Paced by its younger runners, Howard County Striders knocked off seven other teams from the Road Runner’s Club of America at the 10-Mile Challenge Race this Sunday to win the Overall and Coed team competition and finish second in the Women’s team competition. In spite of cold, windy conditions and a hilly course, the Challenge proved to be one of the fastest 10 milers in the area. How fast? If you didn’t run the 10 miles faster than 60 minutes you didn’t even break into the top 30.
From the start, the men’s competition became a contest between the Howard County Striders and the Falls Road Running Club. In bright red singlets, the runners of Falls Road formed a tight pack at the very front of the field, and it seemed they might easily win the team race. But the pack fragmented when they reached the infamous hills of the Allview community, and young Carlos Renjifo and Eric Furst went with the leaders. “They’d gap me on the downhills,” Carlos said, “and I’d catch back up on the uphills.” But when they turned into the wind on Freetown Road near Atholton High School, “It all fell apart.” In the final miles, Falls Road’s “Spider” Sillery and Chris Nowakowski drafted back and forth, leaving Renjifo “in no-man’s land” out in the wind. Renjifo and Furst settled for third and fourth overall. Strider Runner of the Year for 2005 Mike Colaiacovo claimed fifth place right behind the youngsters.
The initial pack of Falls Road runners unraveled in the final five miles, and Howard County succeeded in placing seven runners in the top ten and nine in the top 20, while Falls Road managed no more than five. Consequently, the Strider men’s team beat their closest rivals by 51 points— a narrow margin in the race score. The top 13 men from each running club contributed to their team’s score.
Lacking the young legs that put the men’s team over the top, the Strider women succumbed to a stiff challenge from the Montgomery County Road Runners. Montgomery’s Victoria McFarland simply overwhelmed the women’s field, outgunning the highly-regarded Denise Knickman from Falls Road by over two and a half minutes. “The downhills didn’t bother me,” Knickman commented, implying that the uphills and the wind did bother her. The Striders’ fastest women, Runner of the Year for 2005 Robyn Humphrey, ran a spectacular 1:06:09, which was no better than fifth among the women. The Striders placed three women in the top 10, but Montgomery County nevertheless edged them in the women’s competition by a slender margin of 6 points. “Where are all our young women?” asked Vicki Lang, third Striderwoman to finish. The top 5 women from each club scored. The final prize of the Challenge race consisted of the combined or coed team competition, which Howard County won largely on the strength of its men’s team. The overall Howard County team beat Falls Road 854 points to 920 points (low score winning).
The 10 Mile Challenge Race is staged each winter by the Howard County Striders. who have won the last three in a row. The race began and ended at Howard Community College in Columbia, MD, and ran through the neighborhoods of Allview and Hickory Ridge. Richard Bernstein directed the race, with the assistance of the Howard County Police and numerous Strider volunteers at key intersections. The Striders wish to thank Steve Musselman and the Howard Community College for providing their gymnasium as a pre-race and post-race staging area.
The victory marked the first Challenge Race win for new Strider president Len Guralnick. He accepted the team trophy from Mr. Bernstein at a brief ceremony after the race. Jean Knaack, executive director of the Road Runners Club of America, was on hand at the post race ceremonies.
The 2006 10 Mile Challenge Race was not only one of the fastest 10-milers in the area, it was also the largest in a history dating back to 1980. According to official race scorer Jim DiScuillo, 90 persons registered on race morning to bring the total registration to over 450. A total of 434 runners actually completed the 10 mile race.
by Jim Carbary