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