Sanders, who ran at the University of Connecticut, topped the field with a time of 15 minutes, 31 seconds in Stonington Borough.
Sanders competed over the weekend in another race so he was not expecting a top-notch performance.
“Sometimes it (races like the Stonington 5K) is really competitive, but none of us in the top 4 or 5 were really fresh today,” Sanders, who is a coach at his alma mater Northwest Catholic High in West Hartford, Conn., said. “It was just a matter of who felt better. We all raced over the weekend. Some of those guys are good runners in their own right so I would not be upset if I were to lose to them. It was more of a workout, but after talking with the guys before the race, it was more of a workout for them, too.”
The race, which runs primarily along Main Street and Water Street, requires runners to run a 1.5-mile loop twice. Sanders had the lead at the halfway point in 7:48.
“I’m really just gearing up for the full Hartford (marathon) in October. I’ve run three so far and 2:30 has been the best so far. Hopefully, I will be remedying that very soon,” Sanders said.
And what is the attraction to run 26.2 miles?
“I honestly don’t know,” Sanders said. “I just think it’s a little bit crazy. Distance runners usually are a little bit off. I guess everybody does it and I want to run a good time.”
Scott Mindel of New London, who finished 19th in the Boston Marathon in 2012 and 30th in 2013, was second in 15:49. Anthony Gonsalves of Pawtucket, a Tolman High grad who ran at Central Connecticut, was third (16:21).
Pawcatuck’s John Bigouette was the top local finisher in sixth (17:00). Jonathan Eckel of Westerly was the next local finisher in 17:56, good for eighth. Eckel ran about 7 miles Tuesday morning in cross country practice at The Prout School in Wakefield where he is a sophomore.
North Kingstown’s Kaela O’Neil was the top female finisher in 18:05. O’Neil, who ran at Rollins College in Florida, gave birth to her third child in December. O’Neil is part of the Narragansett Running Association, a group that meets twice a week to train.
“I trained to run the Blessing of the Fleet in Narragansett — a 10-mile race. After that I realized I like the shorter distances better,” O’Neil said. “I felt good. This is a beautiful town, I had never been here before. Real scenic, really pretty. I enjoyed every minute of it.”
O’Neil said she went out too fast and trailed Griswold’s Alyssa Brehler in the second mile.
“I just kicked it in the last mile,” O’Neil said.
Brehler finished 12th in 18:12. Tenley Godfrey of Pawcatuck was the top local female finisher in 19:16, good for 20th place.
This is the 15th year of the race, which is directed by Stephen and Heather Bessette. Proceeds benefit the Stonington Free Library. The event has netted about $35,000 for the library during its existence.
The event also attracts a large field as 247 runners completed the race. It is the culmination of the fun run series in the Borough.
“It’s a beautiful location and we work hard to get all our friends to come out. It’s a community event,” Stephen Bessette said.
Mystic’s Amby Burfoot, who won the Boston Marathon in 1968, celebrated his 68th birthday by competing. He finished 190th in 29:54.
Sofia Regan of Stonington was the youngest competitor. The 8-year-old finished 238th in 41:04. North Stonington’s Colburn Graves, the oldest finisher at 80, was 247th in 48:46.
6. John Bigouette, Pawcatuck (17:00); 8. Jonathan Eckel, Westerly (17:56); 9. Stanley Mickus, Mystic (18:01); 13. Jeff Walker, Westerly (18:29); 15. Kory Klimas, Pawcatuck (18:43); 16. Andrea Bomgie, Stonington (18:58); 21. Jeffrey Vuono, Westerly (19:18); 26. Mike Boumenot, Pawcatuck (19:34); 27. Mike Smith, Westerly (19:38); 31. Jim Roy, Mystic (20:22); 36. Mark Gravell, Mystic (20:49); 39. Jeffrey Anderson, Mystic (20:52); 44. Jim Tiernan, Pawcatuck (21:14); 48. Steve Riley, Mystic (21:28); 50. Philip Plouff, Mystic (21:42).