Decathlon Tributes – 2018

By Tim O’Keefe

Summer Decathlon 2018

After last year’s issue with securing a track due to the construction at Frederick High School, it was a good feeling to have reserved the track way back in February. All was good – we had a schedule, we had race directors, and were ready for a great series. Then the rains came mid May…and they came and came and all of a sudden our wonderful season had issues. Frederick’s track was not usable until mid July and we were sent scrambling for another venue. Linganore came to our rescue but there is something about venturing away from Frederick that brings our numbers down. Our first race had to be postponed while we secured Linganore. Eric and Jill were our first race directors and did a terrific job starting us off with the 2 mile run. One of the jobs of race directors is to bring freeze pops for the kids run. This usually means about a dozen popsicles. I’m not sure how many popsicles they bought BUT there was enough to last nearly the entire summer PLUS their cooler traveled each week with the freeze pops to each race.

It became quickly apparent that finding a track was one issue but the next issue goes back again to the torrents of rain in May. We were in a pattern all summer where storms were due to come in at race time each Wednesday. After getting burned 4 years ago by calling off 2 races due to impending bad weather only to have the sun shine at race time, no longer even look at the forecast. BUT we have an ace up our sleeve…Chad Merrill is not only a great runner but also a professional meteorologist and he is good. Our second race at Linganore had an evil weather forecast and the skies were filled with ominous dark clouds. We decided to just go for it and see what happens. I asked Chad when he thought the rains were coming and he said 7:30. No one believed him because the skies looked to open any minute. We got off the1500 meters with Christa Horn directing. We got off the kids run and began the 3600 meter predicted run with little hope of actually completing the race. Lo and behold, everyone except one person finished before the rain started. When the rains began to fall I checked my watch…7:28. Is Chad good or what?

We did get the entire series completed but not without further issues. Our last two races conflicted with Fall sports practices at the high schools and the only track available was Brunswick High School. Pretty much the other side of the county from Linganore and a 20 minute trek from Frederick. There we faced a parking lot under construction which gave us a quarter mile warmup just to get to the track.

Many thanks to Jill Cameron and the Steeps board of directors for once again making this series free for members. PLUS providing Brusters Ice Cream and a Charm City Running expo for all the runners at the 800 meter Grand Prix event. For those of you that expect instant results, a special thank you goes out to Jen Hallberg putting up results in under 24 hours. The decathlon shows the true spirit of volunteering and giving back as each race is directed by a club member. Not only that but the timing and recording is done by runners not in the heat being run. No one has ever said no and usually the question is “what else can I do”? Special thanks to race directors: JILL & ERIC CAMERON, ART GREGORY, RUTH TAYLOR, CRISTA HORN, SOPHIE GEERNAERT, MIKE GEISLER, PAUL CHRISTIANSEN, and LOU KING for taking over the finish line for the 800 meters. Also a shout out to JOHN WAY who makes sure the track and bathrooms are open and hauled all the equipment around while I was on vacation. Same to DUSTIN BRADSHER for making sure we had water at the races at the end of July. And one more…thanks to TORIN starting the race clock at each race and handing out prizes to finishers.

The summer decathlon is a fun event where you are challenging yourself in races most of us rarely run. Then the results are adjusted according to age grading standards and points assigned based on the age graded order. It always amazes me which runners become super stars when they are put on the track…CRAIG COMBS and KRISTIN LEAHY I’m looking at you. To qualify for an award, you need to be a club member, have run in at least 5 races, and earned enough points to finish in the top ten.

This year we had 56 men and 32 women vying for those coveted top ten spots. 9 women had the requisite 5 races while 25 men had enough races to battle for that top ten placement. Out of those 25, 4 runners made it to all ten races – TIM MORGAN, JOHN WAY, and DUSTIN BRADSHER the elder and DUSTIN BRADSHER the speedier.

The 2018 Summer Decathlon award winners are:

Barely squeaking into 10th place was me! I set the bar low this year knowing I would miss 3 of the 10 races. My goal was to go out and enjoy my races and try and keep Tim Morgan and Ron Black in sight. As fate would have it, one of the races I was to miss got postponed and both Tim and Ron were making comebacks from injury. A sad commentary on my running…even with injuries I was barely in front of the two of them. BUT sometimes luck trumps speed and skill and I get a visor!

9th place for the men was 46 year old CHRIS VAN SANT. Chris is someone who doesn’t need to rely on luck, he has both the speed and skill and a drive that pushes him to be in the top group. To give you an idea of how good Chris is, he only ran in 6 races yet accumulated enough points to earn a top 10 spot. Chris was 3rd in the 1500 m in 5:12 which is a 5:36 pace. One month later he ran the mile in 5:30 which age grades out to a 4:58…good for 4th overall. His 2:28 in the 800 was equivalent to a 2:13 half mile.

9th place for the women goes to 74 year young JEANNETTE NOVAK. Jeanette epitomizes the concept that persistence pays off. She pressed herself in every race place joined us in some of the relays and runs after the decathlon events. Our final race of the year is a handicapped run based on your 1600 meter time previously run. It is a 2 mile race and ideally, if everyone matches their time for the 1600 m in a 3200 m run, then it would be a huge tie at the end. Ideals rarely happen…who runs a mile and 2 mile at the same pace when you are racing. Well, apparently Jeanette does. She won the race beating a field of 17 runners by coming within 2 seconds of the time she ran in the 1600 m. Jeanette ran 8 out of 10 races. Her 1000 m run of 7:11 age graded out to a 4:09. She picked up a 4th place by running an 11:48 mile which age grade to a 6:54. Not too shabby for a 74 year who typically runs 3 or 4 races through most weeks.

8th place for the men was won by 9 year old KEYSHAWN BRADSHER. Tuck that in the back of your mind because you’ll hear that name again. So…you have to be thinking do nine year olds get some huge age grade advantage and that’s how he got 8th? Nope…your thinking would be wrong…Keyshawn is an awesome runner. The first time I ran in Keyshawn’s heat I was worried he might get run over or bumped. I obviously didn’t know who he was because you don’t get run over when you are running out front. He just goes fast and never slows down. In the 800 m he ran 2:57 which age grades to a 2:15…good enough to put him ahead of speedsters like Mike Geisler and Rick Kern. His 75 second 400 AG to 58 sec..good enough for 5th overall. And it isn’t just short distances…he ran the 3000 m in 13:32 which was the equivalent of a 10:40 for the 1.86 mile distance. This put him in front of the other speedsters with last names of Bradsher.

8th for the women is 15 year old SOPHIE GEERNAERT. You may know her as a county star in high school tennis but she is a speedster as well. She epitomizes the runner who enjoys being out and running especially on the relays. One of our relays involves running a mile with sets of exercises at the end of each quarter. Sophie figured out real quick that if you hop at the end of each squat, you could gain about 20 yards on your stationary opponent. Sophie also stepped up and directed one of the June races. When I say stepped up I mean she totally took over…everything and she was good! Sophie ran 6 races and has speed from the 200 up through the mile. Her 200 was in 37 seconds which AG to 35 while her 1500 m was in 6:43 for an AG of 6:25. Not bad for someone used to doing sprints with a racquet in hand.

7th place was captured by 67 year old TIM MORGAN. Tim was one of 4 runners to run all 10 of the SD races and to do so while recovering from a leg injury. Every week you could see him getting stronger and by seasons end was getting closer to last year’s fitness. Tim’s 6:56 mile at season’s end AG to a 5:14 while his 200 m sprint was at 36 seconds for an AG of 27 seconds. He copped a 4th place finish in the 3000 m with a 13:54 that AG to a 10:29.

The women’s 7th place was won by 35 year old KRISTIN LEAHY. Kristin not only a good runner but her happiness and enthusiasm makes every race a lot of fun. Back to the good runner part…how good? With only 5 races she beat 26 other women and finished in the top ten. Often I would end up in Kristin’s heat and often we would be close for the first few laps…in my brain I’m thinking “just stay with her”…but my body would be laughing saying”you have to be way faster to do that”.  She doesn’t get much of a break on the AG because she’s a young’un so she has to rely on running fast times. Her 2 mile race was a 14:17 that AG to 14:06…good enough for 5th overall. She just barely missed going under 3 minutes for the 800 m with a 3:02. Without any AG adjustment for the 200 m race, Kristin’s 33.6 was the fastest run by any woman.

6th place for the men was taken by 46 year old MIKE GEISLER. Mike is a no holds barred kind of runner goes after the leaders no matter what race. He defies the idea of slowing down with aging because he seems to be getting better and better. Mike was one of the race directors and brought his whole family with him. His 17 year old daughter OLIVIA who is only 2 years out of recovering from ACL surgery ran a 2:43 800 which was 16 seconds faster than any other woman and earned her enough points with that one race to be 10th in the standings for women. But I digress…this is about Mike, right? Mike ran nine races and was in the top group for all of them. He opened the season with a 12:39 two mile which AG to 11:23. Then he really racheted things up and ran a 11:24 three thousand (a 6:07 pace compared to the 6:20 from the 2 mile) which put him at #2 for the men. He’s not just a beast in the distances but ran a 27 second 200 which AG to 24 seconds. But, it isn’t Mike’s speed nor his endurance that makes him great…it’s because he is a die hard Steelers fan!

6th for the women belongs to 11 year old ALLIE WALLIN. Allie ran 6 races and just seemed to get better with each race. The middle schooler has amazing form and a pretty mature sense of pacing. She also has a great mom who became an expert on the Chronomix and helped time at a number of races. Allie was 3rd in the one mile with a 7:34 which AG to a 6:35. Her fast twitch muscles were on display as she won the 400 m with a 75 second run AG 62 seconds AND won the 200 m with a 33 second time AG 29 seconds. She was the only woman under 30 seconds AG for the race.

The men’s 5th place was picked up by the ageless wonder 74 year old ART GREGORY. With only 7 races, Art dominated short and long distances. Even an end of summer trip to Iceland didn’t put a dent in his racing regimen. Art never placed below 5th for men and most of his races were in the top 3. Art ran a 7:12 mile AG 4:59 for 3rd overall. Art won the 400 m with a 78 sec effort AG 53 sec – 2 sec ahead of 2nd place. In the 200 m he tied for first with a 33 sec run AG 23 sec. Without AG this 74 year old had a 200 m time that put him 10th out of 29 men running.

5th place for women belonged to 53 year old DEE GAGER. Warming up Dee is all sweetness and smiles but once that gun goes off, she is all business. It only took 6 races for her to claim 5th place. She ran the 400 m in 88 sec AG 70 sec…good enough for 4th place. Her 38 sec 200 AG to a 31 sec…giving her 3rd. She picked up another 3rd with a 16:24 three thousand AG 13:27.

The men’s 4th place winner was the amazing 53 year old JOHN WAY. John is amazing for a lot of reasons but the one that leaves you awestruck is that John has run 99 SD races in a row. Toss that in with the fact that John may run multiple times on a weekend AND even multiple times in a day as he did this summer. John is my right hand man in taking care of things that I might forget or not see. He’s also great at figuring how many heats we can safely run. AND I am even getting used to being chastised for calling the 1600 meter run a mile. Despite getting older, John is still racing consistent times and even bettering times from a year ago. John runs every race and he is good at every race so all his races are highlights. These are just a sample… His mile time of 5:57 AG 5:04 good for 6th. His 2 mile was a 12:55 for an AG of 11:01. The 800 was covered in 2:43 for an AG of 2:18.

The 4th place women is Sophie’s mom, 50 year old PAM GEERNAERT. The track should be foreign to Pam as you would typically find her on trails doing races measured in hours not seconds. But using only 7 races she ran herself to a top position. You would think a distance runner would struggle in the sprints but not Pam …she ran the 200 m in 41 sec AG 34 sec…good for 6th overall. Her 2 mile was a 15:33 which AG to 13:16 good for 4th overall. And add to her resume a 7:35 mile. AND she did finish 4 places ahead of her daughter in the standings!

Remember I said to listen for Bradsher name again? Well, it’s not dad but rather a very speedy 10 year old by the name of DUSTIN BRADSHER that takes our 3rd spot. Dustin ran all 10 of the races and I mean he RAN all 10…fast, hard, and relentless. Early on I gave up trying to catch him or run with him…no my strategy was simpler…try not to get lapped by him in longer races. Plus in typical youth fashion…he would continue to run hard in the relays and races after the decathlon event. He ran a 6:27 mile AG 5:16 in our last race. Not as impressive until you hear that he had run an 8 miler the day before. He ran a 2:52 half mile AG 2:18. He ran the 2 mile in 12:40 for an AG of 10:21 and good enough for second place.

3rd for the women was earned by 37 year old ERIKA MCCANN. When I say earned…I mean she cranked out some awesome races. She had to as she got a top three spot running in only 6 races. Erika had us all laughing as she hated stepping up to that start line. But all that laughing faded quick as she would speed away from the field. Her effortless long stride was matched with a serious determination to press herself to the max. She was 2nd in the mile with a 6:13 AG 6:00. She picked up another 2nd with her 67 sec 400 m which AG to a 63 sec effort. She absolutely crushed the 1000 m with a 3:30 AG 3:26… a 13 second win over 2nd place.

The runner up for the men in this year’s series is 48 year old VICTOR CRETELLA. Victor needed only 7 races to claim the runner up spot. His formula is pretty simple, run every race to win it. The formula didn’t work every time but it put Victor right up there battling for the win. It’s remarkable to see a 48 year old duking it out with 20 and 30 somethings. Victor won the 2 mile, 1600, 800, and mile. The races he didn’t win, he was near the top. Victor opened the season with a 11:30 2 mile AG 10:18 for a 3 second win. His half mile was a 2:21 AG 2:06 in that victory. His win in the mile clocked a 5:10 AG 4:36 for an 11 second gap over 2nd place.

On the women’s side it was 60 year MICHELLE MITCHELL picking up 2nd place. Michelle ran 9 races and was as enthusiastic from race 1 though the end. She seems to be getting stronger and faster with age. She pushes each race and presses the pace no matter the distance. Michelle was 3rd in the mile with a 6:17 AG 6:05. Her 4:46 in the 1000 m  AG 3:39 gave her second overall. She is not a fan of the 200 and 400 but put some laps out there and she can cruise. Her 16:27 three thousand AG 12:14 not only gave her a victory but she was 49 seconds ahead of 2nd place.

Our men’s Summer Decathlon champion this year is 39 year old SCOTT WALLACE. Scott was a new face in the SD this year but not one anybody is going to soon forget. The soon to be masters runner needed only nine races to claim a significant victory over 2nd place. If Scott wasn’t winning a race, he was right behind the leader…usually someone far younger. At 39 he is not getting the amount of AG as others which led to only one victory. But out of his other 8 races, 6 were 2nd place…some by mere 10ths of a second. Scott ran the 2 mile in 11:03 – without AG it was a 27 sec win over second place. His one mile was a 5:02…with no AG an 8 second win. His AG came out to 4:47. His 1:34 in the 600 was not only a win for him but he was the only runner to crack the 1:40 barrier.

The women’s champion is not a new face to the top of the podium…50 year old RUTH TAYLOR. Ruth ran 8 races and still was far ahead of the rest of the field. I know I have a good race if I can still see Ruth …usually she’s on the other side of the track BUT I can still see her! Ruth is relentless. She keeps pushing and pushing leaving runners in her wake. Out of her 8 races she placed 3rd once, 2nd 3 times, and won all the rest. Talk about consistency…she won the mile race in 6:43 and came back the next week and won the 1600 in 6:43…they age grade out to a 5:39. She was the victor in the 2 mile with a 13:57 AG 11:54…that was a 20 second victory and she was the only one to AG sub 12. When your worst race of the series is a 3rd place, you have earned that champion spot.

Thanks again to Jill and the board of directors for supporting this series and to all that helped direct the races and make them a fun event. Watch the steeplechasers web site to see what new natural disaster will move our races to other high school tracks in the county.