Briers, Branches and Bunches

David Yon, Pre 2004

Many times I have watched the mass start at cross country races with wonder. The runners spread out wide and then make a frantic dash for position. “How can such effort so early make any sense?” I always wonder. Saturday I got a bruising lesson. Young and old toed the line together Saturday morning at the 2004 Prefontaine 5K and this time the young knew something most of the old didn’t. Go out hard and grab your position. And that is pretty good strategy when nearly 240 runners (160 “old” folks and 75 high school runners) are trying to cover less than two tenths of a mile before funneling down to a single track path that is littered with hurricane debris and years of artistic expression from the Jeff twins. (That’s race director Jeff Nielsen and Prefontaine spirit Jeff Doherty.)

I chose the careful start and then began trying to move up. I have never seen so much “stuff” on the course as trees, axles and sand turned any thoughts of a pleasant stroll through the forest into a masochistic challenge that would make Prefontaine quite happy. My choices were to sit and wait or to pick my spots and run through briers and who knows what else to grab one more place. I tried the later and it seemed to be working until I tried running right of one group just as someone in the group decided to release a limb they had shoved out of their way. Whack up side the head and I was certain I was speaking to Prefontaine the next few minutes. He was right there I swear.

Gary Droze was one of the few “old” guys smart (and talented) enough to get out in front early. He never looked backed, grabbing yet another Grand Prix win with a time of 17:43. Andrew Wills was exactly one minute back in 18:43. Seeley Lovett confirmed her status as one of the best women runners in the club right now by winning in a time of 22:46. Angela Dempsey was second in 23:52. Tim Unger was the first master after Gary, running a time of 20:06. Julie Clark ran 24:58 to claim the women’s masters title.

Gary Droze and Jeff Nielsen worked together to promote the races with the high school cross country teams and they had good success in their first effort, bringing in bunches of them. Maclay won both the boys and girls races with total scores of 64 and 24 respectively. Marianna made the boys race close scoring 69 points. Lincoln grabbed second for the girls finishing with 48 points. Grant Stauffer from Brookwood (Georgia) ran 19:48 to win the boys race, while Katie Swain won the girls with a time of 22:47. Casey Clayton and Alicia Finley were second.

Jeff Nielsen and Kathy McDaris have done a great job protecting the integrity of this race and keeping it a tough, but fun event. I have no doubt Pre would be quite pleased. Oh yeah, please don’t feel sorry for me. The real tough guy finisher in the race was 79 year old Charlie Yates, who came out of the woods with his face scratched and bleeding. He got a very unpleasant taste of the terrain, but did not let it dampen his spirit. After an effort to clean up, and some strong complaining about losing time, he broke out in one of the biggest smiles of the day!