10/06 – Presidio Challenge – Masters Win, Open Men Grab Second

Apologies are in order for any of Strawberries who may have suffered physiological and psychological torment after we managed to hornswoggle them into running the Presidio Cross Country race. The next race will be flatter…we PROMISE.


In the midst of a cool fall morning haze, THIS race featured insane hills in the form of sand dunes, elbow-to-elbow contact in its single-track bottlenecks, and several harrowing hairpin turns while barreling full-tilt down a hill covered with gravel. In general, all that was required to make this an official cross country course was a couple of irritated Spanish bulls sent forth by mischievous residents of Pamplona. Or, perhaps a hapless harrier was reminded of the infamous Vietnam War movie entitled “Hamburger Hill.” We were, after all, at the Presidio U.S. military base, all that was needed was a little errant shrapnel to spice things up. Suffice it to say, it was NOT Rupp certified.

But I digest (although it took a good three hours for me to not feel like puking afterward).

First on the docket was the men’s masters race, which provided a rude awakening in terms of how to initiate a morning race jaunt. Perhaps the race organizers opted to sacrifice the hobbling and hapless old guys, enlisting us to tamp down the soft course for the young bucks, and managed to call it a race.

It didn’t matter… the undaunted Strawberries left the excuses to the others, brought in a couple more stallions and took the masters team victory, avenging a one point masters loss the previous week at the Garin XC race in a good battle over Tamalpa, Asics Aggies and New Balance Excelsior.

First across the line for the berries and third overall in 18:39 was the amazing Rob Elia, who ran a fantastic race. He was able to turn the tables and beat Jeff Hongo by six seconds, who’d managed to edge him at Garin the previous week. Following Rob were brilliant performances by John Foley (19:01–just starting to get fit)) and Tim Keenan (19:07), both of whom ran great races and placed 9th and 10th overall, respectively. Rounding out the scoring for the berries was the tough as nails Barry Smith (19:36, 2nd 50-59 age group) in 15th and Dan Stefanisko (19:37) 16th, who hung on gamely despite falling twice in the race. The master’s men won the team scoring 44-58 over the fully loaded Empire Runners and other strong squads.

Finishing out of the team scoring but running a strong race for the second week in a row was Coach Carl Rose, who outkicked four runners in the last 150 meters to claim 31st place in the deep field. Dan Sivolella showed a lot of improvement over his Garin performance and followed Rose, coming home in 44th place. Middle-distance 50-54 age group ace Ian MacLeod, was next 51st in 21:30.

Not to be outdone were the open men which took second to Transports (49 points scored to Transports 41) and beat the powerful West Valley Track Club. For the first time in Strawberry Canyon TC history we had the long-awaited opportunity to showcase Sean McFarland and Christopher Gerber in the same race.

The dynamic duo hammered tooth and nail with the rest of the field. McFarland shared the lead with eventual runner-up Lenin Zapata at one point, while Gerber shadowed them closely. In the end McFarland almost caught Jonathan Charlesworth of West Valley Track Club at the finish line, but he settled for 4th overall (16:38), while Gerber took 6th in 16:41, both were blazing fast times and indicative of sub-15:00 (sub-14:50 IMO) 5K fitness.

Next across the line was a great season-opening run by Greg Timblin, a former NCAA Division 3 runner out of Nebraska-Wesleyan. He’d been controlling his paces in workouts but threw in a finish that reminded one of Adam Goucher, taking a look back at the three runners he’d dropped as he charged toward the finish line. Timblin was a very impressive 9th overall in 17:14. Next on the berries scorecard was Nathan Leefer who ran a solid race in 17:37 (16th place), and capping the scoring was Dan Chebot (17:47 in 19th).

The berries were not finished jamming though, as Dan Duett (college teammate of Dan Chebot’s) rolled in next in 18:23 (26th place). He was followed by two 800-meter specialists, Niko Connor (29th in 18:28) and Joshua Seeherman (51st in 20:22).

One berry competed in the women’s race, Emily Bartlett, who missed last week’s race at Garin due to prior obligations. Still, she wanted to get a race in. For her efforts it would seem no good deed goes unpunished. Emily came away with a badly scraped up and bloodied knee due to a hard spill at the base of the hill where there was gravel on the turn-around. She hung in gamely during her race, showing some of that NCAA-level steeplechaser’s toughness she acquired as a collegiate runner at Cornell University, and finished 30th overall in 23:26.

Thank you David Yu for coming out and taking photographs on Saturday, and many thanks to Greg Timblin for putting together a great Flickr slideshow with David’s use of his camera. David sat this one out in his preparation for the Chicago marathon.

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