4/27 – Canyon train rolls at Brutus

An unseasonably miserable weather front did nothing to dampen the spirits of the Strawberry Canyon Track Club, as our spirits neither dampen nor daunt, and we had a remarkable team showing by most of entrants in the Friday edition of the Brutus Hamilton Open meet at UC Berkeley.

Earlier in the afternoon, Kris Brown toed the line on a track that resembled a pond, and he bodysurfed his way to a 4:11.43 1500-meter race in a pretty substantial downpour.

The rest of the team competed in the 5000-meter races. First up was the irrepressible freshman Megan Gentes, who lined up in the second heat of the women’s race. The first lap was slowish, 87 seconds, but this set things up well for her. The pace ground down to a steady stream of 84- and 85-second laps. Megan hung tough, lap after lap and almost set a 3200-meter PR en route. There were a couple of points in the race where it looked like the field might have gapped her but she willed herself back into the group.

One by one the group splintered and she found herself in the top eight, then top seven, and then she was in fourth place as she worked hard to pass tiring runners in the last 1200 meters. She looked exhausted with 600 to go but carried on with a masterful performance as she sensed she a chance to break the magical 18:00 barrier.

Megan started winding things up and churning her arms with 250 meters to go, and it there was a pause before her legs responded. With a little grimace, everything started to go into top gear as she really took a run at the mark. Making the turn for the home stretch we knew she would break 18, and it became a matter of by how much. Megan cranked it up down the stretch and crossed the line in 4th place, turning in an excellent time of 17:56.35, which ranks second on the club’s all-time list. Stellar job to Megan!

The men’s races were next and the pesky, swirling winds kicked back up a tad. Former SCTC-er Jonathan McKinley debuted in a Cal uniform and pulled off an impressive 14:39.11 rust-buster for his first-ever 5000 on the track.

In heat two, we had seven Canyoneros, if you’re willing to liberally include a couple of very fit Cal Triathletes who entered as SCTC runners. (We happily adopt one-another’s namesakes as needed). This electrifying race turned into a compelling battle of wills between teammates and mutual friends, who brought out the best in oneanother. Everything seemed to click as a pack of 11 came through two laps in good position.

As the pace sizzled through the second mile reached in the 9:37-9:40 range, most of our competitors knew they were in a position to set personal bests. Around that point, the race developed into a trio of two-man SCTC races within the race itself. Ryan Smith and Alex Battaglino waged a see-saw duel, matched in intensity between the battle of wills between Lauri Takacsi and Richie LeDonne. Rory stayed a little behind them, working hard with each passing lap. Dennis Roth and George Torgun were not having their best day as they fell off a bit and worked together.

Coming around with 200 to go Alex and Ryan made the mad dash for home, and Alex prevailed with a 15:13.34 mark, which was five seconds off his PR. Ryan Smith, the precocious freshman pulled out another PR, this one by nine seconds, in 15:14.63. Just behind him was a great battle between Lauri Takacsi, who was receiving lots of love from a raucous Cal Triathlon Club rooting section which also showed a lot of support for our runners. Richie narrowly edged Lauri in a terrific time of 15:20.59 to Lauri’s 15:21.02. Richie missed his PR by less than one second and Lauri absolutely horse-pounded his PR by an astounding 35 seconds. He will easily break 15:00 with some race-specific track work.

Trailing just behind the two was Rory Runser, who’s been so consistent in setting personal bests. He did it again, dipping under the 15:30 barrier with a strong performance of 15:29.33. This made five Canyoneros who came in under 15:30 in a seriously impressive blanket finish.

Dennis Roth (15:53.14), and George Torgun (15:56.66), were a little off their game and still broke 16:00. In the final race (heat three), Jack Wallace showed the effects of working long hours at two jobs and ran 16:27.

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