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She’s running a 5K in honor of her biggest supporter

06/10/2016 6:00 AM |

NICOLE SMITH PHOTO

Whenever Caleigh Capek finishes a race, there’s one person she can count on to be in the stands, cheering her on: her grandfather.

Ever since Caleigh began running on Shoreham-Wading River’s girls cross country and track teams as a seventh-grader, Curt Davis has yet to miss a race.

“He is my main supporter,” said Caleigh, now a sophomore. “This [past] summer, I worked really hard to make him proud of me because I knew I would see him [at meets]. That’s why this sport became really sentimental.”

While there likely aren’t many grandparents who can say they’ve attended all of their grandchild’s track meets, still fewer can say they’ve made that commitment while battling a debilitating disease. For the past 11 years, Mr. Davis has received treatment for prostate cancer. In recent months, his health has worsened.

Yet there he was in September, at Caleigh’s first cross country meet of the season, the Jim Smith Invitational at Sunken Meadow State Park. During the event, Caleigh beat her previous year’s time by about two minutes, completing the 3.1-mile course in 23 minutes 25.39 seconds.

The pride and excitement Mr. Davis exuded once Caleigh crossed the finish line propelled her to eventually shave another three minutes off her time. She finished a 5K at Brown University with a personal best of 20:18.16.

Throughout the school year, Mr. Davis has cheered Caleigh on. Now, she wants to do something for her grandfather and other men who suffer from prostate cancer. And she wants to do it the best way she knows how: through running.

So at 8 a.m. Saturday, June 11, Caleigh will host a fundraiser for prostate cancer research at Shoreham-Wading River High School, where participants can choose between a kid’s mile (ages 14 and under), adult mile (ages 15 and up) or all-ages 5K.

“I don’t think [my grandfather] is going to be able to [make it] because he’s not doing so well, but he’ll be there in spirit,” the 16-year-old said, adding that her parents and sister, Christy, a senior and fellow member of the cross country team, will take pictures for him. “It’s going to be really special.”

All proceeds from the event will go to the Prostate Cancer Foundation.

“I wanted to do something really important that would not only be something important to me, but important to all those who have prostate cancer — and my grandfather, of course,” said Caleigh, who lives in Wading River. “Hopefully one day there will be a cure. I really do hope so. Not only to benefit those who have it, but to stop it from early on.”

Caleigh has been working with Paul Koretzki, Shoreham-Wading River’s girls cross country and track and field coach, to map out the courses. Mr. Koretzki, who is also the high school’s community programs coordinator, said that while numerous fundraising races have been hosted at the school, this is the first time he can recall an event that is entirely student-driven.

Caleigh and her grandfather, Curt Davis, after a cross country race earlier this year. (Courtesy photo)

Caleigh and her grandfather, Curt Davis, after a cross country race earlier this year. (Courtesy photo)

Caleigh said she got the idea in April and has been working on it continuously since then, mapping out courses, hanging fliers and making T-shirts and wristbands to distribute at the race.

“It’s a nice undertaking,” Mr. Koretzki said. “I’m a survivor of [prostate cancer] also, but I don’t think she knew that until I told her.”

Caleigh has created an online donation page through the Prostate Cancer Foundation’s Athletes for a Cure program. As of Tuesday afternoon, $460 had been raised toward an $800 goal. Runners can register for the race for $10 the day of the event.

“I think ‘proud’ was an understatement,” Caleigh said of her grandfather’s reaction to learning of the race taking place in his honor. “That made me feel really great. It’s a beautiful thing to be giving back. It’s just a better feeling.”

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