record of a race for not an easy track.”

Additional history was made by Amy Read, 28, of Pennington, who set the a new nonbinary course record with a time of 1:52:43, besting the previous mark of 2:24.28 set in 2019.

The event drew runners from 36 states and participants from Canada, Germany, Sweden, Belgium, and Mexico. The local Princeton community played a large role in the event’s success led by the following: the Municipality of Princeton and Mayor Mark Freda, Princeton Police, Princeton Health Department, Princeton University, the Princeton Clergy Association, Princeton Public Works, Princeton First Aid & Rescue Squad, Princeton Fire and Police, Mercer County Sheriff’s Office, Fire Police Officers, Westminster Choir College Security, Medcycle, volunteer coordinator Clare Millington, the race volunteers, and race director Courtney Newman.

HiTOPS is a Princeton-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that fosters strong and healthy young people of all identities by providing inclusive and youth-informed sex education and LGBTQ+ support for young people throughout the Greater Mercer Area. HiTOPS has worked to reduce health risks, promote healthy relationships, and build affirming and inclusive communities for almost 35 years.