On a relatively hot day, 21 entrants helped the Strawberry Canyon Track Club field full open men’s, women’s and masters teams at the 6th annual Garin Park Annual XC Challenge in Hayward for the second race in a row. The women were led by the amazing Hurricane Carola Conces, who devoured the excellent field with a surprising third-place overall finish. Her remarkable time of 19:01 on the very rugged, twisty and hilly 3.15-mile course stunned the top runners from rival teams, some of whom prevailed over her two weeks ago at Golden Gate Park. Carola’s run was the undoubtedly best female race in the club’s history. But she had a lot of help from her teammates, which collectively pulled the team to a superb third-place team finish.
Cal Massey’s recruit and good friend the talented Rachel Haislet competed in her first race as a Strawberry. She and Anne Ruminsky ran neck and neck for most of the race and both runners pulled off very strong performances. Rachel’s 20:43 mark (20th place) just edged out Anne (20:45-21st place). Anne ran very well, putting 20 seconds on a runner who beat her by one tick two weeks ago at Golden Gate Park. Ingvild Sakvsik and Sarah Syed also worked well while running together and finished in 55th (22:45) and 56th (22:52) overall. Their strong closing performances helped the women earn some prize money. They had to beat the Pamakids team, which beat them at Golden Gate Park two weeks ago in order to do it. Great job ladies!!!
The next race combined the open and masters men and the temperatures climbed noticeably for the 10 a.m. race start. The open men’s field was absolutely loaded up front. The Strawberries put forth a valiant effort, lining up nine fast runners and eventually finished fourth overall against powerful teams from West Valley TC, Transports and the Asics Aggies.
One of the things that really stood out about the Strawberries men was the remarkable “pack time” as it’s called, meaning the time differential between the first and fifth (last) scoring runner. In this race it was a scant 26 seconds!! First across the line for the Strawberries was David Yu in 11th-place with a fantastic time of 16:42. He ran 26 seconds faster than last year on the same course in similar conditions. Next across for the Strawberries was El Presidente Joseph Binder, with a fast 16:48 in 15th-place. His time was 29 seconds faster than last year. Binder was followed by newcomer Dan Chebot, a former University of Rochester runner and teammate of Dan Duett and Rebecca Murphy. He closed hard to fight off Nathan Leefer. Dan (17th) and Nathan (18th) both ran 16:59, and Nathan sliced 29 seconds off his time from last year. Rounding out the team scoring was newcomer Sam Mealy, a 19-year-old exchange student from Ireland. His excellent time of 17:08 (20th place) easily won the 19 and under age division and Sam may have set a course record for that age group too.
Following Sam was newcomer Paul Coover, a former middle-distance runner from the University of Indiana and current track coach at Fremont High School in Oakland who is also known for some very nice write-ups on running in various well-known publications. His 17:35 earned him 28th place. Dan Duett closely followed Paul with a 31st place finish in 17:43. Jack Wallace and Galen Reeves worked together the last part of the race and both were timed in 17:49. Jack rolled through in 35th place, and Galen finished in 36th overall. Despite having a somewhat off day, Tom Lui finished 2nd in the 14-19 division with an 18:44.
The masters’ men brought a good team to the starting line and they all gave it their best effort. However in what proved to be a nail-biter at the scorer’s table, they finished one tantalizing point out of first place to the West Valley Joggers and Striders, which came fully loaded, thus illustrating the value of kicking it in at the end, even if it’s just to get past one runner.
First across the line as the third masters runner overall was the Rob Elia in an impressive time of 17:53, which smoked a lot of top regional masters runners. Next across the line was Tim Keenan, who’s been incorporating more hill work into his training. It paid off well for him as he recorded arguably his best race performance since prior to his nettlesome psoas injury last spring. Tim came in 6th overall in 18:24, a time that was 12 seconds faster than the mark he posted in 2005.
Tim was followed by top seniors runner Barry Smith, who laid waste to the seniors 50-59 age group and won the division outright in a fantastic time of 18:38 (8th overall in the combined masters-seniors rankings). Chatham Ross rolled through next in 19:00-flat (3rd in the 50-59 age group and 13th masters-seniors overall). Though still a work in progress, Coach Carl Rose ran his best race in four years. He ended up 23rd in the combined masters-seniors category in a sub-20:00 performance (19:50). Of note, he chased down three runners in the last 600, including two who had a good ten-second advantage on him, and he also outkicked two masters runners in the last 100 meters in one of those dramatic cluster finishes.
Following Carl was Ian MacLeod, a remarkable seniors category 200-400-800-meter runner who is running cross country to sustain fitness and build strength for his track season. He finished the hard course in 21:01 (14th overall 50-59). Dan Sivolella is fighting his way back into shape and followed Ian in 21:09 (41st overall combined masters and seniors).
Once again, it was a great day to be a Strawberry! Congratulations to everyone.