3/28 – From Berry to Golden Bear

Ben Harper, a Cal sophomore and member of Strawberry Canyon Track Club for the past 3 seasons, recently achieved a longtime dream of running for the UC Berkeley Track and Field program, joining the team officially as a walk-on in March 2018. Kyle Dunn chats with Ben about his experience transitioning from a Berry to a Golden Bear.

On a beautiful February morning at Lake Chabot Regional Park, Ben Harper unknowingly ran what would be his last Strawberry Canyon Track Club Saturday long run (for a few years at least) with a large contingent of familiar, friendly faces. The mood was bright as the sun, and we were all ecstatic to be feeling the warm rays on our backs and soft trail under our feet for the first time in what seemed like months. There was a contagious cheer, and the blend of excitement and anxiousness for what was sure to be quite a hilly run wasn’t even remotely close to putting a damper on the group.

At the Santa Clara Broncos XC Invite in 2017

A few wrong turns (typical business at Chabot) and couple thousand feet of somewhat unexpected elevation gain later, things might have changed, but the leader of this pack was content. Ben calmly and patiently waited when the navigation got complicated. The frustrations and complaints were close to surfacing among others in the group, but Ben had no worries, he just happily went back to work with the lead pack, falling into his mid-six minute / mile (uphill) pace, chugging along with confidence and strength.

Not less than two weeks later, Ben was called on by coaches to join the Track and Cross Country teams at Cal, something he had a clear goal of achieving the moment he stepped foot on campus. I couldn’t help but think about how that tough long run must have mirrored Ben’s experience as an aspiring walk-on in so many ways- the exciting new landscape, challenging terrain, and unexpected turns that led to an even more difficult path- though it’s no surprise that there was resulting success and additional opportunities awaiting. I had a chance to dig a little deeper with Ben about the details of that exciting news, as well as to hear a little more about his inspiration and life outside running.


Let’s start by getting the details on how you made it as a walk-on to the Cal team. Had you been actively talking to the coaching staff or did you let your running do the talking? What transpired during the days before and after the good news?

“So getting asked to walk on to the team kind of came out of the blue. I had been in contact occasionally with the coaches while running for Strawberry Canyon, basically updating them on my progress at the beginning of every season because it was still my goal to run for Cal. I didn’t get any indication that they would take me on this season. But I had gotten to know a couple guys on their team and apparently they put in a good word for me. So when I won the 1500 at the second [Cal All-Comers Meet in February], the coaches were impressed and called me into their office the following week to offer me a spot on the team. I remember feeling speechless at first, it was crazy to have achieved one of my life goals so quickly and unexpectedly.

When I got out I immediately called my parents and then Carl since they’ve all been so supportive of my running. I was so ecstatic that the next few days were kind of a blur. But it was a little bittersweet, too, knowing that I’d have to leave Strawberry Canyon.”

First race as a Golden Bear at the Cal Opener in March

How has life changed now that you have an “official” designation as a student athlete? What have been the highlights and challenges? 

“I think one of the biggest changes has been just the everyday intensity of the training since we meet once or twice every day for workouts, drills, stretching, or weights. It’s definitely been challenging since it takes up more time and commitment, but it also provides a lot more opportunities to improve. The workouts are hard but I have a good group of teammates to work with and I feel very extremely prepared for them from my training with Strawberry Canyon.  And of course there’s the perks like the athletic training room, vans for travel, and all the cool gear.”

 Tell me about your background as a runner. How did you get your start and what caused you to fall in love with the running lifestyle?

“My parents are both runners—they both ran for Cal actually—so I grew up going to races a lot. I started running in middle school, but I didn’t really get serious about it until I was about a sophomore in high school. I think, like most runners, that I began to feel the joys of competing, improving PRs and seeing the benefit of hard work. There weren’t many runners at my school, but coming from a small section gave me the thrill of competing for section championships pretty early on in my career. Also, one of the biggest things that made me fall in love with running were the mountain trails in my hometown, which are still my favorite places to run.”

As a multi-talented individual, you give the impression of being someone incredibly grounded. One would guess that if you were forced to stop running for some unforeseen reason, that Ben Harper the person would be the same, and you would have various other outlets to turn to and live a balanced healthy life. Is this the case for you, and if so, how important do you feel it is to make sure other interests occupy some of your time not spent running? What are a few non-running hobbies you enjoy most?

“I think that being well-rounded has helped me both with running and just with personal well-being. It’s been important for me not to allow running define who I am, which is helpful to bounce back after a bad race or injury. I’m a musician, and playing piano has really helped me cope with some hard times. And if you put all your energy into running all the time you will get you burnt out. You need some outlets to relax and recover from the grueling focus on running. Playing piano gives me a healthy outlet outside of races and keeps me sane when races or training gets tough. Other hobbies I like include hiking, reading, and spending time with friends and family.”

What was life like growing up in Weaverville? (you grew up there right?)

“Weaverville is a small mountain town in Northern California. It was a great place to grow up with so many awesome outdoor activities right in my backyard, including great running trails. It was a little tough doing all my training by myself on our dirt track in high school. But it definitely made me a stronger runner. And the town was a very close-knit and supportive community, so I always had that cheering me on. Moving to Berkeley was definitely a bit of a culture shock and it took me a while to get used to the sheer amount of people and things going on here. I was very fortunate to have found a peer group quickly in Strawberry Canyon which really helped ease the transition to the city.”

Time trialing with SCTC in spring 2017

Whats your pre-race routine and/or superstition? 

“I don’t know if I have any special pre-race routines. I like  to make sure I get good sleep and visualizing in the night before and get a decent breakfast the day of. I prefer a longer warmup and thorough drills and stretching. I think the only superstition I have is wearing the right pair of socks. As long as I have my lucky socks on I’m good to go.”

If you had to pick one workout not designated as an easy distance run to do for the rest of your life, what would it be? OR What is your favorite workout?

“I think that of the workouts Strawberry Canyon does, the 5-speed tempo is definitely one of my favorites. It takes a while to figure out once you get the hang of it it’s a great simulation of surges in races and it feels really rewarding to finish it.”

What advice would you give to any incoming freshmen with hopes of making the Cal XC and track team? 

“To incoming freshmen hoping to make the team I would say be patient and trust the process. Strawberry Canyon has a great training program, so just keep grinding and you’ll eventually see massive improvement. Be persistent, and your hard work won’t go unnoticed. You also have to be smart and focus on the little things: the recovery runs, sleep, stretching, strength, knowing when to back off when you feel an injury coming on. But just have faith that if you put in the work each day, and learn to enjoy the process along the way, you can achieve your goals.”

Pick a favorite for each category:

Vegetable: “Bell Peppers”

Pizza Topping: “Pepperoni”

Band: “Snarky Puppy”

Sports Movie: “Without Limits”

Place to spend the night camping: “Grizzly Lake in the Trinity Alps (or anywhere in the Trinity Alps!)”

Time of year: “Spring”

Junk food: “Oreos”

What memory stands out when you think back on your times with Strawberry Canyon? 

Ben with Coach Carl

“I have so many good memories with the Berries it’s hard to pick just one. There were the paper plate awards, the long runs, tempos at Tilden, and running in the freezing snow at Club Nationals. I think one that stands out the most is the torrential downpour at the Tamalpa XC Meet two years ago. I vividly remember huddling under the tent for hours, racing on the muddy trails and eating delicious bagels and donuts afterwards. (I didn’t get to enjoy the beer!) It was a brutal but very memorable day.”

Future plans, running or otherwise?

“I’d like to continue working hard and improving the Cal team, and hopefully qualify for NCAAs. I definitely plan to keep running after college, and if I am in the Bay Area I would definitely like to return to the Berries. And in terms of my career, I am a music major and would like to do something in that field after graduation, but I’m still figuring out what exactly I want to do.”


The final uphill push of that Saturday long run at Chabot was a beast. As the run continued past the desired limit agreed on by the group at the outset, the accumulation of miles at a quick pace were taking a toll on everyone, and the diverted route led us on a homestretch that was fairly sinister. Not only was it all uphill, but there was no telling exactly how far from the trailhead we actually were. Emotions ranged from annoyed to uneasy, but Ben had no concerns. After reaching the end of my run, I saw Ben going back down the hill in the direction we all came from. Was I hallucinating due to dehydration and extreme exertion, or was he actually ADDING ON MILES?

When I hear origin stories of success, a certain amount of embellishment is usually assumed, but this particular example of work ethic made things a little more clear to me when I think about how a high school valedictorian and extremely talented jazz pianist is also this level of good as a runner, and an even higher level of good as a person. It’s just what Ben Harper does, or more accurately, who he is. As this Strawberry Canyoner would say- he’s definitely one of the sweetest berries in the bunch!

This post was written by Kyle Dunn.

1/15 – Spring Racing Begins – Join Us This Season!

The spring track and road race season is fast approaching, but the Berries have been steadily preparing, logging base mileage and returning to the track for weekly workouts to shake off the rust. 

As always, we’ll be out at Cal’s Edwards Stadium track in Berkeley every Monday and Thursday at 6pm. Mondays feature interval work, meant improve speed and turnover, while Thursdays are tempo days, focusing on building endurance. We always welcome newcomers and friends to stop by to check out a few practices or drop in for a session!

It’ll be a busy season of racing, with track meets or road races almost every weekend. A full list of races can be found on our Calendar page, and a subset of key races through the end of May is listed below. Keep up with the latest from our races right here on our blog, and also on our Instagram and Facebook pages. We look forward to seeing you out there this season!

2018 Spring Racing Schedule

Key Track meets and Road Races

  • January 20th / February 3rd / February 17th: Cal All-Comers, open track meets in Berkeley
  • February 4th: Super Sunday Run 10k, PAUSATF Grand Prix in Sacramento
  • March 3rd: NorCal John Frank Memorial 10 mile, PAUSATF Grand Prix in Redding
  • March 10th: Aggie Open, open track meet in Davis
  • March 11th: Reach for a Star 5k, PAUSATF Grand Prix in Brisbane
  • March 17th: Hornet Open, open track meet in Sacramento
  • March 30th-31st: SF State Distance Carnival, open track meet in Hayward
  • April 8th: SACTOWN 10 mile, PAUSATF Grand Prix in Sacramento
  • April 13th-14th: East Bay Invitational: open track meet in Hayward
  • April 27th: Brutus Hamilton Open: open track meet with entry standards in Berkeley
  • April 29th: Stow Lake Stampede 5k: PAUSATF Grand Prix in San Francisco
  • May 5th: Sacramento State Open: open track meet with entry standards in Sacramento
  • May 6th: Devil Mountain Mile of Truth: PAUSATF Grand Prix in Danville
  • May 12th: Oxy Invite: open track meet with entry standards in Los Angeles
  • May 20th: Bay to Breakers: classic road race in San Francisco 

1/1 – Coach Carl’s Tips to Achieve Your 2018 Race Resolutions

Coach Carl shares ten handy tips that can make an immediate difference in your race performances:
1. Pace yourself properly. The heady combination of pre-race adrenaline and pent up energy associated with a taper prompts many athletes to go out too hard, and most of the greatest mistakes in a longer race are made in the first 45-60 seconds. Do your best to control that first portion of the race, and parse your effort very evenly. Think of the boiled lobster analogy, what feels great at minute one won’t seem as optimal twenty minutes later.
2. If you are feeling lethargic and it’s not iron-related, take a harder look at your Vitamin D levels. Note that Vitamin D “functions like a hormone.” These can fluctuate seasonally (winter brings less light than summer). Fish oil aka “happy fat” is your friend. Also, if you change lifestyles, (i.e. you land an indoor desk job) this can have a dramatic effect on Vitamin D levels.    
3. In longer road races and marathons you can take a gel, shake it in your water bottle, and drink them together. This is much easier than trying to swallow a sticky gel mid-race and chase it with water.
4. In old school races providing only paper cups, cut a straw into three sections and place them in your watch band. It is a cleaner way to sip those mid-race fluids.
5. Don’t sprint through aid stations. It is better to slow down a minute or even two minutes per mile, make sure you obtain your fluid, and then speed up again. The time lost is negligible and the replenishment of reserves is vital.
6. On hills in cross country or trail races, shorten your stride and work on your cadence (turnover) and paw back (push-off). Most people tend to maintain their stride length, which creates an over-stride on the uphills and this consumes a lot more energy. Conversely, on the downhills, take a longer stride but don’t reach out too far that you brake.
7. Disclaimer: Coffee is not for everyone. But if you drink coffee, drink it at least three hours before the start of your race. If you drink coffee daily, take three or four days off of coffee before a big race for a “super-kick.” If you have never drank coffee, try it before a workout first before rolling the dice and drinking it before a race.
8. Dynamic stretching before workouts, static stretching after workouts. Sometimes a little moderate static stretching before bed helps you sleep if you are feeling antsy.
9. Sleep is one of your best training allies, especially the week before a big race. This is when growth hormone repairs hard working muscles.
10. Don’t eat an entire Tacos Sinaloa super burrito 15 minutes before the start of your championship race. Thought it may be a shock to many, this can generate some concerning mid-race digestive prompts.
Written by Coach Carl Rose.

12/9 – Six Compete at USATF National Club XC Championships

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.

Strawberries in Lexington

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.

Megan and Elizabeth lined up

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.

Ryan, Ben and Matt before the start

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.

11/19 – Berries Wrap-Up Pacific Association XC Season

On a cool November Sunday morning in Lindley Meadow, as the call for Strawberries to assemble echoed through Lindley Meadow, the Strawberry Canyon Track Club prepared to toe the line and conclude another successful cross country season at the PAUSATF Championships in Golden Gate Park.

Months earlier, the Senior’s (50+) Men opened the season up at the UC Santa Cruz XC Open on August 19th. Tom LeGan, still a month before running his awe-inspiring mile, won the Senior’s division with John Hill close behind in third, and Bill Brusher rounding out the team.

Kevin Petow at the Phil Widner Empire Open in August

A couple weeks later, the Open Women’s and Men’s teams joined the Senior’s team at the Phil Widener Empire Open in Santa Rosa. In the first race of the day, the women put a strong team together, finishing second as team behind a 3-4 finish from Julia Sizek and Megan Gentes. The Senior’s Men followed, scoring fourth place as a team. The Open Men also finished second, exhibiting their depth behind top 10 performances from Kevin Petow and Jonathan Briskman.

More Berries made their season debut in mid-September to test out a variation of the traditional championship course at the Golden Gate Park Open in San Francisco. The Open Women edged out the Aggies to take second place, with Tamma Carleton finishing in the top 10 individually. The Super Senior’s (60+) men scored their first race of the season, finishing fifth. The Open Men finished third as a team, with Ben Harper cracking the top 10.

Bill Brusher at the Phil Widener Empire Open in August

After sitting out the Rebels XC Open, the Berries returned to action at Hayward’s Garin Park XC Challenge in late September. The Open Men started off the action, narrowly finishing third with Ryan Smith leading the way with a sixth place finish. The Senior’s Men started to round into form, placing second with Rob Elia, John Hill, and Jeff Mann each finishing top 10 in the division. The Open Women also took third as a team, with Megan Gentes placing seventh individually.

In the highlight meet of the season, the early October Willow Hills XC Open in Folsom, saw team victories from the Open Women and Men. In the women’s race, Megan Gentes, Regina Scarpin, Elizabeth Ordeman, and Molly Schassberger all finished in the top 10, while Vanessa Lordi finished eighth in the Women’s Master’s division. The Senior’s Men again finished second, with John Hill, Jeff Mann, Tim Keenan, and Bill Reed finishing in the top 10 in the division. In the Open Men’s race, Ryan Smith took the win individually, and was followed closely by Kyle Dunn, Kevin Petow, and Harmen Hoek, each placing in the top 10. The Open Men also scored a “B” team, which took third as a team.

Tamma Carleton (right) in the lead pack at PAUSATF XC Championships

At the Aggies XC Open in Martinez, the Senior’s Men shined, winning their race as a team behind top 10 division runs from John Hill, Jeff Man, and Bill Reed. For the Open Men, Ryan Smith cracked the top 10 in the Aggie dominated race, pulling the Berries to a third place finish. The Open Women did not field a team, but Megan Gentes finished fifth overall individually.

In the final tune-up before championships at the John Lawson Tamalpa Challenge in San Rafael, the Open Women and Men both finished second as a team, with Tamma Carleton and Megan Gentes finishing the in the top 10 for the women, and Ben Harper and Ryan Smith in the top 10 for the men.

Open Women at the PAUSATF XC Championships

At the Association Championships, the Strawberries brought their A-game to take on  highly competitive and elite fields. In the Open Women’s race, Tamma Carleton led the way, finishing 11th overall. Megan Gentes, Regina Scarpin, Elizabeth Ordeman, and Sylvia Jebiwott (just 2 weeks after a strong run at the New York City Marathon), rounded off the scoring team with a fifth place team finish. In the Senior’s race, Rob Elia paced teammates John Hill, Tim Keenan, Carl Rose, and Bill Brusher, finishing third as a team. The Master’s (40+) Men did not score a team, but saw George Torgun make his Master’s debut by finishing ninth overall in the race. For the Open Men, Ryan Smith’s 19th place finish led the Berries to fourth place team finish, with Kevin Petow, Jonathan Briskman, Ben Harper, and Kyle Dunn making up the rest of the scoring team.

Open Men at the PAUSATF XC Championships

The season of steady, consistent performances was rewarded in the end-of-season PAUSATF Grand Prix Standings. For the Open Women, Megan Gentes (4th), Elizabeth Ordeman (10th), Regina Scarpin (12th), Tamma Carleton (16th), Megan Lang (20th) and Kim Sanchez (24th) all finished in the top 30 in the final standings, finishing second as a team on the year. The Senior’s Men finished tied for third, with John Hill (6th), Tim Keenan (18th), Jeff Mann (19th) and Rob Elia (23rd) achieving top 30 finishes. Additionally, Scott Strait (Super Seniors, 29th) finished in the top 30 in his division. Finally, the Open Men wrapped up at tied for second in the team standings with top 30 standings from Ryan Smith (3rd), Ben Harper (5th), Kevin Petow (6th), Jonathan Briskman (12th), Kyle Dunn (14th), Matt Weber (28th), and Kyle Bystrom (30th) over the course of the PAUSATF XC season.

A handful of Berries will make the trip Lexington, Kentucky for the USATF Club Cross Country Championships on December 9th, before attention turns towards the track and roads in 2018.

9/12 – LeGan Runs Club’s All-Time Top Performance

The club achieved its new high-water mark in our all-time track and field accomplishment list when Tom LeGan roared to an unprecedented 4:32.80 mile on Sept. 12, 2017 at age 51. His stratospheric 94.06% age grading performance claimed the club’s top-ranked performance in history, and was the equivalent of an open 3:56.7 mile.

After missing months of training in the early part of the year, Tom cleaned up well and had finally started to show signs of getting fit, but was it too late? It appeared that the track season was totally lost, but Tom started feeling solid right as the Los Gatos summer All-Comers meets were drawing to a close, and he dusted off the rust with a 4:45 mile against virtually no competition in July.

In the last scheduled Los Gatos All-Comers meet of the season, ill fortune struck. The meet was hastily canceled at the last minute due to an inopportunely timed high school band photo shoot. Undaunted, Tom’s sons, Carlo and Rosino, had both made the journey up to Los Gatos to watch their pops take his time down and since there was no actual race, they pushed Tom to just go for it and rip it in a time-trial. Though he invariably eased off in the middle of the race due to the lack of competition, he still managed to blow out an unofficial 4:38.7 mile, and Tom sensed he had a few more seconds in him with proper competition.

We all shared in the same emotion – what a frustrating way to end the season! It had seemingly ended before Tom could even really show his stuff, and we were looking at a disappointing off-season of “what ifs.” But all was not lost, as Coach Carl and the club’s resident masters track guru Matt Bogdanowicz, did a little research and realized that the Tamalpa Running Club had its last all-comers meet on September 12th!

So off we went to the underrated track at Terra Linda High School on a balmy, slightly breezy evening. Leaving nothing to chance, we recruited two club members as pacers, Ben Harper and Ryan Smith, with the goal of helping Tom break 4:30- a highly audacious goal given his fitness level, only five seconds off of Nolan Shaheed’s existing world record of 4:25.04. Going back into the crates of yore, Tom also sported a 4:05 (mile) and 1:48.98 (800-meter) PR from his college days, plus ran a formidable 9:07 for 3200 meters in high school, so he clearly has an excellent pedigree.

With the race underway, pacers Ryan and Ben smoothly clicked through the first lap in 67 seconds as Tom hung doggedly on their heels. When they reached the 800 in 2:13 and Tom still looked smooth, everyone in attendance realized that this was in fact not a laughing matter, and you could sense the crowd’s electricity at that point. By the time Ben and Ryan had towed Tom through the third lap in 3:20.46, pandemonium had ensued as everyone, friends and rivals, had gotten to their feet and started yelling for Tom at the top of their lungs. Tom did fall off rather abruptly in the last lap (a 72.36) but this massive effort showed that, with more strength, he could have held or exceeded that pace.

LeGan being paced by Smith and Harper 400m in. Photo by Franklin Ruona.

This performance took everything he had, but he was really not at 100% given the months of missed training. Between that and the fact that he is now training with the young guys in Berkeley for Monday’s speedy track workouts, it’s a safe bet that the record is in the cross hairs for next spring…if we can keep him healthy, always a big if for those seniors runners. But…with that said, watch out for Tom LeGan, the hype is going to be building before we know it.

Whatever happens going forward, this was an international-class mark for the ages – and Masters Track (out of North Carolina) did in fact put together a write-up of Tom’s race. Kudos remains in order for his legendary performance.

Written by Coach Carl Rose.

7/9 – Coach’s Recap – 2017 Spring Season in Review

The Strawberry Canyon Track Club went on a furious tear during the 2017 spring racing season. Numerous club members dove into the record book, turning in shiny new PRs on the ovals and roads all over northern California and beyond. We started off innocuously enough at the Cal All-Comers meets held in late winter, and the season culminated at the prestigious track meets held at UC Berkeley and SF State. One of the biggest surprises of the year was the volume of PRs turned in at the low-key Cal State East Bay meet held at Chabot College in April. We also seem to have manifested a serious sprinting program! I am bound to miss a few results, but PRs and significant breakthroughs included:
  • Stephen Sloan 4:08.65 (1500 – a 3+ second PR),
  • Kyle Bystrom 4:05.49 (1500 – a six-second PR) and 1:55.72 (800 – 0.26-second PR)
  • Erik Stein 1:56.02 (800 – a high school junior – 4.89-second PR!) and dropped from a 4:35 to 4:27 in the high school distance of 1600  meters (8 seconds)
  • Megan Gentes 4:46.39 (1500 – ten second PR!)
  • Stephen Bailey, who set at least 10 PRs this spring – 25.14 (200 – a 0.36-second PR) 54:89 (400 – a 1.67-second PR) and 1:00.38 (400 hurdles – a 2.30-second PR)
  • Ben Harper 3:58.47 (1500 – a 6-second PR)
  • Paul Green, who dropped from 4:08 to 3:57.20 in the 1500
  • Colin Gannon  4:16.25 (1500 – a 2+ second PR) and 15:28.45 (5000 – a 2+ second PR)
  • Matt Bogdanowicz 58.08 (400 – age 45-49 age group PR
  • William (Sammy) Euerle 4:02.41 (1500 – a 3+ second PR)
  • Cielo Aguilar 4:16.81 (1500 a 4+ second PR)
  • Matt Weber 4:11.28 (a 12-second PR!) and 15:39.62 (5000 – a 22-second PR!)
  • Ed Hill 4:12.09 (a 3+ second 1500-meter PR at age 39!)
  • George Torgun 15:20.50 (5000 – a 3+ second PR at age 39!)
  • Eugene Yang 26.20 (200 – a 2+ second PR),Max Krall set a 7-second PR in the 800 (2:08), and small PRs 1500 and Mile
  • Matt Perez’s PR in the 1500 after many years
  • Jonathan Briskman dipped under the 15:00 barrier in the 5000 with a time of 14:56.66. Earlier in the season he also set a new club track record in the 10000-meter event with an impressive mark of 31:13.93
  • Kevin Petow dropped 22 seconds off of his 5000-meter PR with an impressive breakthrough time of 15:10
  • Regina Scarpin debuted in the 5000 turning in an 18:45.65 time in her first attempt at a track race

We also shined on the roads as elder statesmen John Hill, Chafik Azerki, Tommy Harp, Eric Gullikson, Rob Elia, Tim Keenan and Alan Dehlinger all made appearances at several PA-USATF races including the Redding John Frank Memorial 10-mile road race in March (which was held on a new and challenging course due to flooding), the SacTown Ten-Mile in April, the Stow Lake 5K also in April, and the Marin 10K on Memorial Day. Tom Harp finally broke 38 minutes at the Marin race, a huge run for him, while Eric Gullikson broke 40 minutes for the 10K at age 62, his first time under 40 in four years and a monumental feat at 60+. Meanwhile, in the East Bay, the women consisting of our dream team quartet of Megan Lang, Julia Sizek, Tamma Carleton and Megan Gentes crushed the Oakland Marathon relay in a 30-minute victory over second-place, while the open men took second in the relay. Also, Jen Sung did well in the half-marathon.Speaking of half-marathons, we can’t overlook Jonathan Briskman’s effort at the Phoenix Rock ‘n’ Roll Half and full Marathon, in which Jonathan took an impressive 4th overall in 1:07.42 on the half-marathon course which unfortunately had just enough downhill to render it ineligible for club record purposes.

And earlier in the winter, Ashley Lin PR’d by two minutes with a 1:26.42 effort at the SF Kaiser Half Marathon in February.
And we  also brought nearly 20 Strawberry Canyon TC runners to the Devil Mountain road races in Danville in early May. Megan Lang and Silvia Jebiwott went 1-2 in the women’s 10K, and Matt Weber and Mitch Negus went 2-3 in the men’s 10K. John Hill and Tim Keenan swept the top two spots in the 50-59 age group while Erik Gullikson claimed the 60-69 age group title, while shocking a very competitive local runner in that age group. In the day’s elite road mile, Megan Gentes PR’d with a marvelous 5:12 performance, a new club record. Paul Green took third in the road mile (4:24) and was followed by Cielo Aguilar (4:38 – also a PR), Ed Hill, Colin Gannon, Max Krall and so on.

In other venues, Ashley Lin ran a 3:08 marathon at Boston, missing her PR by one minute in sweltering conditions while Jack Wallace PR’d by five minutes in 2:47, and Sylvia Jebiwott went back East to snare an 80-second half-marathon 1:25.34 PR at the Brooklyn Half. Also in NYC, Regina Scarpin ran in the Mini-Marathon 10K in Central Park later that month ‘for fun’ in just under 41 minutes. That same day, Tamma Carleton threw down the gauntlet at the Sugarloaf 15K road race in Maine, blitzing the course in 55 minutes and 59 seconds, which is a club record or second behind Julia Sizek’s 59:04 10-mile time from 2015. Also in the month of May, we razzle-dazzled the crowds with the sharp-looking, all-white Peet’s Cold Brew-sponsored Centipede at the 2017 Bay to Breakers.

With 13 + two extra open men sporting a clean look in matching singlets and white/black ball caps, we put together an impressive crew. They overcame some choppy strategical nuances in their first go at the race, and the guys adapted well and clipped off a respectable 5:45 mile pace to finish third in its inaugural netting a time of 42 minutes and 45 seconds. Finally, a special congratulations can be sent to East Bay Triple Crown winner Ashley Lin, who cleaned up a prestigious early summer trail grand prix title with impressive races at the Tilden Tuff Ten Mile (2nd), Lake Chabot Half-Marathon (1st) and Woodmonster Hill trail run (3rd). And yes, we did have two runners competing at the DipSea for good measure (John Hill, George Torgun), as well as Colin Gannon replicating his 18th-place finish at the Litchfield Hills road race in his native state of Connecticut.

In winding down the first half of the year, at the One Mile Bang in Los Gatos, the irrepressible Chafik Azerki notched a 4:38 mile and he’s closing in on age 45, while Alan Dehlinger ran 5:31 at age 56. The same two Canyoneros competed well at the July 4th Morgan Hill Freedom Fest 5K, and Chafik was second masters runner with a fast time of 16:27, while Alan D. was exactly three minutes slower in 19:27. However some real fireworks were turned in at the Alameda 4th of July 5K race, in which the Canyon swept the 1-2 spots. Particularly impressive was the monstrous breakthrough turned in by Cielo Aguilar, who PR’d by over one minute and nearly skipped the 16s entirely with a speedy time of 16:01. Kyle Dunn, after missing the spring track season with an ankle injury sustained at the PA cross country championships in November, turned in a very solid 16:06. Ed Hill cruised to a 17:20 which was good for 7th place, his goal was to hit his planned Wharf to Wharf pace.

Overall it was a very exciting season for the Canyon with many more exciting seasons to follow.

Written by Coach Carl Rose


5/21 – Peet’s Cold Brew Centipede Runs Bay to Breakers

Peet’s Cold Brew Centipede in Golden Gate Park. Photo by Kim Sanchez.

Strawberry Canyon Track Club kicked off its new partnership with Peet’s Coffee at the 2017 Bay to Breakers this week, running as the Peet’s Cold Brew Centipede. 

15 Berries tied themselves together for the legendary 12km race across the city of San Francisco. With a time of 42:45, Peet’s Cold Brew Centipede finished 3rd in the centipede division.

Jonathan Briskman, Ryan Smith, Paul Green, Geoff Leonhardt, Dylan Verner-Crist, Dan Kramer, Colin Gannon, Matt Weber, Jack Wallace, Mitch Negus, Ed Hill, Chafik Azerki, Kevin Petow, Ryan Lok, and Kyle Dunn ran on the ‘pede.

Heading into the summer, Strawberry Canyon will have a strong presence at the upcoming local road race classics, including the Marin Memorial Day 10k and Wharf to Wharf.

1/16 – Spring Season Begins for SCTC

As Cal students head back to class this week, track season kicks into full swing for Strawberry Canyon Track Club.

The spring season features a full docket of track and road races. Strawberry Canyon is one of the few public running clubs in the region in which many runners focus the season on track races – it is an excellent opportunity to get in some speed work and work towards lifetime PRs. The racing season officially kicks off January 16th at our home track with the first of three Cal All-Comers Meets. The season will continue with meets nearly every weekend all the way through mid-May, concluding with the USF West Coast Last Chance Meet. See our calendar for the full list of meets we will be attending.

The coming months will also feature a slew of road races which are well attended by SCTC runners. Club favorites including the Kaiser Permanente SF Half Marathon, Oakland Running Festival, and Bay to Breakers headline the spring road race season. The Pacific Association Road Race Grand Prix for 2017 will also start in early March at the NorCal John Frank Memorial 10-Mile. A select list of key road races can also be found on our calendar.

If you are new to the area or are local and looking for a friendly and dedicated group to train with, feel free to come out to any of our practices! Track workouts take place every Monday and Thursday at Cal’s Edwards Track in Berkeley. We meet at the steeplechase pit on the north end of the track, arrive around 5:45 to warm up, and start workouts promptly at 6pm. We also regularly meet for long runs on the weekends, and as the weather warms, we will find our way to the most beautiful trails and running routes the Bay Area has to offer. Contact us directly if you would like to learn more, be added to our email list, or have any additional questions!

Be sure to follow us on Facebook and on our NEW Instagram account to stay up to date with our latest adventures.

See you out there.



9/5 – SCTC Opens XC Season, Hosts Time Trial

As August drew to a close, the Strawberry Canyon teams opened their cross country seasons on a cloudy but humid day in Santa Rosa at the Phil Widener Open. All three teams scoring – the open women, Master’s men, and open men, landed with second place finishes in the 3.43 mile race at Spring Lake Park.

The open women put three in the top 15, led by Julia Sizek and followed closely by Megan Gentes and Megan Lang. Naomi Wilcox and Kim Sanchez rounded out the quintet.

Women at the start of Phil Widener in Santa Rosa. Photo by Colin Gannon.

Women at the start of Phil Widener in Santa Rosa. Photo by Colin Gannon.

In the Master’s men race, Darrin Banks achieved a top 10 finish, coming in at 8th place. Tim Keenan, Dan Sivolella, and Carl Rose comprised the remaining scorers.

In the final race of the day, the open men showcased their depth, scoring two full teams which finished 2nd and 3rd in the team classifications. In the end, the Canyon put 8 in the top 10, with Dan Kramer, Ryan Smith, Dylan Verner-Crist, Jonathan Briskman, and Geoff Leonhardt scoring the points.

Several days later, Strawberry Canyon hosted it’s annual Fall Time Trial on August 31st. Conditions were moderately favorable, if not slightly warm, as the field ran one heat of the 600, and three heats of the 5000m on Cal’s Edwards Track.

  1. Kyle Bystrom: 1:27.83
  2. Stephen Bailey: 1:33.95

    Stephen Bailey and Matt Bogdanowicz compete in the 600m time trial. Photo by Eric Gullikson.

    Stephen Bailey and Matt Bogdanowicz compete in the 600m time trial. Photo by Eric Gullikson.

5000m Heat 1:
  1. Max Krall: 17:57.55
  2. Ed Hill: 18:03.04
  3. Mitch Negus: 18:24.01
  4. Megan Lang: 19:08.56
  5. Erin Hagan: 19:21.45
  6. Julia Lipson: 19:34.28
  7. Asha Culhane and Julia Sizek: 22:56.75
Several laps into heat 1 of the 5000m time trial. Photo by Eric Gullikson.

Several laps into heat 1 of the 5000m time trial. Photo by Eric Gullikson.

5000m Heat 2:
  1. Ben Harper: 15:24.96
  2. Geoff Leonhardt: 15:32.69
  3. Sam Euerle: 15:38.83
  4. Chikara Omine: 15:44.33
  5. George Torgun: 15:46.50
  6. Christian Choi: 16:23.08
  7. Erik Stein: 16:30.64
George Togun leads a pack in Heat 2 of the 5000m time trial. Photo by Eric Gullikson.

George Togun leads a pack in heat 2 of the 5000m time trial. Photo by Eric Gullikson.

5000m Heat 3:
  1. Jonathan Briskman: 15:36.37
  2. Sloan Cook: 16:50.83
  3. Ed Hill: 17:20.74
  4. Tim Keenan: 18:08.81
  5. John Spriggs: 21:34.40
Jonathan Briskman, Matt Weber, and Cielo Aguilar at the start of heat 3 of the 5000m. Photo by Eric Gullikson.

Jonathan Briskman, Matt Weber, and Cielo Aguilar at the start of heat 3 of the 5000m. Photo by Eric Gullikson.

The cross country season will continue on September 11th at San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park.