By Tim O’Keefe
SUMMER DECATHLON SERIES AWARDS 2023
Welcome to the 32 nd Summer Decathlon Awards presentation. A special thank you to JUSTINE SPRINGER for organizing this picnic as well as putting together the Ice Cream Social back in July. Where was today’s beautiful low humidity weather when we needed it in July ? This was quite a unique year for the decathlon both good and bad. The weather was definitely one for the books as we started with beautiful weather for early summer. Then we got a rainy , windy day in mid June that had runners in long sleeves and tights! There have always been races postponed due to storms but smoke from a wildfire hundreds of miles away? That was a first! And then the normal blazing heat and humidity of the hottest July on record. Yet through it all attendance was at an all time high for the series. 116 different Steeplechasers …58 men and 58 women… participated this year with the majority of them making most of the races. In any other year there may have been 2 or 3 runners completing all 10 races. This year 9 runners…3 women and 6 men…ran every race in the series. A big part of that may have stemmed from the fact that everyone seemed to really have a lot of fun. The running was intense but in between everyone was having a good time. It could also be the ice cold towels that JOHANNA HOMON brought to each race which everyone really appreciated. It could also be the freeze pops that became a regular post race treat. Whatever it was, the races were fun events this year.
A special thanks go out to the FSRC executive board members who hosted one of the races. Not only did the runners get a chance to meet the club organizers but were able to enjoy the special prizes given out for the relay events. Thank you to MICHELE NEWTON, AINSLEY CAIN, MICHELLE EDWARDS, CRYSTAL TRESSLER, and ROB PROKOP. This series is also unique in that the runners are also the timing and placement crew. It was very gratifying to me that when I asked anyone there for help, the response was always positive and willing to help. In fact, it got to the point where people just jumped in and helped out where they saw a need. KATIE DAVIS was top of the list of those who saw a place that needed support and she just did what was needed. Thanks to KATHY CEA who became the chief timer and LOU KING who gave up his relaxing seat at the 800 to time all 7 heats and organize all the results. A special thanks to KRISTIN WATKINS and Charm City Running who provided all the ice cream for the social in July. Thank you to SCOTT AND MELISSA WALLACE for hauling all the equipment to and from the final two races. JEANETTE NOVAK took it upon herself to fill two important and unique jobs. Jeanette cleaned the track area before and after the races. I’m confident we left the track cleaner than before we got there. She also separated and organized the finish cards and ensured all were accounted for. Thank you to PAUL CHRISTIANSEN AND JOHN WAY for directing and organizing the 200 meter and Gutbuster Relay. Finally a special thanks to CAREY AHR who posted all the results. His task was made more challenging by the unique spellings of some names on the results. He was able to figure out who they really were and get results out incredibly fast.
The competitive aspect of the Decathlon comes from taking the finishers times of the 10 races organizing them by way of an age grading system. In theory runners are given times based on their effort compared to the top runners for their given age. Points are then assigned to each runner based on where they are with their age graded results. So someone like ABIGAIL ABEL who is 5 years old won the women’s 200 meter race when her 53.6 second time was AG to a 26.9. She won the race by 2 seconds and her AG time was 80% of that of the top runners for age 5. So you know…a 60% AG time is very good…you are up in the pack of races. A 70% time is very competitive locally and you are most likely on the awards stand at the end of races. 70% or more is the standard for running on the Steeplechasers Racing Team. If you are in the 80% range, you are an outstanding runner…a state and regional competitor. It continues to amaze me that we have a good number of Steeplechasers who are able to run and compete at this 80% level. You’ll know them because they are the leaders at our Frederick races. 90%? That’s rarified air…that’s CLAIRE HEASMAN level of running!
Starting out our award winners is 10 th place for the men. That would be me. You would think that at age 70 my AG would make me very competitive but I’m getting way slower than my AG is compensating for. I’m pretty sure I was the only one not to improve my mile from the 1 st Decathlon race to the last…7:40 for each one. My 800 time of 3:25 gave me an AG 67% for a 2:30… the highest of the season. I did have highlights…I beat fellow 70 year old Paul Christiansen…though he was injured. I beat my friend Ron Black…uh, another injured runner. To be honest, I got my 10 th place by running 9/10 races and due to…can you guess it… the unfortunate injury of Larry O’Hara in mid July. Sometimes luck is better than skill!
Now here is a real running phenom…in 10 th place for the women … MARY DONAHUE . The 33 year old managed to place 10 th with only 5 races…5 VERY fast races. Her age does not give her much of an AG but her incredibly fast times placed her high in each race. Twice she was the 2 nd fastest runner without the AG. Her 600 meter was a 1:50 and put her as 1 of 2 women to break the 2 minute barrier. She won the 800 with a 2:39 and was 5 seconds ahead of 2 nd place, She was first in the 200 with a 31.8…a half second ahead of 2 nd . For me, the highlight came in the final race…the 1 mile run. Mary and Jake Sisler came to the track early and were running 4 by 1mile in very fast time. The race would be their 3 rd run. Mary ran that mile in 5:55…71% AG and was only 1.5 seconds away from winning the women’s race. And then she did her 4th mile workout…
In 9 th place for the men…16 year old EDDIE CRETELLA. A rising junior at Linganore High School and one of the top county runners in cross country and track. He runs fearlessly and fast and always ensures that his dad, Victor, is somewhere behind him. His 200 time of 27.2 placed him 4 th overall AG and was 2 nd in the mens race. His mile time was a great 5:12 in the 78% AG. He ran the 400 meters in a blazing 58 seconds…3 rd among the men and 2 nd in the AG race.
One of the top ten from last year’s decathlon and this year’s 9 th place for the women was BETH FULCHER. Beth ran all 10 races and each was a spectacular result. It had to be because at age 31, Beth gets no AG …that’s where the fastest runners nationwide. Beth is one of those runners that you don’t know quite where she is until you ralize she is far ahead of you! She lowered her mile time from June to August from a 6:31 to a 6:28. Her 73 second 400 was the fastest of all women although with AG she was relegated to 13 th place. The 2:48 she ran for the 800 meters was the 5 th fastest out of the 41 women running the race.
In 8 th place for the men is ADAM KIELY. Adam ran 9/10 races and is one of the many gifted and incredibly fast 50 year olds. His races were consistently in the 70%+ range and you could count on him to be constantly pushing that front pack of runners. His 2 mile time of 13:48 AG to 11:29 seconds while his 800 time of 2:49 AG to a 2:20…a 72% effort. While he ran 6:16 for his mile in June, his 6:33 time in August came not from a slowing of time but rather from an illness he was working through the day before and up to race time. 6:33 sick? Yikes!
In 8 th place for the women was FARRAH DOUGLAS who ran 8/10 races. Farrah epitomizes the competitive runner as you could find her laughing and socializing pre race but come race time she is totally focused on the run. While many runners look with awe the fastest heat of the night, Farrah jumps in and uses that energy to push her. Her times are consistently in the 70% range including her best at the 400 where her 77 second time put her 2 nd overall and at 73%AG. She showed her speed with a blazing 200 in 38 seconds and a 1 mile best of 6:46 which AG to a 5:59 time.
Another of the fantastic 50 year olds occupies 7 th place for the men…57 year old PETE WERGIN. Despite his age Pete could always be found in the fastest heat chasing the fastest 20 and 30 year olds, All of Pete’s races were in the 83-83% AG range…which explains why Pete’s name is on top of the list of awards at all the races he runs. Pete is also well known for sharing race tips as well as coaching from the sidelines to help out runners in other heats. His open times are incredible and his AG times are off the charts. He flew through the 200 in a time of 31 seconds AG 25.5 good enough for 2 nd place. His 3000 time of 10:38 AG to 8:47 which gave him the win. At 2 miles he flew through a time of 11:34 and that was after running a 400 meter race. That AG to an 8:33 and another victory over the other men.
7 th for the women was 11 year old DYLAN BARNES who ran 7 out of 10 races. Dylan has the carefree running style of a younger runner but the wisdom and endurance of an older running. One of the highlights of her races seemed to be beating her dad in each run. Another runner who was consistently in the 70%AG range she ran a mile in 6:50 and half mile in 3:11. The 600 meters she ran in 2:11 AG 1:51, good enough for 4 th place and a 72% effort. Her best run of the series was her 2 nd place 75% run of the 200 where her 32.6 AG to a 28.5.
Taking 6 th place for the men and our very own Market Street Mile race director, JAKE SISLER. Jake was another runner who completed all 10 races despite mixing in the decathlon with other training runs and races…like winning the Half CAT in mid July. Jake is always part of the lead pack in the fastest heat and right on the heels of the race leaders. His times are all in the 70%+ range and his speed runs the whole gamut of 200 up to the 2 mile. His 2:11 in the 800 placed him 4 th out of 31 men and at a 77% AG. He was 2 nd fastest in the 200 with a 27.2. And his most amazing race was his mile which came as the 3 rd fast mile he did as part of a workout…the first 2 being in the 5:15 to 5:30 range. He nailed a 4:58 which was a 76% effort.
MELISSA WALLACE is no stranger to being in the top 10 for the Decathlon Series. The 41 year old ran 8/10 races and produced times that were in that incredibly fast 70% area. Her style is to slowly work her way through the pack until she is chasing down the top women. She dropped her mile time from a season opener of 6:44 to a 6:41 in August. Her 2:55 run of the 800 placed her 6 th out of 41 women. The 33.4 run of the 200 AG to 30.8 good enough for 4 th overall.
JOHN WAY captured 5 th place for the men running 10/10 races. Not missing a race is a trademark of John’s as he has run 139 decathlon races in a row…and this is while running in summer race series in other clubs as well as a healthy dose of weekend races. AND all these races are quality efforts…mid 70% AG. Though he claims not to be a sprinter, he can still run a 75 second 400 meters. His open race in the 1600 meters was a 5:46 AG 4:43 at 81%. He ran the 2 mile in 12:39 AG 10:21 and the 800 in 2:39 AG 2;09 good for a 77% effort.
New to the decathlon series but certainly not new to running fast on the track JEN EDMOND who ran all 10 races. It was always fun to watch Jen run as she would go out at a fast pace and then still have a wicked kick at the finish. Comfortable as a leader, she has excellent running form and a very competitive attitude. Her 1000 time of 3:43 placed her second out of all women. She snuck under the 3 minute mark in the 800 with a 2:59 time. She had the fastest time of all women in the 2 mile with a 14:32 which gave her a 1minute victory over 2 nd place. Her most amazing effort was in her mile races where she ran 6:47 in June and by August had dropped her time to a fantastic 6:26.
Last year’s champion DAN JACOBS occupied the number 4 spot for the men. Dan won almost every one of the 9 races he ran but at age 30 he gets no AG help. I feel that it was Dan and Gretchen Whitesell’s enthusiasm from last year’s decathlon series and their spreading the word that brought a lot more runners to this years races which averaged 45 runners per event including the 72 runners at the 800 meter…a lot of runners like ice cream after a hot race. Dan’s races were epic …he could blast to the lead and hold or patiently sit on the shoulder of the leader and kick. The best race was the 3000 meter where he and Daveen Bavari broke from the field at the start. They ran side by side at 72 seconds per lap through a 4:49 mile…neither backing off. Dan stayed on Daveen’s shoulder as each tried surges to break the other. On the final lap both began to kick with Dan breaking away with 100 meters to go to win 9:02 to Daveen’s 9:04. That was a 9:40 mile and 58seconds ahead of 3 rd place. Dan’s runs were all in the 83% range including a 4:29 mile, 2:03 800 which he won by 1.5 seconds and a 400 time of 57 seconds.
CHRIS THOMAS took 4 th place for women running 7/10 races. At age 61, she is part of an incredibly fast group of 60 year old women who took 3 of the top 4 spots in the decathlon. To place 4 th with only 7 races speaks volumes of the speed she was running…times that were all in the mid 70% range. her style can pretty much be summed up as go out fast and then run faster. She was 3 rd in the 800 with a 3:15 that AG to a 2:29and 76%. She took another 3 rd with a 16:57 2 mile run that AG to 11:35. And yet another incredible improvement where her 8:04 mile in June became a 7:21 mile in August…a 43 second improvement and 79% AG.
3 rd place for the men was taken by 21 year old DAVEEN BAVARI. Daveen ran all ten races and often took part in the relays that were the final event. Daveen was the other half of the incredible display of athleticism given with Dan Jacobs. They both ran intensely fast races that most of us could never even dream about. Similar to Dan, Daveen was running in the 80% range and was usually 1 st or 2 nd in each race. At 21 he also got no AG but yet is here in 3 rd place. Every race from him was a highlight but a few top efforts were his 4:33 mile which gave an AG of 82%, a 9:57 2 mile where he was the only one to break 10 minutes, and to show how well rounded he is a 27.1 second 200 meters which was the fastest of the day.
Taking 3 rd for the women is two time champion KATHY CEA. Travelling from Gaithersburg on 270 is a challenge Kathy decided to only do a few decathlon events. A few turned out to be 7 and those seven were fast enough to take the 3 rd spot. While everyone else in their 60’s seem to be slowing, Kathy at age 63 seems to be getting faster. Though she confesses to going out too fast at times, unlike the rest of us she doesn’t seem to slow down. And no matter what the pace she always has that fierce kick. She tried the 200 for the first time and her 42.2 effort AG to 31 seconds which was a 70%. Her 16:19 2 mile AG to 11:37 and a 78%. Her 3 k time of 14:50 AG to 10:33 and a whopping 79%. When not racing she always first to volunteer to time the other races or organize finish cards.
Our runner up on the men’s side was 52 year old VICTOR CRETELLA. No stranger to the track or in running fast Victor told me at the first race that he was ready to take on the decathlon. Running all 10 of the races certainly proved his point and the fact that all those races were at 80% shows he has not lost that competitive edge. His speed runs the whole gamut from the 200 where is 301 time AG to 25.5 and put him 2 nd up to the 2 mile where he ran 11:56 AG 10:16 and 5 th overall. Victor was always in the fastest heat and always in that group chasing Dan and Daveen. He ran the mile in 5:24 and the half mile in 2:31. But despite all that blazing speed, he still got beat by his 16 year old son…
RUTH TAYLOR was the runner up for the women and age 55 is as competitive as ever. Not just competitive in the Decathlon but in races state wide and in the National Senior Games in mid July. Ruth finished in the top 8 in the nation in both the 5k and 10 k runs held in Pittsburgh on a hilly, hot, and humid course. Not a big surprise for those of us who see Ruth compete with at grit and “never give up” attitude she takes to every race. She dropped her June mile race of 7:11 to a 6:50 in August which AG to 5;23 and 78%. Her 3:07 half mile put her right in the thick of the women’s overall race and a 2:36 AG. Her 3000 time of 13:50 was an 11:02 AG and 76%.
This year’s men’s champion truly deserves the title as 43 year old SCOTT WALLACE runs like a champ. Not only is this proven on the track and local races but also on a national level where Scott competed in the National Masters Championships in North Carolina. Scott won the 800 meters with a time of 2:03 which is in the 90% AG range and took 3 rd in the 1500 and was part of the top place 4 X 400 meter relay team. Scott won 7 of the 10 decathlon events and was always at the top with the leaders. Running all his races in the mid to upper 80% range has that effect. His specialty is that mid distance range. He won the 400 meters with a 56.7 that AG to a 52…good enough to beat everyone in the overall race. He won both the open race and AG in the 600 with his 1:30 effort. His 1000 meters of 2:41 AG to 2:28 for an 88% race.
The women’s champion this year is no stranger to being in the top spot for the decathlon, or the Grand Prix, or most road races…63 year old BEV BLACK. Nobody is more intense or driven than a healthy Bev Black. In a normal year she and Ron are some of the very few that run all 10 races and this year was no different. Bev hates hot weather yet somehow this doesn’t seem to affect her times or efforts, Her style is to go out hard and just keep pushing the pace and herself. The result is winning 8 of the 10 events she ran. No surprise that all of her races are in the 80% range. She took her 7:08 June mile and dropped it to a 6:58 effort in August…a 4:53 AG and 86%. Her 3:10 in the 800 was an AG 2:19 and faster than the other 40 women in the race. The 2 mile she ran in 15:32 won the AG race at 11:04 and was the 4 th fastest of all the women overall. If Bev can stay healthy you will see a lot of her on top of the awards stand at the races.
Thank you for your patience…there were a lot of outstanding performances as well as incredible runners out there this summer. The 33 rd edition of the summer decathlon will coming up in 2024 barring any more wildfire smoke blowing our way!