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