Though most of the Strawberries closed the fall racing season out with the Pacific Association Cross Country Championships, several decided to stretch it a bit longer, and December saw some big races for the club. At the California International Marathon, Regina Scarpin, Silvio Temprana, and John Hill all performed impressively. Regina capped off a great cross country season with a huge 35 minute PR, finishing in 2:55:15, which ranks her as one of Argentina’s best marathoners in 2017. John, also coming off a season of consistently strong races on the cross country circuit, narrowly missed a club record in the 50-54 division with his time of 2:44:45. And Silvio made his marathon debut in 3:24:25, looking confident and smiling even in the last miles of the race.
The following week, a small band of Berries looking for just one more slice of cross country action headed to Club Nationals in Lexington, KY. The championship race is always a thrilling and humbling experience, as hundreds of top runners from around the country aim to make this the peak of their fall racing season. Individuals shined, but Strawberry Canyon did not field any full teams for this year’s installment, with Vanessa Lordi in the master’s race; Megan Gentes and Elizabeth Ordeman representing the open women; and Ben Harper, Matt Perez, and Ryan Smith in the open men’s race.
A Friday evening arrival for most of the racers meant little time to explore Lexington, but Vanessa Lordi, who arrived a day earlier, toured the course at Masterson Station Park and gave the rest of us a report the day before. Grassy, with smooth rolling hills, the format was fairly straightforward: two 3k loops for the women, and the same route preceded by a 4k loop for the men. There was an unpleasant steady climb at the end of each loop, including through the finish line, but it was widely agreed afterwards that this was some fun running.
The next morning, the team bundled up and gathered at the course, where the breeze helped the sub-freezing temperatures to penetrate our California-softened skin. Vanessa Lordi was the first to take off, after her family made a surprise appearance at the start line. After the signature Berry cheer hit the national stage, she was off. She started a bit fast, and faded later on, but she managed to regroup for a strong kick and crossed the line in 62nd place with a time of 27:20.
Megan Gentes, newly minted Cal alumnus, and Elizabeth Ordeman, Cal freshman, were off next. Both ran smart races. It was clear from the start that Megan was feeling strong, and her new 6K PR of 21:44 was a real highlight, earning her 92nd place in a field packed with seriously fast folks. The cold racing conditions were more familiar to Elizabeth the Ohioan than the rest of us, and her family came to support. She has turned in strong race after strong race in her first season with the club; Nationals was no exception as she crossed in 22:33.
Last to race were the open men. As they approached the 3K mark, white flakes began to drift down, increasing to a steady snowfall by the end of the race. Ben paced well, catching Ryan in the last few meters. He was happy with his new 10K PR of 32:13, proving that his talent extends over a wide range of distances. Without a full team scoring, Ryan decided to play things just a little bit riskier than usual. He paid for early moves with a feeble finish, but was able to hold on long enough for a decent race, finishing in 32:14 in 143rd place. Matt claimed a PR as well, running 38:45 and finishing in 401st place. After wrapping up a season of new bests, he is excited to hit the track in the spring.
With numb hands and faces, cool downs were cut in favor of warmth and food. After an Indian lunch, Megan and Ryan got ready to fly back home. Ben and Matt took a little more time to explore, enjoying breakfast and a hike before they headed back to Berkeley the next day. Now these Berries are in hibernation mode, before a gradual ramp up to the spring racing season.
Written by Ryan Smith and Megan Gentes.