“Those Westminster girls always win,” Howard County’s Tasha Hogan (5th F) said about the women who crushed their opposition at the 16th Annual Run Through the Grapevine 8k at Linganore Winecellars last Sunday. The team of Jill Krebs (1st F), Sherry Stick (2nd F), Diana Poole (3rd F) seized control from the start of the race and ran together as a pack for the first 1½ miles, where Jill began to “push the pace.” Jill and Sherry pulled away on “that horrible hill” on the backside of the course at 2½ miles, and Jill was running in front by the time they reached the pond around 4 miles. Sherry still had a shot at winning as the two entered the last row of grapevines, but Jill held her off and won in 33:47. “I was just trying to stay on my feet,” Jill remarked. “Well, she took every turn at a suicidal speed,” Diana commented. Their winning all-woman team, the Baltimore-Washington Athletic Club, also included Kelly Gruber, Joan Namasinga, and Blayke Hall. Formed of runners local to Carroll County, the team has never lost the team competition at Grapevine.
In spite of a muddy, rain-slicked course, the top four or five men in the race zipped through the first mile in around 5:20. They had gone through two rows of grapevines at that point. The field had dispersed somewhat after they circled through the back part of the course and climbed the steep muddy hill that confounded everyone. When he reached the pond around four miles Joe Weigner was nearly 30 seconds ahead of Stephen Moxley, a past winner of the race. “He didn’t seem pressed at all,” eyewitness Dave Berardi said about Mr. Weigner, who went on to win the men’s race in 28:34.
Among the top five men were Montgomery County’s Mark Hoon and Howard County’s Mike Colaiacovo, both of whom were masters running with the lead pack (for a while). Mike had just turned 40 over the summer and managed to fend of Mark as the fastest master runner in the race. With a time of 29:59, Mike finished fourth overall and missed third place overall by only seven seconds. He was the last runner to finish the race under 30 minutes.
The top master female was Jane Wikman of Germantown, who finished in 38:42. But grandmaster Pat Wilkerson was less than 30 seconds behind. “And I helped with the baking, too,” Pat said about her role in assembling the vast store of nut breads available at the post-race celebration.
Like any true cross country race, Run Through the Grapevine had team competitions. The top women’s team has already been mentioned. The top men’s team from Montgomery County (which included third place Andrew Sovolnick and fifth place Mark Hoon) easily won their category because they were the only team in the category! Among the other teams, the most noteworthy may have been The Gessler Whinery, consisting of Bobby Gessler and his four daughters, Katies, Julie, Amy and Becky, who easily won the family team category. All of Bobby’s girls are on cross country teams. “All I had to do was finish!” Mr. Gessler modestly said.
Jason Tripp directed the Run Through the Grapevine. Staged on the first Sunday of November each year by the Howard County Striders, the race offers a good, old-fashioned cross country course with lots of mud, grass, roots, leaves, hills, and one or two nasty stream crossings. The deer stayed away this year. Jason spent two days before the race grooming the course by removing extraneous grapevine, roots, and mowing the grass (but not too close!). The Striders also wish to thank Anthony Aellen and his family for the use of their grapevines, fields and forest, and that nasty hill on the backside of the course.
by Jim Carbary
Randy McDermott may have won the 15th annual Run Through the Grapevine 8K, but he did something far more important after the race. In front of the audience at the awards ceremony, Randy proposed marriage to his girlfriend, Janet Gratton. Randy’s dog Oliver brought the engagement ring in a green bag and tangled the two with the leash. Janet accepted, the audience applauded, and the couple hugged blissfully. “That was better than winning,” Randy said.
In the actual race, McDermott took the lead in the hilly race near the three mile mark when he passed Strider racing team captain Carlos Renjifo. Carlos exhausted his energy holding the lead going up that ridiculously steep hill at 2.5 miles. “I didn’t know about the course,” Carlos confessed. Perhaps contemplating his proposal, McDermott went off course near the finish and prematurely ran 100 yards downhill. Renjifo and Paul Hannsen, in third place, followed him off course. All three had to run back uphill to regain the course, and so lost precious time. “Maybe 30 seconds,” Carlos reckoned. Nevertheless, they all broke 30 minutes.
Such drama and mis-navigation did not occur during the women’s race. Sherry Stick and Dianna Pool dueled for the women’s lead in the early going, but Stick took the lead for good after the big hill and went on win in 33:57, the only female to break 34 minutes. “This is definitely the hardest [cross country] course I’ve ever run,” said Stick, who was once a runner for Salisbury State.
The top master runner was Mark Hoon, who finished fourth. Mark earned a top-5 finish, so the official honor of first among the 40+ males went to Junior Strider coach Phil Lang, who is a cross country animal. The top female master was Pat Wilkerson in 37:49.
Although most runners commented on the very steep hills of the Grapevine’s course, they also had to contend with wild animals. A deer darted downhill across the course and knocked down Karen Mawdsley. “It just came plowing through,” she said. Luckily, the deer was a doe, not a buck. The event occurred around the three mile point just before the course went back into the woods. After the collision, Karen got up and finished without further incident.
The race not only featured 5-year age groups, but also a myriad of team competitions. There were two open male teams, two masters male teams, five open female teams, three masters female teams, eight coed teams, four master coed teams, and four family teams.
Stumbling, weaving, occasionally walking, some 524 runners completed the Run Through the Grapevine 8k, which takes place every autumn at the Linganore Winery in Mt. Airy. The Howard County Striders stage the race with the cooperation of Anthony Aellen, owner of the Winery. All finishers received a wine glass, and the award winners (at least those of the appropriate age) received gift certificates for wine, which they redeemed immediately after the awards ceremony.
Jason Tripp directed the race, with the assistance of various Howard County Striders at the finish line, registration table, and on the course. In particular, the Striders wish to thank Dave Tripp, who baked over 1000 cookies and a dozen (or so) loaves the traditional banana nut bread for the post-race refreshments.
by Jim Carbary
Stef Commins had not run a race in a year and a half, and she had not run a cross country race in two years, but she had little trouble dispatching a strong women’s field at the 14th Annual Run Through the Grapevine 8k at Linganore Winery. She bolted to an early lead on past winner Sherry Stick, mastered the steep hills and uneven surfaces, and swept to victory in 33:11. She found herself racing only against the men. Her victory was all the more amazing because she arrived at the race site only five minutes before the 10:00 AM start. After the obligatory bathroom stop, “I was running downhill to the start [while] pinning on my race number,” she said. That was her warm-up. A graduate of the University of Maryland Baltimore Campus, Ms. Commins trains in Patapsco State Park and was encouraged to run the race by her friend Izudin Mehmedovic.
The men’s race proved a much tighter competition. A five or six man pack stayed together for the first two miles of the race, a considerable feat itself considering the difficulty of the terrain. Tom Williams decided he would make his move on the treacherously steep uphill at 2½ miles. “I planned my whole race around that,” he said. Sure enough, Tom’s awesome surge up that hill threw his competitors into chaos and gave him the lead, which he successfully managed for the next 1½ miles. Alas! He made his move too soon. Randy McDermott and Joe Wiegner regained lost ground on the next uphill and caught Williams at the top of the hill at four miles. The three stayed together but fragmented on the final uphill that took them through the grapevines for a final time. Wiegner seized the lead and held off McDermott for the men’s win in 28:25.
In the men’s master competition (runners 40 and over), Phil Lang beat Sheldon Degenhardt by 20 seconds. Phil had run the Marine Corps Marathon the week before (in 2:53 no less) and no one (not even Phil) expected him to run the Grapevine very fast. However, he proved everyone wrong. “Phil was just ahead of me the whole way,” Sheldon related wistfully. “I guess I’m eroding faster than the hills.”
Kathy Bernetti placed first among the master women (37:40). Kathy said she did not fall down, “but the guy in front me did.” She did not help him up! The cross country race also included team competitions: 25 teams competed in seven different age and gender divisions. The fastest team from the Howard County Striders consisted of McDermott and Williams (second and third overall), Mike Colaicovo (sixth) and Sheldon Degenhardt (11th), but they were the only team in the Open Men division so they won hands down. The open coed division proved the most competitive, with no fewer than 10 teams. With Izzy Mehmedovic and Stef Commins, the “College Rejects” from UMBC crushed their competition
The top five of each gender won gift certificates from Feet First as well as certificates for wine at the Winery. Age group winners received gift certificates for wine (except for those who where underage!). Everyone who crossed the finish line was handed a wine glass.
The Run Through the Grapevine 8k cross country race is staged each autumn by the Howard County Striders. Jason Tripp directed the race, but he enjoyed considerable support from Gerry Clapper, who founded the race in the early 1990’s. Gerry baked 41 loaves of banana-nut bread, including a new flavor this year called chocolate cocoanut. Post-race amenities included cider, apples, and bagels, but everyone came for the nut
The Striders wish to thank Anthony and Eric Aellen, owners of the Linganore Winery, for use of their excellent grounds, and also for opening up their wine cellars after the race!
by Jim Carbary
“I love this race!” Mike Colaiacovo said about the treacherously difficult Run Through the Grapevine 8k, the mid-Atlantic’s premier cross country race. Mike may have loved the race, but former Oakland Mills champion Izudin “Izzy” Mehmedovic was the one who won the race. Mehmedovic understood the difficulty of the hilly course through the Linganore Winery’s grape-fields, and he also knew the quality of the field, which included Colaiacovo, last year’s Howard County Strider of the year, as well as local standouts Paul Hannsen and Brian Godsey. Izzy stayed behind Hannsen and Godsey for the first four miles and observed them labor up the steep up hills and fly down the down hills. “I know races are won on the uphills,” Izudin said, and he gained on the leaders on every incline. Finally, at the top of the hill around four miles, he sprinted past race leader Hannsen and “crushed it.” As soon as Izzy made this definitive move, Hannsen knew the race was over. Mehmedovic held the lead for the remaining mile and set a course record of 27:49.
In the women’s race, Christine Ramsey took the lead after the first half mile and never looked back. Local favorite Sherry Stick chased her for the remaining four and half miles, but she couldn’t quite close the gap on the former cross country champion from Syracuse University. Ramsey went on to win in 33:47. “That was definitely the hardest cross country course I’ve ever run,” Christine admitted.
Something of an upset occurred in the race among the masters (40 and over) men. With Joe Abernethy at the line, most of the master-men thought they would be racing for second place, but an injury apparently slowed the highly-regarded Abernethy and opened up the field. “I was astonished I was anywhere near Abernethy,” admitted J.J. Sweet, who wound up finishing third among the 45-49 men just behind the local favorite. Into Joe’s void swept Montgomery County’s Mark Hoon, who ripped the masters’ field with a sub-30 minute performance. “I didn’t run this fast last year,” Hoon commented.
Vanessa Cox and Amelia Ingersoll contended mightily for first among the master women. The competition inspired them to both break 40 minutes, and they were the only two over-40 women to crack that barrier. Vanessa ran just a little bit faster and won the masters’ competition in 38:55. “Well, I wasn’t racing against the young girls!” Cox said.
As with all bona-fide cross country races, the Run Through the Grapevine 8k featured team competitions as well as individual competitions. A total of 23 teams competed in six age and gender categories. The Falls Road Running Team narrowly edged the Feet First Howard County Striders in the men’s open division, 24 points to 27 points (low score wins), even though both Mehmedovic and Colaiacovo ran for the Striders. A Falls Road team also won the open coed division. The Master’s Female team of “Sour Grapes” again won its division— the group has never lost at the Grapevine race although this year they faced some stiff competition from Montgomery County’s “Off Roaders.” Teams included a group of alumni from Howard Community College (the “Dragon Alumni’) and a coed group from the Monocacy Aquatic Club. They would have been ready if river swimming was required!
The 8k (5 mi) cross country race took place entirely on the groups of the Linganore Winery in Carroll County. Overall race winners received gift certificates and age group winners received certificates for bottles of win, except for the youth winners who also got gift certificates. Each of the 477 runners who crossed the finish line got a souvenir wine
The race was directed by Jason Tripp and Gerry Clapper. On the Saturday before the race, Jason and Gerry cleaned all 8 kilometers of the course with a rake and leaf-blower, a job greatly appreciated by the runners. In addition, Gerry baked 41 loaves of various kinds of banana nut bread for the occasion. The race is staged each autumn by the Howard County Striders, who wish to thank Anthony Aellen for the use of his winery.
by Jim Carbary
This year the Run Through the Grapevine mysteriously fell on Halloween, and the race featured not only the usual competition but also a competition for the best costume. The catch was that you had to run the entire 8 km (5 miles) cross country course in your costume. Costumed runners who completed the insanely hilly, tortuous course at the Linganore Winery in Frederick County included the 101 Dalmations (only two showed up), Playboy bunnies, the cheerleader, the M&Ms, and the Grim Reaper himself, who also proved to be the fleetest of the costumes. The most original costume was judged to be the Windblown Man- apt for the breezy morning conditions. However, the Stepford Wives, apparently running with Stepford Husbands, won the overall costume contest, although they faced strong competition from Jungle Jim and Jane (2nd costume) as well as the Great Pumpkin (3rd). In the real cross country race, Rick Roundtree took command of the field on the second downhill a half mile after the start and was never seriously threatened. A previous winner of the Grapevine race, Rountree admitted he was moving pretty well and was in good shape. His only problem was the persistent breeze, which held him to a time of “only” 28:43- over 40 seconds ahead of second-place Larry O’Hara. Rick may have been taking it easy, too, because he even had time to notice unharvested grapes still on the vines. “I thought about eating them if I got low on blood sugar,” he joked.
For Jill Krebs, the first place woman, the race was a college reunion. She and her friends from Western Maryland College (Westminster, MD) formed a team that swept the first four places of the women’s race. “We had heard about the hills,” Jill said, who had not encountered such steep, treacherous hills during her years as a collegiate runner. “They were ridiculous!” After the worst hill at 2 1/2 miles, Jill took the lead from her team-mate Amy Pyles and then cruised to the women’s victory in 32:28.
Howard County Strider and Saturday morning bagel runner Dan Laukzemis won the 40-44 age group (33:56) but finished six seconds behind Dave Bollinger (1st, 45-49 men) in the overall masters competition. “I got beat by Darth Maul, too,” said Laukzemis, who complained that Darth’s cape would catch on the grapevines and cause them to snap back in his face.
After a long string of master’s triumphs, Robyn Humphrey succumbed to Kelly Dworak of Carlisle, PA, for the women’s master’s competition. “I hope I run as hard at next week’s road 10k as I did today in this cross country race,” Robyn said.
Like all good cross country races, the Run Through the Grapevine offered team competition, with the top four on six-person teams scoring. A thrilling competition developed between Howard County’s “Coaches Still Doing It” and “Falls Road Running Men.” Roundtree claimed the top spot on the latter, but Howard County’s Jaron Hawkins and Dennis Mickey (a previous winner) team with Howard County Coaches Phil Lang and Trey Cassidy to cement the overall team victory for the ‘Coaches by a margin of a mere three points. The women from Western Maryland College, Team CMAC, clobbered the women’s team competition. The “Old Dogs A” from Montgomery County beat the “Old Dogs B” in the men’s masters teams, while “Sour Grapes” won its fourth consecutive women’s masters team competition, largely because the Grapes were the only team in that age-gender group. (“Is there a fix?” some in the audience questioned.) The principle competition among teams appeared in the open coed division, which had no fewer than 12 teams. The Maryland Track Club Coed easily outlasted the second place “Track Junkies” to win the Open Coed division. Finally,”Aged to Perfection” pummeled “Stepford Wives” in the Masters Coed division, although the latter team had the satisfaction of winning the costume division.
A field of 484 completed the Run Through the Grapevine, which is held entirely within the confines of the Linganore Wineberry Winery in Mt. Airy, MD. All finishers received wine glasses, and age-group winners won gift certificates for wine. Wine tasting immediately followed the race, and runners selected their vintages during and after the awards ceremony. Gerry Clapper and Mark Gilmore co-directed the race, which is in its 11th year. The race is staged by the Howard County Striders, who wish to thank Anthony Aellen for the generous use of his grapevines and surrounding fields. True to form, the race directors tweaked the course once again this year, making it even more difficult. “I don’t know how they do it,” said Dickie George of Aged to Perfection, “but they always seem to find another hill.”
by Jim Carbary