The 2015 Club Challenge was cancelled due to inclement weather.
The Howard County Striders thought their chances for winning last Sunday’s 10-Mile Challenge went down the drain when racing team captain Carlos Renjifo pulled out of the race with an Achilles injury the week before. But Brian Harvey and Kyle Stanton stepped into the breach and delivered an astounding victory in the men’s team competition. Harvey and Stanton began the race in a tight contest with Dave Berdan from the nemesis Falls Road team. After a 4:40 first mile, the three of them were running neck and neck going across the bridge into the Allview community. When they came out of Allview, after running some serious hills, Harvey had taken complete control of the race. He cruised the remaining three miles all alone to win the race and set a course record of 51:00. Stanton bested Berdan by 14 seconds to capture second place, and the Strider men were on their way to beating the Falls Road Team for the first time in several years. The top 12 men from each of 10 local area running clubs scored in the men’s team competition.
A former all-American from Carnegie-Mellon, Harvey began his career at Centennial High School, while Stanton was an elite runner at Hammond High. Both won David L. Tripp scholarships as scholar-athletes. “It was lots of fun,” Mr. Harvey remarked about the race. “I’ve never really raced 10 miles before [only half marathons]!”
The Strider women also did something they had not done in many, many years: they beat the Falls Road women’s team. Master-runner-of-2012 Kelly Westlake spearheaded the effort by placing third among the women in a person record time of 1:05:02. She was actually leading the race for the first few miles, until Falls Road’s Christine Ramsey and Melissa Majumdar took over. The latter two ran the race in lock-step, finishing at virtually the same moment about two minutes ahead of Westlake. “After those hills,” Kelly said, “I’m looking forward to [flat] Cherry Blossom [10 Miler]. The winning Strider women’s team included new racing team member Jessica Ivy (fifth female), elite triathlete Suzy Serpico (sixth female), and half-marathoner Caroline Bauer (ninth female), who also set an improbable personal record. The top six women from each club scored.
The story was completely different, however, for the coed team competition. Somehow the Falls Road coeds pulled out a remarkable victory over Howard County. But the score was very close: 557 points to 559 (low score wins), with the point totals coming from adding up the finishing positions of the top 11 men and top 4 women. Race scorer Jim DiScuillo ran the tallies several times on the computer to guarantee accuracy. Falls Road might have had a better showing had some of their best runners not gone off to New Orleans to run a marathon or something.
The winning teams and the top male and female runners received trophies, but, to underscore the team nature of the race, there were no other awards. A new coed traveling trophy replaced the ancient (and ugly) 30-year-old trophy. The new trophy will reside at Falls Road Running Store – at least until next year.
This year’s Challenge enjoyed the nicest weather in the 33-year history of the event. Race-time temperatures were around 41F and the Sun was shining brightly. The only quibble might have been wet pavement. The weather was so fine that the post-race refreshments were served outside. Over 1000 runners registered for the race, and 739 finished, both of which are records.
The Howard County Striders stage the race every February. The race is the official 10-Mile Championship for the Maryland chapter of the Road Runners Club of America. The course runs south from the Howard Community College, circles through the hills of Allview, and returns through Hickory Ridge. Brad Murach made his premiere as race director. Although he had never directed a race before and isn’t even a runner, his day-job involves logistics, and he had no trouble organizing this baby. “He was calm and organized,” said his wife Cecilia. “I’m very proud of him.”
The Striders wish to thank Steve Musselman and the Howard Community College for allowing the College gym as the race venue. They also want to thank the Howard County Police for providing traffic control, and dozens of Howard County Striders who served as course marshals, course markers, and water stop volunteers.
Last year Dave Berdan won the Annual 10 Mile Challenge in an amazingly fast time of 51:43. At this year’s race, Ryan McGrath, captain of the Falls Road Running team offered a bonus of $100 to his teammate Alexander Battaglino if he could better that time. Having every intention of collecting, Battaglino bolted from the start and immediately assumed a commanding lead. “He went out so fast that we thought he’d fade and we’d reel him in,” said Carlos Renjifo, captain of the Howard County Strider/Feet First racing team. Battaglino kept a relentless pace, however, and slowed down only slightly in the hilly section of the course around six miles. “I never looked back,” he said, “so I really didn’t know how far ahead I was.” He finished nearly two minutes ahead of Matt Barresi in second place. Battaglino clocked 51:34 – nine seconds ahead of Berdan’s time— so he earned his bonus.
Falls Road may have claimed the top finisher, but they placed only six in the top 20 finishers, while the home team from Howard County placed seven in the top 20. This was enough for the locals to win the men’s team trophy. The top 12 men scored, with the next 80 serving as “displacers”.
Howard County’s Kara Waters won the woman’s race in 1:01:55 by a margin similar to that of Battaglino. She ran the race as an independent last year, but signed on with the Striders this year and ran several minutes faster, mostly competing against the men. “There were some good hills,” Kara said about the course. Her time and margin of victory were all the more amazing since she had just finished the Rock ‘n Roll Marathon (Arizona) a month ago in 2:52:31. She plans to improve her time by doing some speedwork in the near future.
Kara’s valiant effort wasn’t enough for the Strider women, however, to beat back the women’s team from Falls Road. Lead by Denise Knickman, the Falls Road women collected the next five places behind Waters and swept to a resounding victory in the women’s team challenge. “It was the best race I’ve had in a while,” Knickman said. The top six women on a team scored.
The mixed or coed team victory was decided by a scoring system as complicated as the NFL’s tie-breaker rules. Fortunately, the scoring was handled by a computer, which eventually determined that the boys and girls of Falls Road had also won the mixed team championship. By dint of its two team victories, Falls Road also took the overall championship. They retained the ancient trophy, which dates to 1980. Battaglino and Waters also took home trophies for their individual victories, and the men’s, women’s, and mixed teams received trophies. But there were no more awards, since this was purely a team challenge race. All finishers did receive the trademark painter’s gloves.
The race was directed by Richard Bernstein, who received support from dozens of Howard County Strider volunteers and the Boy Scouts. The Howard County police not only provided traffic control, they also gave Battaglino a motorcycle escort all through his 10-mile jaunt. The Striders also wish to thank Steve Musselman and the Howard Community college, which served as the venue for the race and allowed use of its gymnasium for post-race ceremonies.
Ten complete teams from all over central Maryland and the District of Columbia competed in the 10 Mile Challenge, which is an official RRCA Championship race. The Challenge race also represents the first race in the Maryland RRCA Grand Prix Championship series. Although 800 signed up for the race, only 564 finished. The registration of the 800 individuals marked the largest field ever for the 10 Mile Challenge and the first time the event ever closed out.
by Jim Carbary
Because of snow and other fowl weather, the Baltimore-Washington area had gone nearly three months without a major running race until today, when the Howard County Striders staged the 10 Mile Challenge. This event pitted ten local running clubs against each other for 10 mile championship of the Maryland chapter of the Road Runners Club of America. The runners threw all their winter frustration into the race. With a dominating performance, the Falls Road Running Club of (north) Baltimore swept the men’s, women’s, and combined competitions and handed the local Howard County team a crushing defeat. “We had a pretty strong team this year,” said Jim Adams, owner of the Falls Road Running Store and principal sponsor of the winning group.
Falls Road’s Dave Berdan took the early lead in the men’s race and never looked back. Striders Graham Bazell (state cross country champion) and Izzy Mehmedovic (Strider Runner of the Year) gamely pursued Berdan and managed at least keep him in sight for the first few miles, but when he passed the five mile mark in 25:00 flat, the race was essentially over. “The last three miles were a little slower,” Mr. Berdan admitted. “Only about 5:15 per mile.” By that point, Bazell and Mehmedovic weren’t trying to win, they were just trying to keep anyone else from passing them. They succeeded by finishing 2-3, but the flood of Falls Road Runners behind them snuffed out any hopes that the local men would win.
A similar story transpired in the women’s race. Falls Roads’ Susie Emond leapt to an early lead and “kept on hammering.” “Basically, I was racing the men,” she said. Susie not only won the women’s race, but she also set a personal record of 59:27 and was the only woman in the race to crack 60 minutes. “We race and train together,” said Melissa Majumdar, Susie’s team mate. “For me, it was a just a long training run until five miles, when it became a race.” Melissa pulled ahead of her other teammates and finished second in the women’s competition.
The top Strider women were well behind these leaders. “I didn’t even see them,” lamented Strider Tasha Hogan, whose 1:06:51 placed her ninth among all women. For Beth McCubbin, a recent addition to the Strider racing team, the Challenge marked her first 10 Mile race. “I didn’t know what to expect.” An 800m track runner, Ms. McCubbin used some of her track speed to finish in under 70:00.
The 10 Mile Challenge drew a field of over 700 runners, who were all glad to be running on bare pavement for a change. Richard Bernstein directed the race, and he enjoyed the support of the Howard County Police together with a small army of Strider volunteers at the finish line and along the course. The Striders also wish to thank Steve Musselman and the Howard Community College for use of their parking lot and gymnasium as the post-race venue. The actual route through Allview and Hickory Ridge neighborhoods was recently certified by RRCA measurement officials, meaning the distance was exactly 10 miles.
The Challenge Race served as the first event in the 2010 Maryland-RRCA Championship series of races.
by Jim Carbary
There were some flurries and “plenty of beautiful hills” (according to Peter Keating), and the Howard County Striders men’s racing team successfully defended its title at the 10 Mile Challenge race last Sunday. Finishing second and third overall, team captain Carlos Renjifo and Strider Runner of the Year Tom Williams both broke 55 minutes and paced the club along the treacherously hilly course through the Hickory Ridge and Atholton communities. “We were in a tight pack until just before five miles,” Carlos remembered. “Then this ‘Kyle’ [Smits] guy took off.” At that point in the race, the field was entering the really hilly section. Running for Falls Road Running Store, Smits stretched his lead on the pack “like an accordion” and finished with a decisive victory in 53:25. Carlos, the first Howard Countian, finished a distant second in 54:41. “It was certainly a decisive victory over me,” Williams said about his third place finish (54:56).
But the Stridermen, lead by Renjifo and Williams, placed six runners among the top ten overall, including first master Doug Mock (56:12), and overwhelmed the eight other men’s teams. The top 12 men scored on each team, with the score determined by adding up the finishing places of each of the dozen. The Stridermen beat the second place Falls Road men by over 100 points.
The Strider women’s team did not fare as well. “We need more young girls,” said Vanessa Cox, 47. Although runner of the year Sari Stenholm paced the Striderwomen in 1:07:04 and finished tenth among the women, and Stef Cummins came in not far behind (1:07:35), it was simply not enough to overcome three other women’s teams. A surprise winner, the women’s team from Westminster Road Runners Club took first among 10 other all-female teams. Anchoring the Westminsterians, Laura O’Hara easily won the women’s race in 1:01:15. The team also included “old” friends Sherry Stick, Diana Pool, Kelly Dworak, and Kelly Gruber. They placed three runners among the top five women. Striders remember these young women as the team who also won the Run Through the Grapevine team competition.
Falls Road may have missed out on the men’s and women’s team championships, finishing second in each case, but they won the overall (coed) championship over Howard County – 610 to 684 points. “And that’s without three of our top ringers!” exclaimed Ryan McGrath, who accepted the trophy.
The Howard County Striders host the 10 Mile Challenge Race every February. The race draws RRCA teams from throughout Maryland and the District of Columbia. The race was directed by Richard Bernstein. The Striders wish to thank the Howard Community College for use of its gymnasium for post-race ceremonies, and the Howard County Police for traffic control. The club also thanks the dozens of volunteers for marshalling the course on a damp, overcast morning on which snow actually fell.
The top three runners received individual trophies, and the winning teams won team trophies. For winning the overall championship, the Falls Road team earned what many consider “the ugliest trophy in the world,” which they keep at least until the next challenge race. All runners received signature 10-Mile Challenge gloves and all the soft pretzels they could eat. A total of 603 finished the race.
by Jim Carbary
“One girl went out at a 17-minute 5K pace (which is very fast)” Katie Brietenbach said of the women’s race at Sunday’s 10 Mile Team Challenge race in Columbia, “but she must have been a rabbit because I saw her walking at three miles.” A local favorite from the Howard County Striders, Ms. Breitenbach was at that point running behind Westminster’s Sherry Stick in second place among the women. The women’s pack then entered the hills in the Allview Estates community and, although she held second place, Katie said “the hills depleted me.” As the women emerged from the hills and re-crossed Route 29 near seven miles, Eileen Fleck of the Baltimore Road Runners and Jessica Laurent of the DC Road Runners swept past both Breitenbach and Stick. Katie continued racing as best she could. “I remembered what I was wearing,” namely, the Strider racing singlet, and she managed to finish fourth among the females and scored for the women’s team. All four broke 70 minutes, which was good enough for the Striderwomen to edge the Falls Road women and win the women’s team competition 33 points to 39 points (low score winning).
The men’s race started off the same way as the women’s race, with one runner bolting away to a commanding lead. But as the miles rolled by this guy showed no signs of slowing down. An elite runner from the Pacers-Brooks team, Steven Crane left no doubt about who would win the race. (He did, in 53:27). But Crane was unattached to a team, and that left Falls Road’s Kip Bitok battling Striders Kent Werner, Stephen Moxey, and Carlos Renjifo for second place. “I guess our pack was better than the Falls Road pack,” Carlos said, because the Stridermen carefully stayed together for most of the 10 miles while the Falls Road runners didn’t. But bragging rights for the fastest runner went to Falls Road, because Bitok out-sprinted Werner by one second. “He was taunting me,” Kent said, realizing that Kip (who has run a sub-50 minute 10 miles) might have easily outrun him. (“I told him before the race I was going to,” Kip said.) Nevertheless, Howard County placed six among the top 10 men, and 11 among the top 20, scoring 95 total points, which overwhelmed the Falls Road team (345 points) as well as all the other men’s teams.
With the Striderwomen and Stridermen winning their respective team competitions, the Striders handily won the overall coed team competition with a combined score of 456 points, well ahead of Falls Road, who managed 732 points. The top 12 men in nine teams, and the top 4 women in ten teams scored. The teams consisted of runners from local Road Runners Clubs of America (RRCA). Although the overall male and female winners received trophies, the general awards and the glory went to the teams. There were no age group awards, no random prizes, and no t-shirts. (There were, however, glazed doughnuts and coffee at the post-race ceremony.) A total of 544 runners finished the race.
The Howard County Striders host the RRCA 10 Mile Challenge every February, weather permitting. The Striders won the last 10 Mile Challenge in 2006; an ice storm prevented the event in 2007. Richard Bernstein directed the race, with considerable help from those Howard County Striders who did not race. The Striders also wish to thank the Howard County Police for providing traffic control on a long, tricky course, and the Howard Community College for serving as the pre- and post-race venue.
by Jim Carbary