HMS hosts annual community event

Hayden Santiago, a Hanscom Middle School student, and others run across a bridge during this year's HOPA race at Castle Park on base May 17. The annual three-mile race is named after the Hopa Crabapple tree that was planted near the finish line of the race 32 years ago. (U.S. Air Force photo by Linda LaBonte Britt)

Hayden Santiago, a Hanscom Middle School student, and others run across a bridge during last year's HOPA You Make It – 3-Mile Race at Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass. The annual three-mile race is named after a Hopa crabapple tree that once stood near the finish line. (U.S. Air Force photo by Linda LaBonte Britt)

HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. – The Hanscom Middle School community has held a three-mile race through Castle Park and the surrounding area here every year since 1986, including this year, when it will be run on Wednesday, May 16, at noon.

The one constant throughout those 33 years is Barbara Moynihan, who, along with a former colleague at the school, started the annual event when she was a first-year teacher at the school.

“The first three-mile race was the culmination of a fitness unit at the school,” said Moynihan, who is set to retire next month. “There were 30 participants in the first race and all were students.”

Within a couple of years, more students were included and teachers began participating in “the race.”

“Around the same time as we were preparing to run the third annual race, the Hanscom Middle School Student Council was asked by school officials to campaign for a base tree,” said Moynihan. “Students selected a Hopa crabapple tree that was located near the finish line of the race.”

Thus, after the third year, the race took on the name “HOPA You Make It – 3-Mile Race.”

The event has grown from 30 runners in 1986 to more than 285 runners last year.

“The HOPA now includes participants from HMS grades four through eight, staff members and many parents and guardians,” said Moynihan. “It is quite the Hanscom Middle School community affair.”

A former student at the school in the late-1980s designed the shirts students and staff wear during the race.

“A design by Randy Malo won by student vote,” said Moynihan. “The design has not changed in nearly 30 years.”

Malo passed away earlier this year and Moynihan said the shirt serves as a reminder.

“If you look down the trunk of the tree on the shirt, his name, Malo, is written,” Moynihan said. “It’s a terrific tribute to him.”

HMS Principal Erich Ledebuhr has run the race each year he has been at the helm of the school. Race organizers assign him bib number ‘1,’ and whoever wins the race receives his race bib to represent their first place finish.

“The HOPA race is an event that brings students, families and the community together,” he said. “The HOPA race is one of the greatest and strongest traditions that we have at HMS.”

It’s a tradition that Ledebuhr said will continue long after Moynihan’s retirement.

“The race is a fitting tribute and legacy for all that Barbara Moynihan has done for the students and families of the Hanscom Air Force Base community throughout her career,” he said.