11/16 – Women Grab PA XC Season Title, Men 2nd!

A golden dawn sky was belied with a pesky, cold breeze that swept through Golden Gate Park preceding the morning start of the long-awaited PA-USATF Cross Country Championships. The Strawberry Canyon TC women’s team, now squarely on the radar, warmed up nervously and vigorously as mostly the men (who raced later) set up the tent. This was a “take no prisoners” kind of day.

A little back story is in order: This particular group of women constituted the most inspiring regional team of the decade. They went from zero to regional / national-class in a matter of months, putting together what had to be classified as a “dream season.” In the summer they were a no-name, small group with 500-to-1 odds to win the Pacific Association-USATF team grand prix cross country championships. This would be the talk of fools and delusional coaches. However, in a few short months, they became a very tightly knit, focused and well-respected team locking horns with the best clubs in the region for a fighting chance to claim our club’s first ever women’s title.

The race started with butterflies, as the Canyoneras had been battling since August. This effort had left them tied with the West Valley Track Club, and beating them was necessary to win the Grand Prix. But we wanted to do more. The mighty Impala Racing Team was within striking distance and they brought several 2012 Olympic Trials marathon qualifers to the starting line to try and grab that title from us and defend their eight-year grand prix winning streak, and the No. 18-ranked (2013) ASICs Aggies who’d improved a bit in 2014, and No. 8-ranked New Balance Silicon Valley (2015 – and without their No. 1 runner at Club Nationals) squads also brought their hammers to this championship race. The Strawberry Canyon women’s team had one more test, and they were going to have to punch way above their weight yet again to pass it.

But this had all started in June. At this point, too much work had been invested and our women were on a mission. They had one chance to make history, to claim their destiny, a chance to upend the regional hierarchy, and make it that much sweeter as an underdog, unsponsored club…all of this was at stake and more. So here was the moment, they had to line up and see where things stood. Coach Carl gave them a little pre-race encouragement at the start, but there wasn’t really much else to do than to let things unfold and trust that they had been sufficiently prepared for this massive test. And so with that…off they went.

The women went out prudently, according to plan. As their race unfolded, it was a thing of beauty as they all ran pretty evenly and shredded the field in a tight 50-second pack between the No. 1 and 6 runners. (I heard a few shocked exclamations among the spectators). This was no accident – it was a perfect storm. We didn’t just edge WVTC for the title, we also beat the Aggies, Impalas, and West Valley TC in that order, and grabbed the title in the way it should be won, head to head when it counted.

Everyone stepped up in their own way. Julia Sizek came on to the scene and started hammering people. This was no different as she blitzed through a very strong field and took 12 th. Second for the Berries scoring was Olivia Hill, who got better and better and better in every race and beat people she hadn’t ever beaten before at the championships – finishing with a strong kick. Tamma Carleton raced with painful tendonitis in her foot and we weren’t even sure if she was going to start. She gutted it out like a champion and ran an extremely gritty and courageous effort for 18th. Next there was the middle-distance specialist Rebecka Oberg (20 th), who was racing at a distance that was completely out of her comfort zone – finishing with a flash ahead of a couple of very strong runners, there was the team leader and women’s captain – our women’s team’s glue, Megan Lang (26 th), who also threw down a very impressive race. There was the ever dependable Megan Gentes (27 th), who never met a starting line she didn’t like and rounded out a very dangerous six-woman pack with another strong race performance. Next was the youngest was 17-year-old Jennifer Schick, who has a massive upside to develop. And the most improved of the bunch might be our club’s vice-president Kimberly Sanchez, who wrapped up the racing for the women.

When the dust had settled and the preliminary scores were posted – other team were genuinely stunned; some seemed upset, others were congratulatory and delighted for us. Our ecstatic SCTC women had pulled off the David vs. Goliath miracle finish – winning the grand prix title in a rather moving performance, and took second only to the elite development-based NBSV club. The rest of our club was glowing for them too –they knew that they had seen something special and this was a very proud moment for everyone in the club. To close – I quote Bill Brusher: “That has to be one of the coolest things that’s ever happened in the history of the club.” Yer damn right! 🙂

Their times and a video link to their historic finish is linked below:

Women’s 6K race

12. Julia Sizek – 21:30

14. Olivia Hill – 21:40

18. Tamma Carleton – 21:49

20. Rebecka Oberg – 21:55

26. Megan Lang – 22:15

27. Megan Gentes – 22:20

42. Jennifer Sc hick – 22:58

57. Kimberly Sanchez – 23:34


The masters and seniors-plus men dusted off a few hearty graybeards and put together a solid group of oldsters. Many were pleased both with their performance as well as the new 10K course, which will also be the site of the USATF Club National Cross Country Championships in 2015.

Rob Elia and Darrin Banks killed it, taking the first two spots. Tim Keenan had an excellent race and exorcised his ‘jinx’ races at Golden Gate Park – he too, loved the new course. Chris Dodge was next, and the quarter- and half-miler by trade ran an impressive effort. A legend in the making is Keith Duncan, who at 60 is shellacking our club records. He was 4 th senior overall. Next was the smiling patron saint of the club, Sir Erik Gullikson, who seemed to be only moderately pressed and content to soak up the moment. Coach Carl Rose continued his coming back ways (with a ways to go) came through with a good effort relative to his fitness and had his best race of the season. Paul Nolan missed the start (everyone has that ONE “bad dream” race), and throwing in the towel, ended up running a tempo of the course, tangled behind the slower runners. Bill Brusher debated running but still finished since he already had the grand prix points in his sights.

Both the masters men and seniors were 4 th overall, which was a pretty solid result considering we were missing a few of our hitters.

Master’s Men’s 10K race

20. Rob Elia – 36:21 (5 th 50-59)

21. Darrin Banks – 36:23

28. Tim Keenan – 36:50 (8 th 50-59)

47. Chris Dodge – 38:18

68. Keith Duncan – 40:34 (4th th 60-69)

79. Erik Gullikson – 41:17

82. Carl Rose – 41:39

119. Paul Nolan – 45:18 (missed start)

166. Bill Brusher – 55:51

The open men weren’t as fortunate as the open women, as the ASICs Aggies added lots of depth and decided to show up to enough races to accumulate the maximum five wins going into the championships. Jonathan McKinley was not where he was at last year, which was putting the fear of God in everyone in the PA, after a long stretch with injuries, but we were still in the hunt for a valiant second-place team finish. Most of the guys ran well and were feeling the effects of a very long race season, particularly the younger runners. So we were a little outmanned up front, but still packed up pretty well. Their efforts locked us solidly into 4 th-place team finish at the PA XC champs but this was still sufficient to keep our club in second. Despite that we’re primarily running with undergrads that never ran in college and a few graduate students from small-college programs, they still held their own against the heavyweight clubs.

Here below are their finishes in order.

Open Men’s 10K race

18. Jonathan McKinley – 31:54

31. Sean McFarland – 32:50

42. Ryan Smith – 33:21

46. Lauri Takacsi-Nagy – 33:29

52. Ryan Lok – 33:48

61. Colin Gannon – 34:18

62. Stephen McKinley – 34:23

64. Rory Runser – 34:40

69. Jack Wallace – 34:47

71. Brandon Kan – 34:50

73. Ed Izaguirre – 34:51

76. Dan Duett – 35:00

79. Justin Huang – 35:07

89. Bentley Regehr – 35:35

110. Stephen Granger-Bevan – 37:72

115. Matthew Berberick – 38:29

123. Kevin Hsu – 39:13

9/7 – Women rule, men survive GG Park XC

Girl Power rules at Golden Gate Park XC with 2nd-place effort; Open Men snag 2nd; Oldies…finished

The blue-collar and blue singlet-clad Strawberry Canyon Track Club brought their hammer and tongs to the no-holds-barred, 4.12-mile Golden Gate Park XC Open meet held on Sunday, Sept. 7th. We fielded full teams for the open women, senior men’s (50+), and open men’s races, but the clear highlight of the day was the race day shocker delivered by women’s team, which had never competed (as a group) in a race of this magnitude.

The SCTC women had been kept on the down-low for a few months, allowing them time to train together, build up a summer base, and to establish a mutual bond. The group’s emergence has been compelling to witness as they all trained in a speedy, tight pack, but would this translate to a strong race-day performance? They had yet to really test their mettle in the heat of competition. This race represented that test as they ended up in a hard-fought battle with four teams vying for second place.

Most of us would have been cool with a solid 4th-place team finish in what was a loaded women’s field, and ecstatic with a third-place finish. But these women, quite frankly, delivered one of the finest team performances in club history, setting the Pacific Association on its collective ear by upsetting three nationally regarded teams, West Valley Track Club, the Impala Racing Team and the ASICs Aggies to take second-place honors behind last year’s 9th-place team at USATF Club Nationals – New Balance Silicon Valley.

Rebecka Oberg went out leading the chase pack for about three miles and had a moment of doubt, but she rallied at the three-mile mark as teammate Tamma Carleton passed her, encouraging her to keep at it. Tamma ended up taking top spot for the Berries, rolling to an outstanding 9th-place overall finish in 25 minutes, six seconds, with Rebecka a slim six seconds behind her in 11th-place. Right behind Rebecka was a very impressive performance from Olivia Hill, who nailed down a sterling 14th-place finish.

Rounding out the scoring team was the Force of Megan as both Megan Gentes (18th) and Megan Lang (19th) finished in an identical time of 25:37.

These women had been so closely matched in workouts we sensed they would finish somewhat close to one another. But they slashed the field with an almost unheard-of 31-second “pack time” (differential between first and fifth scoring runners) an accomplishment which elevated them to an improbable second-place team finish.

Behind the scorers, Camille Plantier had a great breakthrough race in 27:32. Kimberly Sanchez had to work with a sore foot and finish in 28:39. Naomi Wilcox was next for us and finished in 29:39.

The seniors men (50-plus for you whippersnappers) did manage to bring four runners to the line and we seem to have been the 5th-place overall team. Scott Strait finished just ahead of Paul Nolan. Coach Carl crossed the line in 28:31, and 60+ Bill Brusher ended up just running to finish with a time of 36:08.

What is interesting about Scott is he and Eric Gullikson (who ran a road race, see below) are 59. Keith Duncan is currently 60 and crushing the PA circuit. Only three super seniors are required to score at PA meets. Needless to say this will be an indomitable trio of oldsters for 2015 Club USATF XC Nationals which will be held in San Francisco!

Last but not least the open men ran a smart race. A few teams were no-shows or watered down so they were able to eke out a much-needed second-place team finish to assist their Grand Prix title hopes. Sean McFarland is starting to come back after a summer of foot tendonitis, and he paced the Canyoneros with a good performance of 21:36. Not too far back was newcomer Ed Izaguirre, a strong runner who recently moved here from San Luis Obispo after training as part of the Cal Poly Distance Project. Ryan Smith followed him a few ticks back. Greg Timblin and promising freshman Brandon Kan closed out the scoring for the Berries.

In the next wave, Alex Battaglino seemed to be rounding into form a little bit and he was next. In the chase pack, Stephen Granger-Bevan had a really solid race as did Justin Huang.

Here are the individual results for the racers:

9. Tamma Carleton 25:05
11. Rebecka Oberg 25:12
14. Olivia Hill 25:22
18. Megan Gentes 25:37
19. Megan Lang 25:37
Camille Plantier 27:32
Kimberly Sanchez 28:39
Naomi Wilcox 29:39

66. (23rd 50+) Scott Strait 27:09
69. (25th 50+) Paul Nolan 27:14
Carl Rose 28:31
Bill Brusher 36:08

16. Sean McFarland 21:36
19. Ed Izaguirre 21:47
20. Ryan Smith 21:50
27. Greg Timblin 22:13
28. Brandon Kan 22:17
31. Alex Battaglino 22:26
35. Stephen Granger-Bevan 22:40
Justin Huang 23:01
Edward Hill 23:09
Kevin Hsu 24:40
Joshua Seeherman 27:29

There is also a brief recap from the Walnut Festival 5K and 10K from Tim Keenan:

At the Walnut run, I did a 35:51, neither fast nor slow, but considering there are two 180-degree
turns on the course, and my age, I’ll still take the overall win (edit, he has tried to win this race for 22 years, so congrats to Tim, he can chalk that one off the list).

The rest of the group also turned in stellar individual performances, and though his time was nowhere near what he is capable of when fit, it was a pleasant surprise to see original Pacific Striders club founder Thom Trimble back in a race after a lengthy hiatus. (History lesson, we combined the 1983-2009 Striders aka older guys like me, Tim, and Thom, with SCTC aka new blood in 2009).

The 5K race results:

Eric Gullikson – 18:51 – top 55-59
Keith Duncan – 18:57 – top 60-69
Kate Ashley – 20:22 – 3rd female
Thom Trimble – 22:28 – 3rd 55-59

11/24 – McKinley Goes SACPOP On PA, Strawberries 9 Points Short

Individual Results

Team Results

Last Sunday was a major day for the fleet-footed Canyonists throughout the Bay Area. Fortunately for our stalwart competitors, the weather gods were most gracious as the day dawned with a light fog that burned off to crystal clear skies and virtually ideal conditions.  On center stage for our club was the heralded arrival of the PA-USATF cross country championships in Golden Gate Park, which delivered an ample supply of drama full measure.

First on the docket was the women’s 4.12-mile race, and the course was in perfect condition, compared to most years when things get sloppy due to the rains.Due to some last-minute obligations and obstacles, just two women made it to the start line. (Relatively) new mother Anne Ruminsky ran a solid 27:21, and she was followed by Kimberly Sanchez, whose 28:15 had to represent the most disappointing 53-second improvement over September’s identical race on record. She has been on fire lately and we were hoping for a sub-28:00. Next time for sure!

The master’s 6.19-mile race featured Coach Carl Rose, who was content to get in his daily exercise while doubling with coaching duties. He ran 45:14. Bill Brusher ran 49:18 to place fairly well in the seniors division.

The showcase event for the Strawberry Canyon Track Club was the open men’s race and it was an epic barn burner which netted an overall bittersweet result. From what we can delineate from the very murky overall team scoring we ended up taking 5th overall, a scant few points behind the strong New Balance Silicon Valley and Sacramento Racing Association Elite clubs.

We gave it our very best effort to beat these sponsored clubs, and came up a tiny bit shy, a net result which dropped the club into a tie with the potent West Valley Track Club for a share of the PA-USATF Grand Prix championship on total points. That being said, everyone showed up with their heart and mettle, and we delivered as well as we could on race day.

Special mention must be made of Jonathan McKinley, whose race explosion shocked the entire Pacific Association. Throughout the race I could hear spectators muttering things like: “Who the (expletive) is THAT guy?” Or “He’s going to blow up soon.” “I dunno about that, he looks awfully good.” Indeed Jonathan held on for a blistering 30:48 mark and 5th-place finish, an astounding performance which destroyed our existing club record.

He was followed by Dan Chebot, who’s quietly delivered a monster season, regaining and exceeding his old form from college. He pulled off a very remarkable 32:28, which is over 75 seconds better than his former PR on that course. Sean McFarland was our steady Eddie for the season, balancing a rigorous academic schedule with training and racing duties, notching a solid 32:39 performance.  Kris Brown (33:32) and Dan Duett (33:39), who closed with a hard-charging kick, rounded out the club’s scoring five.

Also in the mix were George Torgun (34:18), Rory Runser (34:46, almost a 3:00 PR on that course!), and Richard LeDonne (36:26).

Here are some tidbits about Jonathan’s monstrous race, which is destined to go down as one of the most uniquely astonishing and highest rated performances in club (and maybe Pacific Association) history.

1.       No one in our club has ever broker 32:00 on that course, let alone 31:00.

2.       Jonathan ran 2:00 (800); 4:22 (Mile); 9:51 (2-mile) in high school (Duxbury, MA).

3.       Jonathan is a Cal undergraduate, a junior majoring in mechanical engineering. He is likely to walk on to the open arms of the Cal track team soon.

4.       Jonathan had not run any cross country races since high school until he opened up the season for us in November, and he’s never raced that far in his life.

5.       Jonathan’s favorite event is the 1500/Mile. He PR’d with a 3:58.45 last spring.

6.       Jonathan spent several weeks off of running earlier in the fall, pool running while recuperating from a bout of shin splints. He is effectively combining land running with pool running.

7.       Jonathan tangled with and convincingly defeated several notable US Olympic Trials qualifiers. If it was just one guy having an off day it is one thing, but this race was no fluke.

8.       The look of sheer shock and awe on the faces of people from other clubs (and spectators) coming over to check him out after the race was … priceless.

9.       This was only the beginning as many seem to believe a star was born on Sunday. This massive performance got everyone’s attention. My sentiment, congratulate the man who ran 6.19 miles.

10.   The pizza after the race was pretty darn good too!

Golden Gate Park  PA-USATF results:

WOMEN (4.12 miles)
Anne Ruminsky 27:21
Kimberly Sanchez-Dias 28:15

Carl Rose 45:14
Bill Brusher 49:18

OPEN MEN (6.19 miles)
5. Jonathan McKinley 30:48
24. Dan Chebot 32:28
28. Sean McFarland 32:39
35. Kris Brown 33:32
36. Dan Duett 33:39
40. George Torgun 34:18
45. Rory Runser 34:46
66. Richard Ledonne 36:26

9/9 – Golden Gate Open And More

Hello Canyoneros, Canyoneras and everything in between:

We had a number of runners competing at various races over the weekend. Our own Julia Gullikson kicked things off on Friday with her first collegiate cross country race, hosted by Portand State at Blue Lake Park in Troutdale, OR, a scenic and flat gold course about 10-12 miles east of Portland.

Julia is now a walk-on freshman for the University of Portland and she came in 20th overall, and 4th overall for the Portland Pilots, finishing with a strong kick in 17:20 over three other runners including a Univsersity of Oregon runner. Congratulations to Julia!

Tim Keenan and Kevin Downie manhandled the competition at the Walnut Festival 5K and 10K races on Sunday morning in Walnut Creek. Tim took third in the 10K in 35 minutes, 26 seconds, while Kevin snared the masters victory in the 5K with a strong time of16:40.

At Golden Gate Park, the race of the weekend went to the Strawberry Canyon Track Club’s women’s team, which fielded a full team for the first time this season. They were paced by another strong effort from undergraduate phenom Christy Khouderchah, who zipped across the line in 26 minutes flat, good for 22nd place. Maria Monks took 24th in 26:32, indicating she is starting to get back into shape. Mei Tung-Chen had the best race of the day for the ladies, and prbably had the best race of the weekend outright. She beat last year’s time on that course by over a minute (62 seconds) and barreled across the line in a speedy 26:44 (31st place). Margot Hutchins battled an achy quad and held on for 27:24 (39th-place). Rounding out the scoring team was Kimberly Sanchez-Diaz in 29:08 (64th place). Eva Luu added some insurance, by getting in a tempo-ish 30:08 effort (74th place).

The old ‘uns toed the line next, and Thom Trimble cruised to a 25:57 mark finishing 16th in his 50-59 age group. Bill Brusher finished in 31:46 and represents the 60-69 y/o age group.

In the men’s open race four brave souls (ahem! five to score) lined up to test themselves against the best the PA has to offer. Dan Chebot had his second strong performance in two weeks with an 11-th place finish and notched an impressive 21:32. Mr. Konsistency aka Kris Brown followed 15 seconds back in 21:47 (16th-place), showing gradual improvement with each race. Watch out for him! Dan’s little brother Ben Chebot took 28th in 22:40 and is still battling himself back into shape. And we were all happy to see the return of Dayu Tao, who ran 23:30 (33rd place).

(I’m sure I probably missed something, somewhwere). Still, nice work, everyone!



11/20 – Open Men Battle to Team and Individual PAUSATF XC Titles!

The day of reckoning arrived with ominous, bruise-colored clouds hulking over the roiling waters of the Pacific Ocean as runners from all over the state of California descended upon Golden Gate Park’s Lindley Meadow for the 26th annual Pacific Association (and USATF Western Regional) Cross Country Championships. A season of toil was at stake at the PA Championships, including the open men’s team and individual overall titles. A great day by our top five runners was going to be required to pull this small miracle off.

The lightning flashed and thunder rumbled to go with a bone-chilling rain, further intensifying the sense of pre-race anxiety and anticipation.

First up on the race docket was the women’s two-loop 4.14-mile race. Rain pelted the soggy, slippery course, which appeared to be slower than the 2010 version, which became more and more treacherous during the race. Runners slipped and slid across the line to times that were roughly 8-10 seconds per mile slower than most years. Finishing 32nd overall was Christine Bowlus, whose remarkable time of 25 minutes and 54 seconds was a full 38 seconds faster than her time in September on this same cross country course, but on a dry day. Christine managed to prevail over several very good runners who’d been ahead of her in other races this season, and this was a delightful way to cap off her season. Elizabeth Ottenheimer had a solid race, but knew she would have fared better with spikes. She still broke 7:00/mile while running in road-racing flats on what amounted to an oil slick in places, finishing in 27:47 (68th-place). We agreed at this point in the season it seemed a little expensive to purchase spikes. However, spikes will be on her Christmas wish list for next year!

The masters men were next and seven hardy Canyoneros lined up as the rain ratcheted it up three notches and devolved into a full-blown cloudburst. The course now had deep mud and small streams of water flowed freely through the meadow–you had to take the turns widely and skirt around the deep water spots. At certain points on the course, it resembled a pond with little green plants sticking up from the water, something we came to recognize as random blades of grass peeking through a lake’s surface.

Robert Elia had a very good race for the Master’s men, bodysurfing across the line with a strong  showing of 11th overall in 36 minutes, 33 seconds. (Only six masters men broke 6:00/mile, which is unheard of on this race, so clearly the course had become a bog). Next across for the club was the stalwart Barry Smith, the seniors wunderkind, who finished as the 6th 50-59 runner in a great performance of 38:54 (37th overall). Daniel Sivolella continued to exhibit his significant and impressive improvement in fitness, with an excellent race of 39:24, almost a full minute faster than last year’s time. And although last year’s course was certainly slowed by mud, this year’s version arguably featured the worst conditions in PA-USATF championships history.

Chris Dodge was the next masters runner to slip-and-slide across, in 40:33, going out a smidge too hard and hanging on for the finish (54th-place). Rounding out the scoring was the 15th-place senior and 64th overall finisher Craig Whichard (41:15), who’d just come off of a half-marathon the week prior. Next across the line was Coach Carl (84th – 43:27). Despite being sevaral deviations off of last year’s fitness level, he was happy his nine-month achilles debacle held up to the rigors of the tricky course, and he felt his fitness was starting to trend in the right direction. Bill Brusher was the last Strawberry Canyonero across the line. He had a calf strain earlier in the week, and had to walk-jog the last two loops and finished in 1:07.43 (166th overall), in what was a tough day at the office for him.

The masters men’s team finished a respectable 6th overall among teams in this race.

However these first two races were mere preludes to the Big Daddy, as everyone knew this was the make-or-break day that might belong to the Strawberry Canyon Track Club’s open men’s team. Going into the race, the Strawberry Canyoneros had the slimmest of advantages in the team scoring competition, and it was a hotly contested three-team race to this point: Strawberry Canyon TC had 70.5 points, while Transports and West Valley TC were hot on our heels and tied for second with 69 points. Hence, it was quite logical to assume, with the team title on the line. that all teams in question were going to bring their best squads to this race to settle the season’s outcome once and for all. So we were a little surprised when Transports held out three of its top five runners and WVTC did not bring their number 3 and 4 runners to the starting line. We had also expected the spoiler team–the vaunted but inconsistent Chico Track Club, would arrive in full force.

Regardless, this was the championships and we were prepared to contend with all plausible scenarios to run our best race and earn our open team title.

The rain let up mercifully for the men’s start on a three-loop 6.19-mile course, which was a chopped up quagmire at this point and that was being kind–the course now resembled moonscape in places.

Of note, Greg Timblin was narrowly trailing WVTC’s Neville Davey in the PA-USATF open men’s individual scoring grand prix competiton, and Davey had looked pretty invulnerable this season, setting two course records in previous rades, so the odds of Greg taking the open title this season were a bit daunting.

But that’s why they run the races.

Greg, fighting through some late season aches and pains, managed to run a controlled, strong race for the Strawberry Canyon TC, and paced our open men yet again. Timblin finished 11th overall, just ahead of Neville, who appeared to have trouble with the muck and struggled somewhat. Greg reclaimed the points lead and prevailed to take open men’s title by a scant 10.5 point margin. His time of 32:30, by his own analysis, would have been worth about 30 seconds faster at last year’s version of the race. Tom Haxton finished ten seconds back and 28 seconds ahead of last year’s time, in 32:40 (14th overall), showing signs of his return to top-level fitness and capping off a fine season, in which he finished 7th overall in the cross country grand prix.

Sean McFarland, who’s been the quiet leader of this team all season, displayed a form of grit that inspired the entire team. In a nutshell, he “played hurt.” Having rolled his ankle severely five days prior to the race, Sean was barely able to run during the week. Greg, who is arguably (clearly) the best all-around jock on the club, rrelied on his extensive personal experience and masterfully taped up Sean’s ankle pre-race, and Sean was able to run at 98%. That was good enough for this day. Sean finished 19th overall in 32:54, undoubteldy losing a little time to the gimpy ankle, especially on the turns, but helping keep his team in the thick of the oh-so-critical team scoring competiton. Although he had a bit of an off-seaon overall, primarily due to a lot of academic demands and lingering fatigue, Sean’s solid performance netted him 4th overall in the open grand prix competiton.

Next across the line for the Strawberries was Kenny Rakestraw, a very tired elite triathlete who has been racing high level triathlons at a national level all spring, summer, and into early fall. Kenny had never really had the opportunity to shut it down for the latter part of the cross country season, and was feeling the malaise of the longest of seasons over the last few weeks. Still, his 33:02 performance snared him a great 23rd-place overall and helped the club out tremendously. Club President Joe Binder might have had the most impressive run for the Strawberries, finishing in a remarkable 33:33, good for 31st place overall. In an extremely gritty effort, he fought off a hard charging Jamey Gifford of WVTC to outsprint him at the finish.

Unless there were some unforseen surprises, things looked good, a lot of blue singlets were in. And one thing that stood out was the impressive 63-second scoring “pack time” between first and fifth place. When the results were tallied up, the joyful celebration ensued, as a hard-earned victory is the most gratifying sort. It was clear that the Strawberry Canyon TC was well clear of the third-place West Valley TC and 4th-place Transports squads. Their second-place finish in the PA-USATF cross country championships was a historic run, the best team finish in a PA-USATF cross country championship race in any division, and also secured for them the well-deserved PA-USATF team grand prix title in grand fashion.

And when the mud had settled, it also became clear that the equally deserving Greg Timblin had managed to forge ahead into the lead for the open men’s individual grand prix title, winning by a scant 10.5 point margin: 670.5 to 660. So congratulations are in order for the men’s open team and its strongest runner this fall season: Greg Timblin. Not to be denied, a good number of other Canyoneros also competed in the open men’s race.

Dan Chebot went out “too hard” and paid a little penalty for his exuberance at the end, finishin in 34:44 (55th-place). Christoph Wanner, the Swiss Express, came across next in 34:51 (56th) and undoubtedly will be looking forward to his middle-distance racing next spring. Gene Burinsky had his best race of the season by far and finished in 59th (34:57). Steve Whitelam, another strong middle-distance runner by way of Scotland, made his return to the Strawberries after a year’s absence due to family obligations, and rumbled across the finish line in 35:23 (62nd). Rory Runser, who clearly prefers the track races, was next (36:34-76th place). Keith Gilmore, a former collegiate sprinter who competed at Swarthrmore College, demonstrated his cardio-vascular devlopment was improving, as he slashed 42 seconds off of last year’s time on a sketchier course and finished in 37:37 (82nd). Between that and his 16:55 at the 5K timetrial on Halloween, he showed that his distance fitness is unequivocally coming around. Jack Wallace paid a stiff price for not wearing spikes as he spent nearly as much time scrambling to get to his feet after tough falls on the greasy course, and he fought across the line in what for him was a disappointing run in 37:57 (84th). Irtaza Haider also paid the spikeless price and finished in 39:31 (96th overall), also a ways off his capability.

Still, it was a wild, woolly and amazing season for the Strawberry Canyon TC men’s cross country team, which won the season open men’s individual and team grand prix titles in dramatic and convincing fashion in its third year of existence, earning kudos from runners all over the region. It was a phenomenal job for one and all, a wholly valient performance and a true team effort.

As coach I would also like to single out some significant and unsung contributions made along the way. David Yu, who will remain in Switzerland for the nex year-plus, for his perseverance, strength and inspiring consistency. I think his consistence in the latter part of 2009, starting with his great 10000-meter race at USATF Club Nationals, inspired our open men to race much more consistently as a team this fall. I also want to mention the contribution of Nathan Leefer, for his steadying hand of leadership during our crucial formative months in 2009-2010. He was a warrior-like presence for us then, and also threw down some very respectable races. I also want to show some appreciation for Christopher Gerber, who’s battled bad achilles tendonitis this fall. His meteoric rise to sub-15:00 ranks and throwing down an astounding race at last year’s Christmas Relays inspired everyone on our open team to dial in and work harder this year. Dan Duett clearly elevated his game last summer with a monstrous 15K PR and also showed that when he can stay healthy, he will really be yet another very formidable force for the club. Kyle Braam has also been a very patient soul, never complaining, just trying to get healthy again after a stress fracture. Andrew Wong, he has hung in there too, after a lab schedule switch forced him to train on his own last spring. And thank you again to the NIRCA leadership of Nathan Lee, Cameron Bronstein and Niko Conner, guys who coul not race much this fall. You young guys represet the future of this club and its leadership.

It was a great season for the Strawberry Canyon Track Club, and you deserve to celebrate over the holidays… Congratulations are in order for this club all the way around.

But we will be back on the track sometime in January so don’t get TOO carried away with the festivities!