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Springtime's Best Ever

David Yon March 27, 2019, rev.

A low of 55 degrees is predicted for Saturday morning, as of Tuesday.  Not much more than a 10 percent chance of rain on Saturday.  I will take it.  I suspect I will wish it was a little bit cooler before I reach the peak of Mt. Myers just before mile two of the race, but those temperatures will work.  I did my course inspection run on Sunday, just to remind myself how much the 10K will hurt next Saturday.  That is of course no excuse for not showing up to one of Tallahassee’s best running events of the year.

A combination of the toughness of the course and the outstanding talent that has participated in the event makes a win in the Springtime 10K race one of the toughest race titles to win in the Tallahassee area.  I began thinking about who I would “crown” the “best male and female Springtime 10K Racers.  The process and the results are, admittedly, arbitrary, except to require the winners to have won the race at least once.  And the candidates are being evaluated based solely on their Springtime performances, as best I can remember or discover what happened in those races.

First, I will identify those who made it to my final round.  To make this round, a runner had to have won the 10K at least twice.  Not surprisingly, Jessie Close won the race five times, more times than any other man.  His best time was 31:48 and his slowest win was 32:22, a remarkable show of consistency.  On the women’s side, Janice Gage Hochstein won the 10K twice as Janice Gage and three times as Janice Hochstein. (Janice also won the 4-mile version in 1976, but I did not count it.) Her fastest finish was 37:14. 

Winning one of these titles took more than just being fast.  The following men made the final round of consideration: Paul Waldron, three wins and the race record (30:30); Mazano MacHapiwa, three wins from 1999-2001 with a fastest time of 30:56; Matthew Dobson, three wins and a fastest time 31:43; Joey Zins three wins; Chris Lake three wins including his fastest time of 32:34 in 2011; Kevin Sullivan two wins; and Christopher Haynes, the winner of last two Springtime 10Ks both under 33:00 minutes. He has a chance to write a new story for a “top dog.”

On the women’s side, in addition to Janice, the candidates in the final round included Jane Johnson two first place wins and five top masters finishes, her best time was 37:12; Paula Johnson three straight wins from 1991- 1993 with a best time of 36:54; Sarah Docter-Williams with four wins, with fastest in 36:51; Carla Borovicka with only two wins, but she ran 35:30 and 35:57 and had a great race with Margaret Coomber.  Breeda Dennehy-Willis gets a mention.  While she only had one win, she holds the women’s event record with a winning time of 34:09 in 1998.

I narrowed the men’s list to two – Jessie Close, for his consistency and for holding the most titles, and Paul Waldron for his racing skills and fast times.  The deciding factor was the following quote from “The History of Springtime” by Bill McGuire about a race Paul did not win:

Although Noel Shuman's 1983 winning time of 31:21 had set a very respectable standard for the new 10K course, the '84 race was a real barn-burner, with records being set everywhere. In what was the finest Springtime men's field before or since, Larry Greene ran a sizzling 30:03 to triumph over Herb Wills (30:20) and Paul Waldron (30:28). All Wills remembered seeing was Greene's back. “Larry pulled away going up the hills into Myers Park,” recalled Herb, “and it didn't seem quite fair for a south Floridian to be doing that!” The women's race was also fast, and even closer, as Carla Borovicka out dueled Margaret Coomber by six seconds, 35:57 to 36:03. “It was one of the two most intense 10Ks of my life,” said Carla. “I saw Margaret coming up out of the corner of my eye as we turned onto Meridian St. (with about a half mile to go), and I just took off. I told myself that I'd worked too hard to lose it now.” Carla broke the old women's mark by a whopping 1:17! The masters’ division also saw records fall, as Sam Turnbull and Patti Sudduth became the first runners 40 or older to break 36 and 40 minutes respectively.
In addition to holding the event record, Paul Waldron’s other winning times were 31:22 and 30:49. He ran 30:28 for third place in the “short course year.” 

Before I announce my final decisions, more about Springtime.  My count identified 18 race directors (counting couples as one). The longest serving were Brian Corbin and Judy Alexander with seven years. Next longest were Tom Perkins and Jeanne O’Kon with six years. Current directors Zach and Rachel Scharlepp are in their second year of directing the race.

The biggest crowd for the races was in 2011 when 1877 runners finished the 10K, 5K or 1 mile run directed by Brian and Judy.

So, the winners of my “Best Springtime Racers” were Paul Waldron, for the men, by just a fraction over Jessie Close.  I gave Paul the top rung because of his faster times and his competitive races. However, Christopher Haynes has won the last two Springtime 10Ks.  He is young and more than capable of making his own mark on the race.

And for the women, I could not in the end, separate Janice and Sarah.   Both are fiercely competitive.  Sarah ran 37:01, 37:03 and 36:51 for her first three wins and 38:16 in 2008.  Janice ran 37:14 twice and then 38:15. I certainly had a pretty good view of Sarah’s wins those years while running times of 37:08, 37:56, 38:36 and 39:51.

It is also worth noting there are some outstanding Tallahassee runners who never won the 10K.  Noel Shuman, Herb Wills, Tim Simpkins, Felton Wright and Gary Droze are great examples. Oh, and then there is that young naval officer, Stan Linton, who has yet to make his mark on this event. He certainly gets into the conversation with three wins.

Here is hoping to see you and a great show on Saturday.