3/22 – Women run from Oakland to Hawaii

We're going to Hawaii!

The winning Oakland marathon relay team!

On March 22, the Strawberry Canyon TC got wind of a rather tasty prize in the form of a plane ticket per athlete to Hawaii (and back I might add) for winning 4-person relay teams at the 2015 Oakland Marathon.

So the women brought some serious heat to this race as Megan (House of) Lang, Julia (sizzle and steak) Sizek, Olivia (undisputed Queen of the) Hill and Megan (Gonna run you into the ground and enjoy every second of it) Gentes lined up for what we expected would turn into a formidable nip-and-tuck battle with other clubs vying for the all-valuable plane tickets. Right? Errr….Wrong!

No one of note really showed up and the Fearsome Female Foursome beat all of the women’s teams, averaging about 6:10 pace on the hilly course. They also beat all of the men’s teams, much to the chagrin of the Strawberry Canyon men who stayed home (and will continue to do so as the women jet off to Hawaii).

So Aloha to the woman and Hasta Manana to the men, at least for this posting. :)

Results are at http://georesults.racemine.com/Corrigan-Sports-Enterprises/events/2015/Oakland-Running-Festival/results

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

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cp_75dB2FcA

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

11/2 – Berries @ Santa Rosa XC – Women take close WIN

The Phil Widener Empire Runners XC meet in Santa Rosa was shuffled to the end of the year but that did not deter the Canyoneros from showing up and giving it a good shot on the challenging 3.43-mile course.

The women brought only five runners to the line and needed a really good race performance to stay in range of the West Valley Track Club, which had at the time a 1.5-point lead on our women’s team. The season’s dramatic build-up to the PA-USATF Cross Country Championships was coming to a head as the Canyoneras needed to nail down a “W” with a couple of their runners sitting this one out.

Tamma Carleton delivered a really strong effort despite dealing with some tendonitis in her foot, finishing in a prodigious 5th-place in a speedy 20:19. In 6th was the ever-impressive Olivia Hill who rolled through in 20:28. Following those two heavy hitters was Megan Gentes in 21:34 (13th-place), as she was starting to show a little fatigue from the long season. Megan was trailed by Jennifer Schick in 16th-place (21:44). Closing out the scoring team was Kimberly Sanchez, who knocked about two minutes off of her 2013 time in 22:18 (22nd place). That proved to be crucial as the final scoring came in four agonizing days later, confirming that the Berries had finished one point ahead of the Impalas. They opted for the masters money and hence the Berries beat West Valley and ended up in a tie with them going into the PA-USATF Championships in two weeks.

The open men managed third overall in this race as the Aggies and West Valley both brought some serious firepower. Jonathan McKinley was 7th (17:33), and he was followed by Sean McFarland (17:51 – 9th); Ryan Smith (17:51 – 10th); Ed Izaguirre (18:23 – 16th) and Jack Wallace (21st – 18:36) to round out the top five scorers. Also competing for the Berries was Bentley Regehr, a newcomer from Edmonton, in 18:42 (23rd), Colin Gannon – 18:43 (24th), Justin Huang 18:47 (26th), Stephen McKinley 18:54 (27th), Matt Weber 19:30 (32nd), and Daniel Anderson 21:05 (42nd).

6/26 – Three Crowns, Masters on the Track

Three. Crowns.

Hello Canyoneros-

Congratulations to Richie LeDonne for winning the Triple Crown in our local East Bay Trail races. He won the Tilden Tough Ten (miler) in May in 57:00-flat. He placed second in the very challenging Lake Chabot Half-Marathon in 1:18.17, and closed his title run out with a victory in the Woodminster Trail race in Oakland’s Redwood Park in 54:38.

Jack Wallace ran 1:31.39 and 1:02.16, and seniors runner (59 years young) Scott Strait ran 1:41.24 and 1:14.16 for those two latter races to place very well also.

At the Pacific Association USATF Masters track championship, the Berries made some serious noise on the oval.

Kevin Downie won the 40-44 400-meter event in 1:00.26; and took second in the 800 in 2:20.95. But the 1500-meter race was there the real excitement was.

M1500 (40-44)

1. Chafik Azerki 4:26.02

2. Kevin Downie 4:27.48

M1500 (45-49)

2. Matt Bogdanowicz 4:38.90

M1500 (50-54)

1. Tim Keenan 4:42.38 (seniors club record!)

2. Bill Brusher 5:59.00

11/17 – SCTC Drives A Hot Thin Spike Into The Right Eye Of The Competition

Results

Congratulations to the open men who prepped, repped, and stepped up for the Canyon at the scenic Ancil Hoffman 6K cross country race in Carmichael (near Sacramento) as they appear to have pulled off an improbable victory over several very reputable regional clubs: West Valley Track Club (which had a couple of key no-shows), Chico Track Club, Sacramento Racing Association Elite and NB Excelsior.

This puts our lads in a relatively favorable position in the team grand prix standings going into the PA-USATF Championship meet held next Sunday, Nov. 24th at Golden Gate Park with a 4.5-point lead. We will still have to bring it on Sunday but this really helped our cause immensely, so once again, a big congratulations to the open men and to Sean McFarland who’s been the glue which has in part held this group together during the season.

Nine competitors in all made it out to the grassy golf course, and Sammy Adams was the lone female in the women’s race. She ran the 6K n 27 minutes, 47 seconds, indicating a little improvement over her effort at Tamalpa’s race.
The masters race featured two Canyoneros attempting to get winded. Coach Carl ran another time he would rather soon forget, this one a slowish 25:40, while Bill Brusher did fairly well in the super seniors race with a 28:20.

The open men really got after it and were led by the spirited Jonathan McKinley, who smoked an 18:05 mark on the 6K course, a time which averages to 15:04 5K pace, good for third overall behind a resurgent Malcoml Richards. In sixth was Dan Chebot, who has flat-out been having a kick…tail cross country season. His 18:41 was about 40 seconds faster than his previous best on that course. The studious Sean McFarland ran a solid 18:47, and will continue to be required to balance a very heavy academic load with a reduced training schedule. Following Sean was Ben Chebot, who kicked down three or four rivals from other clubs to lower his points total. Ben whipped across the line in 19:12 in 11th place, while Richard LeDonne rounded out the scoring five with a great 19:19 debut. The sixth-place Canyonero, Rory Runser, was right on their heels with a time of 19:24, and in fact he ran his best cross country race as a member of the club.

So congratulations on a job well done. Rest up, gang, as we have one more big battle on our hands next weekend at Golden Gate Park. And I highly encourage you to bring fans, friends, groupies, we’ll even allow paparazzi at the championship events. Come one and come all, as it should be a really fun way to wind up the cross country season for the club.

- Carl Rose

8/24 – Oh Glorious, Victorious!

Hello Canyoneros-

The Strawberry Canyon contingent sent nine harriers to Santa Rosa for the Phil Widener Empire XC Challenge today. In the 3.43-mile race, Dan Duett WON the race outright, marking the first time in Canyonero history that a Strawberry Canyon TC runner has EVER won a PAUSATF race. There have been numerous seconds, thirds, fourths, but never a first. Congratulations Mr. Duett!

Dan was followed closely by a resurgent William Chen, who shook off a sub-par effort in Santa Cruz and took second. Sean McFarland was 3rd, and Kris Brown was 5th overall (yes, we almost completed a sweep!). Joe Binder, feeling a little tired from some mega-mileage was 11th, and Dan Chebot’s younger brother Ben Chebot was 12th. Following him was Jack Wallace and Dan Anderson, who also finished for the Canyoneros but I do not have their places.

In the women’s race, Anne Ruminsky took 25th and Kimberly Diaz-Sanchez took 33rd. So nice job there in what seemed to be a more competitive field.

PS: I have no times to report but someone may write up a more comprehensive report later.

Congratulations to everyone though.

Carl

8/17 – Strawberries Dominate Early Season XC

Taking advantage of the competition’s early season sleepiness, the Strawberries have come out in force for the 2013 cross country campaign, notching three big, fat Ws: two for the team, and one for Dan “hungry and foolish” Duett!

The Canyon opened up the season at the 13th Annual UC Santa Cruz Invite. The report from Sean “Scottish rallying cry” McFarland:

Hail Canyoneros!

This past weekend signaled the official kick-off of the season with a bucolic race among the upper forests of UC Santa Cruz’s campus. Seven athletes made the trip down, including a full open men’s squad of five, and lone female and senior warriors.

The female’s race marked Christy’s debut performance. Amidst an unexpectedly stacked field for this early in the season, she narrowly nicked the 26 minute mark, finishing 16th overall in a respectable 25:55.

Next up, the master’s race found Strawberry Stalwart Bill Brusher toeing the line. He battled through to an impressive 31:43, good for ~13th among the Super-senior crowd.

Finally, the open men’s race, a hastily slapped together affair, ironically witnessed the fielding of one of its strongest teams since 2011. Capitalizing on a sleepy field devoid of the stiff later-season competition, the group cruised to a relatively uncontested 1st place team finish. The effort was led by Dark Horse Dan Duett (4th, 21:20), who stepped up last minute to come out of hiding in San Francisco and dish out some serious smack-down. He was tailed by yours truly (6th, 21:29), the Clydesdale Joe Binder (7th, 21:43), the new and impactful Kris Brown (8th, 21:45),  and the wily Will Chen (12th, 22:17), who battled through cramps and a rough end to summer finals week to round out the scoring.

‘Twas a great initial showing for the Canyon after a somewhat downtrodden 2012 season. Much greater challenges await as the season heats up and the competition gets fierce, and I hope to see even more of you out there to share it with in the future! If you’re not yet on the open men’s/women’s competition e-mail list and want to be, please send me an e-mail so I can add you and keep you in the loop!

Congrats to all the early season racers!

David

3/24 – Shinji Nakadai WINS Oakland Marathon!

Shinji Winning!

SCTC ace Shinji Nakadai wins the Oakland Marathon.

As is the case with most serious runners and our genre, the Strawberry Canyon TC brigade has toiled solidly in relative anonymity for a few years now, but the veil was recently lifted. Indeed, our club’s modest local presence was exploded when Shinji Nakadai WON the 4th annual Oakland Marathon, which fielded over 9000 competitors.

Shinji was using this run to prepare for qualifying for the Japanese 100K national team, but he had expected a little more competition up front.

He didn’t get any. The marathon can be a fickle mistress, and one by one other strong competitors faltered due to a variety of reasons, including last year’s winner Chris Mocko who’d had an old injury flare up.

Shinji did not necessarily go into this with the mentality of winning. He used the run from Berkeley to the race’s start line some seven miles away in Oakland as part of his daily mileage. When a couple of the very top competitors had to fall off due to various issues, Nakadai’s ultra-marathon back-ground kicked in and he proved opportunistic. Why not win this thing? Sure enough, Shinji took the lead on the hilly course at roughly the 30K mark and never looked back. he finished in 2:37.24 and then added another 20K to his run before the day was out. By the day’s end, Shinji had logged roughly 50 miles.

He was also a sweet plane ticket to Hawaii and $500 richer!

We knew this might generate some good local pub for the club, but no one anticipated this much publicity. Shinji’s race and quotes were linked seemingly everywhere, such as here:

http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Oakland-marathon-draws-more-than-9-000-runners-4380634.php

And here:

http://www.insidebayarea.com/breaking-news/ci_22862281/oakland-running-festival-attracts-about-9-100-runners

And here:

http://www.mercurynews.com/breaking-news/ci_22862279/oakland-running-festival-attracts-about-9-100-runners

And here:

http://www.contracostatimes.com/bay-area-news/ci_22859328/slideshow-2013-oakland-running-festival-marathon

And here:

http://berkeley.patch.com/articles/berkeley-research-fellow-wins-oakland-marathon

And here in PASADENA:

http://www.pasadenastarnews.com/california/ci_22859328/slideshow-2013-oakland-running-festival-marathon

….Annnnd here (you get the idea):

http://runinfinity.com/results/oakland-marathon-results

All we can say is AMAZING job, Shinji!

- Carl Rose

3/9 – Romp at the River! Berries Bury Field at NorCal10

They resumed where they left off; the Berry Masters increased their road win streak to five with an decisive win at the NorCal 10 Miler.  The first race of 2012 was in Redding, and unlike most winter events this riverside jaunt was done in overly warm conditions.  With temperatures in the 70s and a nice breeze the times were comparatively modest when lined up against previous results.   SCTC fielded an 8-man squad, hoping to piece together a respectable masters and seniors team.  Approximately 300 runners toed the line for the 10 mile event, but not a huge contingent of PA runners.  Despite a pre-reg roster which listed several of the top age-groupers, many did not show.  This made the club’s task a bit easier.

Short-distance specialist Jeff Mann took the lead early for the Berries, with Tim Keenan and Jeff Teeters not far behind.  Next came Alan Dehlinger and Mike Singleton (who drove up that morning from Modesto!).  Thom Trimble and Bill Salacuse, both running their first PA race in nearly a year, tagged along behind at about 6:30 pace.  Oh yeah, then came Bill Reed, testing out his newly-50 legs.  Newly-50 is the new 40!

Mile 1-ish Bridge and Path

Mile 1-ish Bridge and Path

The first three miles are rolling to flat and included a very scenic view of Mt. Lassen (the only kind there is, if you think about it), along with a trip across the Ribbon Bridge.  The warm weather made the cool tumbling waters of the Sacramento River below look quite enticing.   By 4 miles the fun and sightseeing was over as the course shot up a sizable hill.  Mann continued to lead with Keenan and Teeters in tow.  Reed was moving up quickly, yet politely.  All four were under 6 minute pace at halfway.  Mike, Alan, Thom and Bill S. followed in that order as they traversed the 1.5 mile residential loop.  Mann, the short-distance specialist was reminded of why it was his specialty when his calves began to complain.  Tim took the lead for the club, briefly, before he realized he might have gone out a smidge too fast for such semi-sweltering conditions.   And then alonnnng came Jeff T.  Much like the Republican Primary, with it’s a whack-a-mole leader of the moment, there was yet another front man.  Teeters’ term as club top gun was also brief, as smart-starter Bill Reed took the wheel of the victory express on the return leg.

Bill held the #1 spot to the finish, just missing the 1 hour mark (60 minutes is the new 55!).  Teeters was less than a minute back with a sub-61 while Tim and Jeff M finished shortly thereafter to give the team four men under 63 minutes.

Ribbon Bridge

Ribbon Bridge - 3.5 and 7 miles

Thom eventually caught and passed Alan, but Mike held him off to garner the 5th and last scoring spot on the masters team.  The winning masters team as it turned out.  Mike finished in the mid 66s while Thom just missed skating in under 67 (stupid clock!).  Alan was another minute back followed by Bill with a 70 minute effort.

Since there were no strong contenders in the masters field (or even weeny contenders to be honest), SCTC was able to drop Tim down to the 3-man senior team and allow Bill to score on the first place 40+ squad.  The 1.5x points race gave the masters a 15 point tally, while the 3-man senior squad scrounged 5th(behind all 4-amn teams) good for 9 points.  Both teams faired much better than the 2011 team, which saw the masters in 3rd and no senior team (No Points for YOU!).   More betterly, the arch-rival masters teams (Ags, WVJS, River City) were not able to scare up enough old farts to make a team, giving the Berries an excellent head start to another season title.   Knock on wood  (it’s the new steel!)

It’s legit…uh huh!

NorCal 10 Course Map

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!