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