Richard Bouckaert has entered the Allstate Sugar Bowl Crescent City Fall Classic at least three times, but Saturday’s 5-kilometer race in New Orleans Ciy Park was a special one for him.

The 29-year-old Lakeview resident won the event with a 3.2-mile time of 15:37.6. It was important to him. Not only is the Fall Classic the only 5K qualifier to the spring’s all-important Crescent City Classic, it’s a race that imparts a message of health and fitness to the greater New Orleans community — especially its children.

The Fall Classic each year gives away $12,000 in monetary awards to local schools, nonprofits organizations and running clubs with the intention of them using the cash to increase awareness of the importance of exercise in everyday life.

Bouckaert was very much in tune with that.

“It’s nice to get the qualifying time out of the way for the Classic,” he said. “That’s usually why I’m in it. But this one is really important to a lot of people. There are a lot of kids out here. I know they have the extra grant program. It brings kids out, with their parents, and educates them about this sport. Cross country and track; those are seen as niche sports. Anything that gets them out, I’m for it.”

Bouckaert was one of nearly 3,000 participants who entered the Fall Classic, a number that was buoyed by a generous number of children running the race. They were met by overcast skies and temperatures that hovered in the mid 50s at the 8:30 a.m. start.

Event director Laine Thomas said the Crescent City Classic Foundation met its goal Saturday.

“This is a short distance, so we reach out to the local schools and clubs,” she said. “They train all year for this, some of them. It’s encouraging to see everyone out in the name of fitness.”

Philip Monteleone was running with his cross country team from St. Dominic’s. There were several dozen kids who ran really fantastic times in the Fall Classic, but perhaps the most exciting thing to Monteleone was that so many of their families turned out to run with them.

In all, St. Dominic’s had nearly 90 people in the race.

“As a cross country team, we work all year to promote health and fitness,” the coach said. “That’s what the (CCC) Foundation promotes too — to enjoy health, to enjoy fitness.”

Two of Monteleone’s young charges surged through the finish line at about the 24-minute mark — a fine time for 9-year-olds. Timmy Peterman and Hudson Dehon, both fourth-graders, recently began running long-distance events. They said they enjoy competing, but they’re out for another reason.

“We like to have fun,” Dihon said.

Immacutlate Conception School had the most participants for a local organization, boasting a registration total of 421 people (a “record,” Thomas said.) St. Andrew’s had 193 people affiliated with the school enter, and Montelone Junior High had 150. The top nonprofits in the race were Youth Run NOLA with 202 people; Greater New Orleans Housing Action Center with 40; and WWOZ Radio with 37.

Katherine Telfeyan of New Orleans led the overall women’s field with a time of 19:26 on the 3-mile course.

For more information on the Crescent City Fall Classic, the CCC Foundation or any of its other events/races, go online to ccc10k.com.