Glen Ridge HS grad likes his chances for this year’s Ashenfelter 8K

Photo Courtesy of Pelle Nogueira
Pelle Nogueira, who finished fourth in last year’s Ashenfelter 8K Classic, will be competing in this year’s race.

GLEN RIDGE, NJ — A borough resident says he is prepared to improve on his 2021 fourth-place finish when the 2022 Ashenfelter 8K Classic is run tomorrow at 9 a.m.

Pelle Nogueira, a Glen Ridge High School graduate, Class of 2017, said in a telephone interview this past weekend that his recent first-place finish in the New York Road Runners Staten Island Half, a half-marathon held Oct. 9, has put him in “a good spot” to realize his dream and win the borough’s traditional Thanksgiving Day race.

“It’s a very competitive race,” he said. “All the top clubs across the state will be there. I did win the Fitzgerald 5K in August, and it would be really cool to complete the double and win the Ashenfelter 8K. It’s a hometown race and up there with my biggest running goals.”

The Fitzgerald 5K, run in the summer, along with the Tom Fleming 2K, run on Thanksgiving Day, are other traditional Glen Ridge races.

Nogueira, whose family loves soccer, became a runner in a roundabout way. His father, often seen on Ridgewood Avenue, is a wheelchair racer who represented the United States in the 1992 Paralympics and then Portugal in the 1996 Paralympics. When his father was training or racing, Nogueira would accompany him; thus he became acquainted with elite runners.

“He wanted someone to train with him and he bought me a bicycle and I’d bike beside him,” Nogueira said. “I started biking competitively because of that and did a few races. It’s less stressful on your body growing up.”

Nogueira said his passion, while in grade school, was soccer, a fall sport. But during the winter and spring seasons, with his friends still involved with sports, he did not have much of a social life. In addition to playing soccer in high school, he began running indoor track his sophomore year.

“In a few weeks, I knew soccer was over for me,” he said. “I felt more freedom with running. Soccer is a team sport, and you can get frustrated with that.”

In his junior year, he joined the cross-country team. Nogueira had run in the Ashenfelter 8K when he was 14 or 15, he said, and had finished far back. But he was running at a 6-minute mile pace and figured he had potential. In his junior year in high school, his potential became evident when he won the Super Essex Conference–Liberty Division cross-country race and made all-state, second team, for Group 1 schools. In his senior year, he again won the Liberty Division championship race. In outdoor track, he got his time for the 3,200-meter distance under 10 minutes, which he said was “an accomplishment.”

Nogueira attended Manhattan College and majored in civil engineering. He currently works summers at American Pile and Foundation LLC in Branchburg. During the school year, he attends Manhattan College for a master’s degree.

“My college running career was very successful,” he said. “I had to learn a lot. The objective was more on winning. It takes a toll on your body. Adjusting to that and working through discomfort takes time.”

Eating properly and getting enough sleep became more important. But Nogueira saw steady progress. He learned to erase any doubts about his ability and to kick hard toward the finish line.

“That was a huge triumph for me in college,” he said.

His college accomplishments include making the all–Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference cross-country team in 2020; taking second place in the 10K at the 2022 MAAC championships; and, the next day, taking third in the 5K. 

Nogueira said he plans to run a marathon by next year but will continue racing at other distances, too. 

“It’s the best way for a runner’s longevity — not just physically, but mentally,” he said.

Recalling his soccer-playing days, Nogueira said he would sometimes be playing at Carteret Park and there would be “this old guy going for a jog around the park.” He later learned that the old guy was none other than Horace Ashenfelter.