Decathlon Tributes – 2019

By Tim O’Keefe

It is a bit ironic that we have this beautiful day for a picnic after a brutally hot summer decathlon series. It was not a big shock when the news said that July was the hottest on record. Thank goodness for Charm City Running and HEIDI NOVAK for arranging for Brusters Ice Cream to be at our 800 meter run which was also a Grand Prix event. Not only did we have the heat and humidity to deal with but Wednesdays seemed to be the day storms would roll into the area. We had rain before the races, after the races, but not one was rained out or delayed. We had our normal track use issues where we were unable to secure one track for the whole series. Runners got a bit of a tour of running surfaces as we visited Middletown, Frederick, and Brunswick High Schools. It was like a Where’s Waldo of running!

Despite all the obstacles we had a lot of fun. A total of 62 different runners participated with 41 men and 21 women. This is a reverse of the trend of more women runners over the past years. The highest attendance was 29 runners at the 2 mile run and our low was 15 runners at the 1000 meters. It was a year of runner resurrection as some Blasts form the Past made appearances. JOHN STUART, past club president and one the few runners to ever do ALL Grand Prix races in one year – 23 races including the CAT 50k and JFK 50 miler. John came out to just see everyone and was kind enough to do our timing at the 5 races he attended. RON and BEV BLACK made their return after a years absence to heal injuries. And what a comeback it was as you’ll hear in the awards. MICHELE MIKESELL and DAVID GRACE appeared after a decade. Both have stayed active with running but more in the injury healing end of things. The most amazing appearance was by a runner who out of the blue came up and asked if I remembered him. I had to look up to see him and while he had a familiar look I could not place him. He introduced himself as JACK EDWARDS and showed me his old college ID. Jack and I were on the same dorm floor at Indiana University of Pennsylvania back in 1971. I’m not sure if I was more in awe of seeing him there or that he still had his college ID.

Big events also came to be this summer. JOHN WAY ran his 100th Summer Decathlon race in a row. Doing all 10 in one summer is an amazing feat but 10 years of that is remarkable. SCOTT WALLACE, last years Decathlon Champion turned 40 in July and immediately began crushing the Masters competition.

ART GREGORY and RUTH TAYLOR headed out to New Mexico and the National Senior Games. Both did incredibly well and let everyone know who the Steeplechasers are.

One of the best parts of the decathlon series is the family aspect. Parents come out and run, kids come out and run, and parents and kids go and play. We always had 6 or 7 kids in the field having a great time, stopping to run the kids 100 meter, and then slurping down ice cold freeze pops. With only 1 heat of the 3000 meters this year, we were in need of some officiating help. Erica McCann’s kids immediately jumped on the opportunity and the race went on. With Jamie Wisz’s mom timing, Kayla manned the clock, Hayley collected finish cards, and Torin was the starter as well as finish line coordinator. The race went off without a hitch. Torin had worked the clock in every race and as the season wore on he also coordinated finish cards, timed, and organized results for each race. If ever there was an MVP for the decathlon, it was Torin. Fittingly, he gets our MVP trophy for 2019.

The Summer Decathlon is a series of 10 races with distances ranging from 200 meters to 2 miles. Each evening has a warm up run, the decathlon event, a kids race, and a relay or some workout. The goal is to have fun whether that means an all out run or just getting out there and running. It is a totally volunteer event with race directors who bring prizes for the relays and kids run and the runners themselves who collect finishing results, time the races, and organize heats. Each time I would ask for help in directing a race everyone said yes right away and I even had more help than we had races. A special thanks to those who did help make this a success:

JEN HALLBERG for collecting and publishing results, Race Directors MIKE GEISLER, RUTH TAYLOR, ART GREGORY, CHRIS VAN SANT, ERICA MCCANN, SCOTT WALLACE, MELISSA WALLACE, MCHELE MIKESELL, DAVID GRACE, PAUL CHRISTIANSEN, RON and BEV BLACK. A special thanks to JOHN WAY who took care of everything while I was on vacation.

The awards for the Decathlon Series are based on points earned using age graded times. Each finisher has their time age grade and are ranked accordingly. Runners who have done at least 5 races and are ranked in the top ten earn an award. As you listen to their accomplishments, bear in mind that in age grading if you are able to run in the 70% range, you are a fast runner. For the few that can crack the 80% level they are incredible…and we do have those incredible runners in the club!

In 10th place is PAUL CHRISTIANSEN age 65 is not just a new age group but also when Paul chose to retire. Paul ran 5/10 races and biked to all the ones at Frederick High School. He is known for organizing the JFK Aid Station, being lead bike for the WDF and MSM but he has also been the race director for the Gut Buster decathlon event for over a decade. The Gut Buster is aptly named as it involves 4 runners each doing 10 400’s for a total of 10 miles. That event precedes the origin of the summer decathlon as it was one of our clubs summer events back in the early 70’s. Though Paul confesses to not being a sprinter, his best times were in short events. He ran the 600 meters in 2:20 and the 200 meters in 40.4

Tied for 8th place is KEN SPORE. The 49 year old ran 5/10 races most of which was up front with the lead pack. He is a quiet type of runner with deceptive speed. He is known for pushing the pace and then unleashing a wicked kick. He was 4th overall in the 800 with a 2:26 AG 2:08 79%

400 meters in 60.5 AG 53.2 81% Good enough to win the race

Tied for 8th RON BLACK. At age 64 Ron has been a strong presence in running as evidenced by his winning the club’s Runner of the Year twice. After taking the last half of last year off to nurse some nagging injuries he began his comeback with the Decathlon. He began slow and tenuous but with each passing week he got stronger and faster. By summers end he had packed in several fast 5 k’s and Rileys Rumble half Marathon. In the decathlon he ran the 2 mile in 14:36 AG 11:20

800 m in 3:16 AG 2:32

And his best performance was his finale mile where he jumped in the fastest heat but was able to maintain focus and pace to hit a 6:51 AG 5:19 70%

In 7th place for the ladies was JAMIE WISZ. The swift 29 year old needed only 5 races to place 7th. The 2017 Steeps Runner of the Year has been a phenom across track, road, and multisport venues. Jamie joined the SD late and ran the final 5 races. Somehow Jamie has mixed triathlon training, road racing, and track and has been successful in each. Her 20:51 hot WDF finish was one of many great runs for her. She made the decathlon even more fun by bringing her mom and nephew to the races. Despite getting few to no AG help due to her young age, her times put her right in the mix of everything. Each of the below times put her as 2nd fastest female

200 meters 34.6

800 meters 2:45

1 mile 6:22

BTW Jamie finally hit the big 3-0 and celebrated by going to the USA National Sprint Triathlon Championships in Cleveland and placing 22nd in her new age group.

On the men’s side 7th place went to TIM O’KEEFE. At age 66 he was hoping for AG help but his slowness is coming faster than the age grading. His biggest accomplishment was not getting injured.  Even with slow times, he still has fun chasing Ron Black although recently he has not even been able to catch Bev Black. He ran the 400 in 79.9 seconds AG 62.4 and his 2 mile run of 14:39 AG 11:09 was a 71%

6th place belonged to JEANETTE NOVAK. At age 75 Jeanette is nothing short of amazing. She is consistent and persistent. There were times this summer where the decathlon was her 3rd event of the day or 4 or 5th  race of the week. She makes sure races stay fun for her and is always interested in running the relay events even after a tough decathlon race. Her opening mile in June was 12:16 and her final mile in August was 12:05 AG 6:56

2 mile 24:45 AG 14:23 6th overall

RICK KERN picked up 6th place for the men. The clubs 2018 Masters Runner of the Year showed why he only needed 5 races to lock in 6th place. Even at age 53 Rick was up with the leaders and pressing them the whole race. He had an unusual work schedule where he was supposed to be at work on Wednesday evenings but a bit of switching with coworkers allowed him to come out and sneak in a few events. You’ll see him as the top grand master in most local races and he is a swift part of the FSRC Race Team. He ran the 1600 in 5:47 AG 4:57 75% #3 overall

2 miles in 11:55 AG 10:09 78% #2 overall

MELISSA WALLACE was in 5th place with 7/10 races. After watching Melissa fly around the track, I figured she must be a seasoned runner. After chatting with her I found out she has been running less than a year. She said she still struggles with pace but has figured out that just running fast seems to do the trick. At age 37 she does not get much help from AG so her places are strictly from being fast.

June 1600 6:51 (6:54 mile)

August mile 6:49

400 73.5 2nd fastest female

5th on the men’s side is 75 year old ART GREGORY. Art is truly an amazing and inspiring runner. He loves the speed of the track and the shorter the better. He is a fast starter and no matter how tough the middle laps are he always finds another gear for an awesome kick. He and Ruth went to the Senior Nationals in New Mexico where he was crowned National Champion not once but twice! His 5 k time of 24:27 was 1 minute ahead of second place. His 50:37 10 k was 2 minutes ahead of 2nd place. In the decathlon his 1 mile time was 7:10 AG 4:53 76% 2nd place

His pride and joy, the 200 meters was 34.2 AG 23.7 82% and 2 ½ seconds ahead of second place.

MICHELLE MIKESELL took over 4th place with 6/10 races. It is exciting to have Michelle back on the race scene – she was always fast and it seems like she stepped right in where she left off. Selfishly, it was great to have Michelle on the track. She is like a metronome with her pace and judgement of speed. All I had to do is keep her in sight and I knew I would have a great race…if I could just keep her in sight.

2 mile 14:14 AG 12:56 70%

1600 6:40 AG 5:58 70% 2nd female

1500 6:07 AG 5:28 71% 1st female by 7 seconds

4th place was owned by 31 year old MATT RYDZIK. He was one of only 2 runners to do all 10 SD races. Matt was one of the top 3 racers in every event but is too young to get much from AG. Even with his track speed, Matt was putting in a lot of extra miles. At the end of July on the hottest day of the month Matt was 7th overall in the rugged CAT 50k with a time of 6 hours and 27 minutes. That was a race with a 65% DNS/DNF rate. 5 days later he managed to spring the 200 meters in 29 seconds – the fastest of anyone there!

2 mile 11:35

1 mile 5:06

800 2:22

RUTH TAYLOR picked up 3rd place. If it’s a race 51 year Ruth Taylor will be there – sprints, road, marathon, trail, ultra. Her work ethic is off the charts – she and Art ran trails after her award winning 5 k at Bel Air. In the fall she will be running one of the fastest marathon courses in the world – the Berlin Marathon. In the altitude of New Mexico at the National Senior Games she took on the top women in the nation and ran 24:26 for the 5 k and an 8th place finish and then 49:43 for 10 k and a 6th place finish. She was just as dominant on the track.

800 m 3:06 AG 2:43 #3

1 mile 6:51 AG 5:41 #2

2 mile 14:24 AG 12:09 #1 winning by 33 seconds

Mr. Ironman himself, JOHN WAY captured 3rd place. At age 54 John not only ran all 10 races but has been doing so for years. Add to that the chance that most were his 3rd or so race of the day and 4th or 5th race of the week. Not only does John race a lot but these are quality runs, not jogs. If John is getting any slower, it is imperceptible. Look out age 55-59 next year!

1600 5:51 AG 4:57 74%

mile 5:58 AG 5:03 74%

400 m 73 AG 62

In the runner up position 59 year old BEV BLACK. Despite being the clubs Runner of the Year twice, last year at this time Bev was nursing a series of injuries which required surgery and a long recovery period. With a lot of hard work and patience, Bev was ready to hit the race circuit this summer. With every race you could see the momentum building and each run was a little faster and a little stronger. By the end of the decathlon series she won 3 of her final four races including a 7:14 mile AG 5:23  78%!!! She was 3rd twice, 2nd 4 times, and won 3 times. She won the 3000m 14:56 AG 11:16 74%

1000 m 4:11 AG 3:15 75%

CHRIS VAN SANT was the runner up for men. Chris is the organizer and one of the top runners of the FSRC Race Team. At age 47 he is blazingly fast on the track and typically masters champion at races he attends which is all over the east coast including a recent win in Ohio. Apparently the only one he can’t beat is Erica’s 6 year old daughter Hayley. Chris brings a sharp edge of competitiveness to each race along with contagious enthusiasm. Remember the 70/80% AG? Check out Chris

June 1600 m 5:33 AG 4:58 74%

August mile 5:30 AG 4:55 75%

2 mile 11:50 AG 10:36 77%

The 2019 Summer Decathlon Women’s Winner is ERICA MCCANN. Having placed third last year with only 6 races, Erica found a few more races would push her right to the top. She opened the season with a win and never lost that first place spot. Her award for being the club’s Rising Star in 2017 was spot on as she has continued to get faster and faster. Last year despite blazing fast times, she was a bundle of nerves at the start of every race. This year she was the poster child of confidence as she jumped into the fast heat of every race despite being the only woman at times. She knew that is where she is supposed to be running. Her fluid stride and laser like focus made the laps fly by. She doesn’t get a lot of AG help so her 4 wins came from effort and grit. Erica won the 600m 1:51 AG 1:46 (8 seconds ahead of #2)

400 m 67 AG 61 (7 seconds ahead of #2) 77%

800 m 2:42 AG 2:39

1600 m 6:13 AG 5:50

SCOTT WALLACE successfully defended his Summer Decathlon title and is this years champion. Even with entering the masters division in July Scott seems to be getting faster. Last year’s Rising Star has stats to back up that award. If you recall the presenter giving the award mentioning that Scott went out on a 26.2 mile run New Years Day and ran that solo training marathon in 3 hours and 6 minutes. Some of the best runners in our club came out to challenge Scott and he met that challenge every time except a 4/10 of a second loss in the 800…he did win with the age grading. He was the only runner to break 60 seconds in the 400 m with his 58.2.

Remember how hard it is to run 70% and how rare to hit 80%? Scott was 80% or higher in 6 of his 9 races. The other 3 races were in the upper 70’s. His mile was 4:54, the only one to break 5 minutes

2 mile was 10:31 only one to break 11 minutes

1500 m 4:25 AG 4:12 81%

I’d like to thank JOSH ROAN the club president for coming out to time our 800 m race and for his and the board’s supporting this series by making it free to club members and providing the awards. If you are looking for something different than roads and trails, maybe the track is calling your name. We start up again next June right about the time it starts to get hot and humid again.