Monday, November 27, 2017

Ashenfelter 8K surprises

On Sunday, November 26, 2017


No doubt that the Horace Ashenfelter 8K on Thursday had all the excitement that this race always generates.  The race that is just shy of five miles features a perfect course of slight grades and only one tiny hill that tests all the runners as it comes in the last mile of the race in Glen Ridge.  It has been the championship race for all divisions in the USATF New Jersey line-up for some time. 

All the teams come to race that one last time against their rival teams, and one last time for the individual to grab higher points in the New Balance Grand Prix.

So, it wasn’t surprising to see Aaron Leskow of Morristown, Kyle Price of North Brunswick, Joshua Izewski of Doylestown PA and Tim Ball of Piscataway on the starting line. 

But Morgan Pearson?  The former Del Barton standout who was running in 2011 with the Rosa twins, Joe and Jim in the Meet of Champions 3200 meters when the officials stopped the race with one lap to go due to lightning approaching the track?  Yeah, that Morgan Pearson, who after graduation went to Duke for a year or two and transferred to Colorado where he was a seven time All-American.

Pearson hit the finish line in 23:14.14, nearly a minute and a half before Leskow finished in 24:37.  Price was next in 24:55, holding off Izewski by one second and Ball next in 25:14.  Justin Scheid of Succasunna finished in 8th place in 25:33.

In the women’s race, Shelby Greany of Tuxedo Park NY and Nicolette Mateescu of Kendall Park NJ ran together for much of the race.  With the finish line in view the two put the hammer down with a race to win.  Greany hit the line in 27:52 with Mateescue next in 27:54.

The best masters women’s performance was by Nora Cary, 62, of Morristown whose 34:11 hit 91.89% Performance Level Percentage.  On the men’s masters side, Mark Zamek’s (54) 28:01 was graded at 88.27% with Gary Leaman 58, of Hardwick scoring only ticks off in 88.21% for his 29:01 finish. 

While Pearson’s appearance was a surprise, likely the debut of the Team Leonia, coached by Hector Matos, Jr. was an even bigger surprise.  Team Leonia placed first in the open men’s division.  How could that happen with all those talented and fast adidas Garden State Track Club men there?  Garden State spread their talent amongst their six teams; a strategy that works well for the club by creating an inter-club competition within a race.

Had their top men been on their A team the new kids on the block, Team Leonia, would not have captured the Gold.

In an as-close-as can-be finish in the M40 division, The Garmin racing team scored first with a combined time of 2:24:12, while the Garden State’s time was 2:24:17 – a mere five seconds difference.  And that wasn’t the only close one in the M40.  Fleet Feet Essex finished with 2:43:34 with Garden State’s B team hitting 2:43:37.

In the M50 division the Garmin team was on top.  The Shore Athletic Club was first in the M60, and the Clifton Road Runners were first in M70.

Garden State won the open women’s division.  The new in 2016 club, the New Jersey Racing Project in second.  The Garmin women took first in both the W40 and W50 while Cary’s North Jersey Masters team won the W60 division.  The durable Morris County Striders W70 and W80 teams were the sole competitors in those divisions.


There were 4, 072 finishers at the Flemington Turkey Trot with Robert Whitney of High Bridge winning the race in 15:59 and Kristen Prendergast of Annandale the first woman in 18:12.

At the Morristown 5K Matti Groll of Scottsdale AZ won the race in 15:44 with Cecilia Barowski, no town noted, first in 18:15.  Nearly 2,300 runners finished the race at Ginty Field in Morris Township.

Runners start Thanksgiving with a fast run

Published by the DAILY RECORD of Morris County, New Jersey
On Sunday, November 19, 2017


When did this madness start? Way back in 1993, the little town of Flemington New Jersey put on a tiny road race on Thanksgiving morning.  What foolishness they said, but a few runners turned out.  Woody Geary of Bangor PA was hired to time the race.  Geary wasn’t exactly high tech, even for then.   Each finisher got one click of a timing device that printed onto a tape with each click’s time.  Each finisher was herded to the end of the finish chute and handed what I think was a card with his or her finishing place.  If you finished in tenth place your card was printed with ten.  The card might have been a popsicle stick, the details have faded from my memory.  Both were used back then for timing.
The cards, or popsicle sticks were lined up on a board and the finishing times were matched to the sticks.  This was how your time and place were made official.  
In 1996 Geary had to be replaced by CompuScore, a budding computer timing company that had snuck into the industry; throwing the popsicle stick guys out of business.  It was a good move for the Turkey Trot in Flemington that year.  It had grown into a field with 753 finishers.

Did you happen to notice how many finishers there were in the 2016 Flemington Turkey Trot?They had 4,085 runners.  The fastest man last year was Matt McDonald, 23, listed as from Atlanta.  Someone can probably clue me in, but I am guessing that McDonald was home for the holiday and just happens to be a very fast New Jersey bred runner with a finishing time of 14:49.

McDonald wasn’t at the Horace Ashenfelter 8 kilometer last year in Glen Ridge where a stampede of very fast runners competed.  The elite New Jersey runners were competing at the Ashenfelter as it was and is again this year the New Jersey 8km championship for all USATF divisions.  Steven Flynn of Edison won the2016 race in 23:56 while Succasunna resident Justin Scheid finished second in 24:35.   Roberta Groner of Randolph, ran her last New Jersey USATF race as a New Jersey athlete at Ashenfelter, finishing first woman in 27:16.  She would switch soon after to become a New York member in order to compete with a national elite team in the city.

Searching for all of the Thanksgiving morning races has proved to be a daunting task.  The USATF web calendar has nine races listed for Thursday morning.  The Flemington Turkey Trot and the Ashenfelter race are there and in this area is the Morris Turkey Trot that will take place on the Ginty Field course in Morris Township.  Also, a Chatham race and the Krogh’s turkey day race in Sparta.  From there it gets a little sketchy.  The Race Forum lists several races other than those mentioned, and many of them are not within easy driving range.

One that is not listed anywhere is a 5K Turkey Trot in memory of three teens who lost their lives in car accidents while students at West Morris Central High School in Chester.  Look for information on the school’s Facebook page.

Masters men turned out for the Giralda Farms 5K in Madison last Sunday.  Karl O’Reilly of Morristown, two years shy of being a master, won the race in 16:31 while Terry Davidson, 46, of Randolph finished fourth overall and first master in 16:54.  Davidson lead in his Garmin racing team to first in the M40 team division, ahead of eleven other M40 teams.  The club did it again in the M50 division with Brian Crowley of Hillsborough leading the way in 16:57.

In the M60 division the Shore Athletic Club ruled with Rockaway’s Reno Stirrat heading up the A team with their B team finishing right behind in second place.  The North Jersey Masters finished in third.   The M60 and older teams need only three men to score which results in the clubs all able to field more teams.  Sixteen teams competed in the M60.  Only five in the M70 division that was won by the Clifton Running Club.
Not to be overlooked is Betsy Eickelberg of Leonia who won the women’s race in 18:26.  Karen Auteri of Belvidere was second in  18:32, and Elena Rozhko, 44, of Morristown was third overall in 18:38.


Local races for Morris runners

First published in the Daily Record
on Sunday, 11-12-17


Like to run long.  Like to run short.   Morris runners can do it all this coming weekend.    On Saturday the   Florham Park PBA is hosting a 5K run or walk and as of the end of October they had 382 registered.  A list of those are posted on-line and many appear to be children so it is a good guess that many will be walking the 5K, not running.  In 2016 Laura DeLea of Sparta won the race outright in 21:00 and over one thousand finished behind her.  The race is not a New Balance Grand Prix race and appears that the course has not been certified.

On Sunday in Florham Park is the Park Avenue Friendship 5K.  The race does offer a certified course and  is in the grand prix.  In 2016 the race had far fewer finishers than the PBA race;  only 109.  In 2016 Michael Logue, whose home "town" is listed on CompuScore's results as Ireland, won the race in 18:42.

The Great Swamp Devil races offer both a 5K and a 15K.  At one time the Swamp Devil race was a big draw as it was a last chance for runners to fill out their New Balance Grand Prix score card.  In those years Category Three races were rare and if you couldn't get to the Great Swamp race you were sitting with a big goose egg.  These days with so many half marathons most runners have all three Category Three races.  

Still this race has a loyal following.  It is uncommon to have such a flat 15K course in northern New Jersey.  But a swamp does not feature hills and the 15 kilometer course stays on the roads that cross through or around the Great Swamp that was once targeted as a perfect site for an international airport.  Nothing doing said the folks in the area.  They mounted a defense of the site, and the Great Swamp was allowed to remain a swamp.  Perfect for a flat and fast 15K. 

 In 2016 Justin Schied of Succasunna finished the race in 49:51,  two or more minutes faster than the winners in the last few races.  Hortencia Aliaga of Garfield was the women's winner in 1:04:55.  One hundred sixty-five finished the race.  Karl O'Reilly of Morristown won the 5K in 16:33, ahead of 99 other runners.

The addition of a Category Three Mini grand prix is both an opportunity and a complication.  Avid USATF grand prix runners who might finish out of the top three in the New Balance Grand Pix in their age division have the opportunity to win one of the mini grand prix.  When the mini's, as they are called, were established several years back, it was decided that the overall top three in the New Balance Grand Prix would be taken out of any Mini at the end of the season. 

 Thus, for instance, the amazing Brian Crowley of Hillsborough, who at age 53 appears to be winning the New Balance Grand Prix, will disappear from all the Mini's, thus moving all the men in the M50 division up.  

Not only that, the next three men in that division will be pulled out of the Mini's as well.  If the scoring were final as of November 9th which is the day that the grand prix were just posted, that would mean that in the M50 Division, John Hogan of Township of Washington, Boris Gavilanes of Hackensack and Sergio Cano of Kearny would be pulled out of Mini Three.  

The next three men, Mike Hespos of Wharton, Nolan McCarty of Princeton, and Karl Leitz of Jersey City are missing one race on the Mini Three score card and are sitting in that order.  Where do you think they are this morning?

Can anyone guess how many Thanksgiving morning races are being held this year in New Jersey?  Plenty, that's for sure.  We'll take a look next week.  


New Jersey will be will represented in New York this morning

On Sunday, November 5, 2017


Mention the New York City Marathon and we begin to think of who we know who will be running in the marathon, which is taking place this morning.

Many runners from this area of New Jersey will be at the race, but not all will not be racing.  Some will be there as part of the paid staff, like Dan Brannen of Morristown, who is a professional event organizer.  Brannen and his crew which includes Jane Parks of Morristown, and Wendy Van Dyk of Green Pond been at work all week in the city performing pre-race tasks.   

Many people like to volunteer when their marathon ambitions have cooled.  Runners like Tom Miller of Chatham who will be at his usual spot for the 8th year of volunteering.  Will DeRoberts of Boonton will be helping out as will Dave Lazarus, one of many of volunteers performing vital functions.

Joe Sikora of Succasunna, who might be the local with the most number of marathons in his log book will be running the NYC this year.  His best, he says, was in 1978 in 2:47.  Now 39 years later he is expecting to be well over four hours.  Age does have a way of slowing you down.

Kevin Higgins of Randolph ran in the Hartford CT marathon three years weeks ago in just over three hours.  Higgins says that his best, a 2:53, some 20 years ago, is making it NYC #28.  He is giving his legs a rest after Hartford and will just have fun; no racing.

Eugene Napolitano of Morris Plains says on a Facebook post that he, like Higgins, will not be racing.  As he put it, he will be participating.  In his post on the Old New Jersey Runners website Napolitano wrote that he ran his fastest time of 3:20.43 in 2001.  He said that Mayor Giuliani “had us on fire with his pitch at the start” after the horrors of 911.   In light of what happened on the bike path in New York City this week, one has to wonder if the current mayor will be delivering another inspiring message to the runners.

We wish them all well and best of racing luck.


Next Sunday, the masters men in the USATF circuit will be running in the Giralda Farms 5K, and that is quite a change.   There will be no Giralda Farms 10K; just the 5K. 
That is not the only change.  The course will be very simple, but also challenging.  The start is uphill on the Dodge Drive, the road that cuts the corporate campus in two.  Before reaching the top, the runners will make a 180 around a cone and go speeding downhill to Woodland Avenue.  After that the runners just keeping turning right.  First right is on to Woodland heading west, a right turn onto Treadwell and another right turn when reaching Madison Avenue, but running along the pedestrian path that parallels the street.  Another right turn to run down the campus road to the finish.  A breathless slow start with a fast finish.

Only the masters men will have teams and it will give them a chance to boost their scores in the Garmin Team Grand Prix.  Appropriately enough the Garmin team leads in the M40 division and are in second in the M50.  The adidas Garden State men lead the M50 and are second in the M40 divisions.  Trailing in both those divisions in third place is the Shore Athletic Club. They are in first in the M60 division.

The race starts promptly at noon.  Runners are always admonished to plan to arrive early as traffic leading into the complex can get very backed up.  It will be interesting to see if the participation in the 5K doubles over last year with no 10K to run.


A tie between the Clifton Road Runners and the North Jersey Masters in the cross country 8km two weeks ago was broken by applying USATF rules.  That put the Clifton team in first place in the W60 division and the North Jersey Masters in second.  Last week’s column  had the teams reversed.