“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