Award Winners – 2021

GRAND PRIX OVERALL WINNERS

Women

  1. Ruth Taylor
  2. Farrah Douglas
  3. Katie Malone
  4. Roxanne Kircher
  5. Kathy Cea

Men

  1. Arthur Leathers
  2. Jesse Henderson
  3. Pete Wergin
  4. John Way
  5. Mark Leahy

GRAND PRIX AGE-GROUP WINNERS

Women

14-29

  1. Gretchen Whitesell
  2. Lindsey Adams
  3. Jennifer Borton

30-39

  1. Annie Chavent
  2. Catherine Scott
  3. Jamie Wisz
  4. Megan Hicks
  5. Megan Putnam

40-49

  1. Heidi Novak
  2. Michele Newton
  3. Amanda Berry
  4. Oksana Lightfield
  5. Jessica Reif Jones

50-59

  1. Caren Clark
  2. Caree Vander Linden
  3. Marie Burnett
  4. Robin McConaughey
  5. Laurie Luck

60-69

  1. Michelle Mitchell
  2. Tee Dockery
  3. Martha Bush

70 & up

  1. Jeanette Novak
  2. Allie Young

Men

14-29

30-39

  1. Matthew Hicks
  2. Andrew Spangenberg
  3. Jacob Sisler
  4. Chris Dutton

40-49

  1. Xinlian Liu
  2. Carey Ahr
  3. Brady Malone

50-59

  1. Rick Kern
  2. John Duffy
  3. Billy Clem
  4. Stephan Dobson
  5. Dana Defibaugh

60-69

  1. Steve Pulleng
  2. Tim O’Keefe
  3. George Ladue

70-79

  1. Bruce Attavian
  2. Richard Potter
  3. Jeff Jones
  4. Charles Gentry
  5. Fred Schumacher

GRAND PRIX QUALIFIERS

Ainsley Cain, Amanda Golden, Barbara Meely, Becky Wilson, Brigitte Farrell, Cari James, Crystal Tressler, Heather Orland, Janice Tipton, Jean Marie Heim, John Clarke, Joyce Smith, Katharine Warehime, Katie Davis, Kelly Schultz, Kristin Holzschuh, Lancey Cowan, Lynette Whiten, Marti Grib-Kachman, Melissa Sites, Michelle Carlin, Michelle Edwards, Robert Kelley, Sharon Cofer, Susan Searcy, Zainab Abdullah

EQUALIZER SERIES

Women

  1. Kathy Cea
  2. Ruth Taylor
  3. Katie Malone

Men

  1. Pete Wergin
  2. Arthur Leathers
  3. John Way

MAJOR AWARDS

Rising Star Women – Melissa Wallace

Our rising star has been running for just 3 years.  2021 has been an impressive year for her.  In the decathlon series, a 1mile race she had hoped to break 7 minutes, she ran a 6:39, an age grade of 66%!  In her next two events, the 200m, she in 33 seconds (a 68.8% age grade) and the 6oom in 2:02, an age grade if 69.3%.  Needless to say, she really improved in all the decathlon events, but that’s not all, she went on to run the Indy 5000 in July and hopefully break 24 minutes- she crushed it with a time of 22:57 for an age grade of 65.76%!  Then, as a new Master’s runner, she went on to run 23:23 at the Frederick women’s distance festival 5k, placing 2nd in her highly competitive age group.  To top off her year, our rising star ran in her 1st half marathon in November in a time of 1:49:57 at a pace of 8:24!  For all these reasons and more, Melissa Wallace is truly a rising star!

Rising Star Men – Dan Jacobs

Our Rising Star of 2021, has only been a member of the club since May, but has made a huge impact in a short amount of time. This Steep joined the Elite team of the Steeps Racing team, and in his first FSRC race took the overall win, winning the Run for the Pie 10K in 35:30, a pace of 5:43. He finished 6th overall, and top Steeplechaser, at the very competitive Frederick Turkey Trot. His time was an impressive 15:53. That is a pace of 5:07 a mile and an age grade of 81.8%. While technically a 2022 race, we would be remiss to not mention he was also the fastest Steeplechaser at the RRCA 10 miler, finishing in 55:09, a pace of 5:31 and age grade of 79.8%. We are excited to see what our 2021 Rising Star accomplishes next! Congratulations to Dan Jacobs.

Most Improved Women – Caree Vander Linden

I have been a member of the Steeplechasers since 2014. I have also had the honor of coaching our half marathon group. As both a participant in the half group and as a coach, I have witnessed many runners improve year to year – especially in 2021 which is truly remarkable. When thinking about nominating someone for this award, I could easily rattle off a number of people worthy of this honor, but it was pretty clear to me who made some dramatic improvements.

Let me share some statics: Since there weren’t any in-person races in 2020, I’ll compare some of this runner’s 2019 to 2021 times: 

Race20192021
Frederick Half Marathon  *18 min. PR2:42:202:24;38
Summer Solstice 8k51:3849:17
MSM8:367:58
Turkey Trot32:0627:32

This runner also participated in many virtual races in 2020, and attained PRs in every distance from 5k, 10k, 10 miles and half marathon.

I also know of this runner’s improvement through personal experience. In between our half marathon training programs, a number of us continued to meet on weekends for long runs. Since September 2020, we have been running a half marathon every month. We invited this runner to join us, and she always said yes. She always completed the distance and never gave up… even if that meant that she ran part of the run alone. But as the months went by, she was keeping up right there with us. Then at the Women’s Distance Festival, she asked if she could follow me – she wanted to get a PR. Inwardly I said “oh shit, now I have to try to race this.” But I also felt really honored that she asked me. And so I pushed myself… she earned her PR and I surprised myself by almost squeaking one out too. She ended up shaving off more than 3 minutes over her 2019 WDF time. 

I think one of the reasons that this runner has improved so much is that she is not afraid of embracing new challenges. She started a strength training program. She practiced yoga and became an instructor. A novice trail runner, she ran Rick’s Run in part because she knew her friend John (Godinet) would have told her to go for it. He would be thrilled to know that she completed her first trial half this year. This runner inspires me to get out of my comfort zone and do uncomfortable things… like public speaking. So without further ado, please raise your glasses and give a round of applause to our Most Improved Runner of the Year, Caree Vander Linden.

Most Improved Men – Charles Gentry

Frequently we think of most improved runners as one of us that has arrived to a point when they decided it was time to get serious and work hard to improve. But our most improved runner this year, is a different case- an older, seasoned runner who experienced a serious life- changing event. In 2016, this 72 year-old runner underwent double hip replacement surgery and slowly progressed from walking to eventually running over the next several years. He was finally able to compete again in 2021 and had a banner year! His comeback included placing in his age group in most of his races. His prolific year included running in at least 8 races from May to October in distances from 800M to a 15k including the
Germantown 5 miler, Frederick Summer Solstice 8k, Bel Air Town run, Market St. mile, and Allegheny 15k. Racing highlights include his Market St. mile time of 8:00and his Indy 5000 time of 28:33. His hard work was rewarded by placing 2nd in his AG in the MD Grand Prix series. For those of us who have worked hard to overcome injuries, his work and determination are inspirational! Our most improved runner of the year is Charles Gentry!

Iron Woman – Rylee Schwee

Our 2021 Ironwoman started running when she was 15.  At 16, she ran her first 50k, becoming the youngest female finisher in the history of the Catoctin 50K. She hasn’t stopped since! This former FSRC Scholarship winner and Junior Runner of the Year, had an impressive year by any standards, but it is especially noteworthy that she accomplished so much as a University of Pittsburgh student.

She started 2022 by placing 2nd in the Seneca Creek Greenway 50K. Next up, she ran not 1, but 2 100 miles over her summer break. Not sure this is how most college students spend their break, but we are here for it! On June 5th, she ran the Old Dominion 100 Miler, and a mere 6 weeks later she ran the Burning River 100 Mile Endurance Run. In between those 2 races she had a 3rd place finish at the CAT25K. Our Ironwoman finished off 2021, with a PR at the Stone Mill 50 Miler getting just under 9 hours, finishing 4th Overall and the top Steeplechaser.

Congratulations to our 2021 Ironwoman, Rylee Schwee.

Iron Man – Adam Lowe

Since receiving the Rising Star Award in 2019, this year’s Ironman has been busy. While he has racked up a lot of miles, 3,800 to be exact, he has also had some impressive times. 

He started off 2021 by running his first 100 miler at the C&O 100 in 15:32:00. I remember him coming into the Antietam Aid Station with just a handheld and looking for gum. Really, there was so much to eat and drink and you wanted gum? A few weeks later he ran the Antietam Brewery 5k in 17:28 and was 3rd overall. He was 2nd overall in the Beer Mile with a time of 7:37. Rumor has it he’s been training for this and hopes to place 1st this year. This is where he recently proposed to his girlfriend, so that’s definitely an incentive.

A month later, he participated in the More Miles Last One Standing Challenge. For the second year in a row, he won with a total of 70 miles. The challenge involves running 1 mile every hour for as long as you can go. Starting at 51 hours, one additional mile is added until a winner emerges. In July, he ran his first CAT 50k in a time of 5:50:54 and was 10th overall. As he won a raffle for the Frederick Run Festival, he completed the 5k after running CAT 50k in a time of 19:41 and was 20th overall. The next day, he ran the Frederick Half in a time of 1:31:27 and was 36th overall. Move over Nut Job, we now have the CAT Nut Job.

In August, he placed first at the inaugural Moonlight on the Falls Marathon with a time of 3:05:00. A month later, he was 1st overall at the Linganore Half Marathon, which was longer than 13.1 miles. A few weeks later, he ran a 2:58:00 at Boston and six days later was 3rd overall at the WMRT Marathon with a time of 2:56:40. Two weeks later, he ran MCM 50k with a time of 3:46:36. He returned to JFK for another year and was 21st overall with a time of 6:30:19. He wrapped up 2021 with the Rehoboth Half Marathon and finished 11th overall with a time of 1:20:00.

In addition to running, our Ironman has also taken on the role of Race Director. He is the new Race Director for Fire on the Mountain 25k and 50k and is putting on a new race this May on the towpath. The Lock 2 Lock Marathon, Half Marathon, and 10k will be taking place on Saturday, September 10th. 

I first met our Ironman through a Facebook Run Streak group. He recently celebrated two years of streaking and easily puts in 70 miles a week. If you follow him on Strava and wonder why he’s running in the middle of the day, he’s a PE teacher. Hmm, maybe I should rethink my teaching career?

In all seriousness, while our Ironman has had an amazing year of running, what many of you might not know is that he’s one of the most encouraging people I know. He has now taken over the Run Streak Facebook group and is supportive and encouraging of all participants. Whether it’s your first day, your 100th day, or if you are just there to check it out, his humorous posts keep you engaged and motivated.

I often joke that he can’t be human, but it turns out that he is just dedicated, motivated, and is one talented runner. 

This year’s Ironman is none other than Adam Lowe.

Unsung Hero – Evette Whisner & Lyn Whitten

Evette Whisner and Lynne Whiten, opposites make the best of friends and partners. Just a little background into their running journey; they have different stories even though they’ve been on this road together.  Lynne returned to running after being a high school track athlete. She ran 100 meter hurdles so completing one lap was her farthest distance. Evette began her running journey as an adult just a few years ago to cope with a life changing event, the death of her husband. Lynne is known for her selfies, motivational posts and daily reminders to get out there and seize the day.  Evette found accomplishment, confidence, and solace in running that has given her a quiet confidence that inspires anyone who meets her.

I learned of the inspirational story of the two friends on their journey to run a marathon together through Barb’s member spotlights in 2020. When I heard that they would be interested in coaching, I was thrilled. They revived the on again off again 10k training with energy and made a fantastic program that picks up just as the women’s 5k training ends. This training is important as a bridge between programs and also a continuation for new runners to keep going, sometimes to longer distances than ever and Lynne and Evette were a perfect pair to foster the running spark. Their energy and engagement lifts everyone around them. The pair ensures that every runner is recognized and celebrated.  Most importantly, they always have fun. Seeing them in action and seeing how engaged they are with participants is inspiring to not only the participants but also to me as a coach. Together, Lynne and Evette are this year’s unsung hero.

Inspiration – Bobby Zaal & Heidi Novak

This category is one of our favorites to give out, but also one of the hardest to pick. It is by far the category we get the most nominations for because there are so many Steeplechasers that inspire us and keep us motivated. We could not choose just one this year.

Our first award winner started off the year coming off a severe back injury that left him unable to walk. After almost a year off running and many months of physical therapy he was able to gradually start running again. Through patience and persistence he was able to slowly work up to heavier mileage and train with other members of the Steeps Racing team for the Boston Marathon, held in the fall of 2021. Not only did he complete the race, his 3rd Boston Marathon, he finished with a sub 3 hour time! He then went on to place 10th overall in the Frederick Turkey Trot with a 16:30. Very few people could come back to the sport after an arduous recovery and return to top form so quickly, and for that reason Bobby Zaal is our inspiration award winner for 2021.

Over the last two years since we have given this award there is an individual who stands out for motivating club members on a daily basis. On March 16, 2020, when schools closed due to the pandemic, she started a running streak. Her plan was to keep going until we were back at school in-person, figuring it would be two weeks, or a month at the most. Little did she know that it would almost be a year by the time she returned to the classroom. She decided to keep going as long as it was still fun and has now completed a full 2 years of running at least one mile a day. Over those years, she has run over 3,700 miles, in all types of weather, running in everything from a unicorn onesie to skinny jeans and a blouse. We have been inspired as she shares her highs and lows of not only running, but also teaching during a pandemic. 
Our award winners race times have improved drastically at all distances over the past year. She also challenged herself with a new distance this year, 50 miles. While training she shared regular, weekly posts on her training progress, and the whole club was cheering her on as she tackled the JFK50. Even with her demanding job, training schedule, and running streak, she continues to support everyone else in the club at local events and group runs. Not to mention our Madame President does a little bit of everything for our club. She is a great leader and shows enthusiasm in everything she does. Heidi Novak, has been an amazing inspiration to the club, her coworkers, her friends and family, and her students, and for that she is our Inspiration Award winner for 2021. 

Junior Runner of the Year– Jenna Conley

Our Junior Runner of the Year ran her first 50K this past June at age 14! She ran the Dam Yeti 50K in a time of 5:07:20, placing her 6th female and 16th overall. She then went on to finish 5th female and 13th overall at the Half CAT with a time of 3:37:44. In November, she hit the trails again at the Fire on the Mountain 25K, finishing in a time of 2:53:21. In order for us to get to know our Jr. Runner of the Year, Jenna Conley, a little better I am going to share some words from her Catoctin Cross Country and Track Coach.

“I first learned about Jenna from our Assistant AD at CHS.  She told me she had this neighbor that just ran and ran and ran all the time and that we needed her on our XC and T&F team.  Jenna is a true run-a-holic!  Trying to get Jenna to take a break and rest those legs of hers is like pulling teeth from a 3 year old!  It’s not happening!

Jenna is truly one of the hardest working young ladies I’ve had the privilege to coach.  She tackles each and every workout with vigor and tenacity.  One thing that I LOVE about Jenna and that is so very different from most High School student athletes is that if I were to ask her to run 25 or even 50 miles she’d do it without question but if I ask her to do a speed workout, watch those eyes roll which is generally the opposite of most athletes.

Not only is Jenna a hard working athlete she defines the meaning of student in student athlete.  Jenna currently carries a 4.0 unweighted GPA and a weighted GPA of 4.75 which ranks her 1st in her class of 158 students.

Jenna is an absolute pleasure to be around, she keeps all of us laughing and in fact you better watch out because she has been known to take down a boy or two at our team dinners!

Congratulations to Jenna on winning the Jr. Runner of the Year award and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for her!”

Junior Runner of the Year – David Tressler

When Ruth asked if I would present the Junior Award this evening I was honored and excited to do it. The excitement came from knowing that  this award was coming from someone who is heading toward the finish line in his running career and being given to someone who is just leaving the starting line of his running life. Unlike most awards I have given out where I’ve only seen the back of the recipients in races, I’ve actually had the opportunity watch this athlete run and grow as a runner through his cross country and indoor track seasons. One of the side gigs I have is as a Maryland State Track and Cross Country official. That has allowed me to watch him up close as he races and to see his progress through each season. I have also had the opportunity to race  with him at last summer’s decathlon series. Besides being an impressive runner he also showed his respect for elders by allowing me to stay in front of him for about 100 meters in the 800 meter race. Being the polite person he is, he was kind enough not to lap me and satisfied to simply leave me in the dust with his 2:59 time.

At this time I would like to call David Tressler up front so you have the chance to see the person who has earned our Junior Runner of the Year.

David is a freshman at Oakdale High School and beside the challenge of returning to in person learning, David was in his first year of high school. David came out for a cross country team that was high in number of experienced athletes and deep in talent. David is a hard worker and not afraid of the intense running of high school cross country. This meant doing his best in training to earn as high of a spot as he could. His first race at the beginning of September was as a JV runner. His 20:01 on a challenging 5k  course not only garnered 2nd in the race but put a smile on his coaches faces. A week later he was running his first varsity race where he flew through the 3 mile course in 18:57. He had dropped his split times down to 6:19 and sealed his place on varsity for the rest of the season. Courses and weather make comparing times in cross country difficult but there is one race teams do mid season in preparation for the state meet… the brutally hilly Hereford run. His introduction to this course was a 20:49 for 3 miles plus a lot of inside information about what he would do different if he made it to states. His season continued to progress and his maturity as a cross country runner was growing. He was 7th overall in the Cougar Invitational, won the fastest freshman award at the Patriot invitational, and was the fastest freshman in the Frederick County Meet where his 18:30 for 5k gave him mile splits that were in the 5:50’s. His fastest time of the season came in the 3A Regional Meet where he ran 18:14 (5:52 pace) and helped his team earn a spot at the state meet. He was the 2nd freshman from his school to be running at a state cross country meet. So remember the 20:49 from the Hereford race in September? Well that hard working freshman had 2 months of hard training and intense racing and knocked 2 minutes off that time to run an incredible 18:50 at the state meet…and he has 3 more years to get stronger and faster.

But wait, there’s more! David just finished a fun and successful indoor season where he ran the 2 mile and mile. While indoor is warm and dry, your training is out doors in December, January, and February. Indoors is definitely not cross country…the mile is 8 laps and the 2 mile 16 laps. That’s a lot of turns and bumping while sucking in some pretty dry air. David dropped his 2 mile time from 11:32 to 11:16 (5:38 pace). His mile time went from 4:58 to 4:16 where he placed 6th overall in the county…as a freshman!

While it is easy to see why David has earned this award, it should also be pretty clear this is just the beginning of an exciting running career. Congratulations to David Tressler…Frederick Steeplechasers Junior Runner of the Year!

Grand Master Runner of the Year Women – Kathy Cea

Our female grandmaster runner of the year is a prolific age group and age graded winner at multiple races and distances this past year. She is an active volunteer and a member of the Steeps racing team. Our female grandmaster won both the equalizer and decathlon series easily. She is competitive with runners less than ½ her age and was the only 60+ year-old runner to place in the top 20 of the grand
prix series- placing 5th OA. She recently came in 1 st age group at the Frederick turkey trot with a pace of 7:35/ mile placing her in the top 96% of all female finishers of the race! She has demonstrated depth of speed in multiple distances from the track and up to 10 miles with multiple age grades above 75% and a few above 80%.

Racing highlights include:
Summer Solstice 8K- 42:38 at 73% age grade
DCRRC Fort Hunt 10k- 51:31 at 76.5% age grade
Summer Decathlon 800 M- 3:13 at 77% age grade
Market Street Mile- 6:53 at 84.2% age grade
Frederick Turkey Trot 5k- 23:34 at 79.6% age grade

Kathy Cea for all the above racing accomplishments and more is our female grandmaster runner of the year!

Grand Master Runner of the Year Men – Steve Pulleng

Our Grand Master Runner of the Year, won the competitive 60-69 age group of the Grand Prix with a perfect score. He opened up his year by placing 2nd in his division at both the Frederick Summer Solstice 8K and Independence 5000. Next he showed his speed, finishing the 800m decathlon in 3:03, an age grade of 70.6%, and finishing 4th in the Senior Grand Champion category of the Market Street Mile in 6:30, an age grade of 73.5%. Our Grand Master Runner of the Year finished 1st in his age division in the Rick O’ Donnell 5.22 mile trail race, with a pace of 9:35, a downright blistering pace for the trails of Greenbriar. He followed this up with another age division win at the Spook Hill Cider & Wine 4 Mile Run. We are pleased to present the Male Grand Master Runner of the Year Award to Steve Pulleng.

Master Runner of the Year Women – Farrah Douglas

When I was asked to make this presentation for our next recipient, I wanted to include how others thought of her as well. I reached out to a couple of mutual friends and asked for three words that best describe her. Their responses included dedicated, strong, fearless, passionate, inspirational, and maybe just a little bit stubborn. Not just in running but in life, she takes on all challenges and comes out victorious. She has a kamikaze running mentality in that ‘rest’ is a four-letter word and the dreaded ‘t’-word is not in her vocabulary.

2021 saw her having nothing short of a spectacular year in which she established PRs at every distance from the 5K to the marathon. She also ran her first in-person 50K and her first ever 50-mile race. Throughout the year, she completed 24 races including 6 marathons and 8 half marathons. She competed in 7 Steeplechaser Grand Prix events which landed her in 2nd place overall in the final standings.
Other highlights included a marathon PR at the Western Maryland Rail Trail in which she ran both her first ever BQ and qualified for Chicago. At the Operation Enduring Warrior ½ marathon, her third race in a 2-week period, she was 2nd female and 6th overall.
Her love of running was obvious when, while on the road visiting friends in Utah, she, of course, manages to find another ½ marathon to run. She followed that with a trip to eastern Tennessee where she finished 2nd female at the Blister in the Sun Marathon, an asphalt looped course with very little shade
making for a very hot day. If running this actually appeals to anyone, I know the race director and he guarantees miserable conditions but a fun time.
A week after running Blister, and one day after running the WDF 5K, she runs her half-marathon PR at the Georgetown half. She then went on to finish top female and 7th overall at the Linganore Wineceller Trail ½ marathon.
Back-to-back fall races would test her both physically and mentally. After running the Cross County Trail Marathon in Springfield, Va., she described her performance as ugly. She said she blew up big time, vomited and nearly passed out. She felt like her body was working against her. She went on to say, she
finished in under 4 hours and was top female. We should all have bad days like that.

How do you follow up a bad day? I guess it’s similar to falling off a horse. You get back to the starting line. It was the very next weekend, and the starting line was the Stone Mill 50-mile trail race, her first ever 50-miler. We followed her around the course that day. Every time we met her, she informed us, I’m not eating, all I’m doing is drinking Coke, I fell, I fell twice. But her ability to persevere shined through as she continued to push forward determined not to let the course beat her.
When she crossed the finish line, looking a little tired or maybe she was just ticked off at me for talking her into running it, she exclaimed, “You didn’t tell me it was all trail!” So, I left out a few details. Hey, I told her she could do it, I never said it was going to be easy. But it was obvious that she was proud, and
deservedly so, to have faced and beat her toughest challenge so far.
In addition to all of her racing accomplishments, she has managed to maintain a running streak which is currently fast approaching 1000 days or comma day, as the streakers call it. During her streak, she has never run less than three miles per day.
On top of all of this, she actually has a full-time job. Following a successful career as a rugby player, playing for team USA in two World Cups and coaching in a third, she is the head coach of the Mt. Saint Mary’s women’s rugby team. Think about that for a minute, playing rugby on the international level and being an accomplished runner. A combination of strength, speed, and endurance makes
for an amazing athlete.
I can’t wait to see what 2022 and beyond has in store for her. I hear there may even be a 100 miler in her future.
Her players call her coach, I call her one of my best friends and now we can all call her the Frederick Steeplechaser’s 2021 Female Masters Runner of the Year.

Miss Unicorn herself, Farrah Douglas

Master Runner of the Year Men – Scott Wallace

Good Evening everybody. 

I have the pleasure of announcing the winner of the Masters Male Runner of the Year for 2021, but before I do, here’s a little bit about him. 

Our winner, typically modest about his own running abilities, is consistent and methodical with his training and racing. He is a supportive team mate, always willing to help out friends and family with pacing workouts and scouting out the most ideal time trial routes. He is also a keen follower of athletics, especially at the high school and collegiate levels.

In past seasons he has demonstrated his running stamina, strength and speed across a wide range of distances, from the track to the marathon, but in 2021 it was over the shorter distances where he showed his mastery, consistently posting finishing times with National Class Age Grade percentages (that’s an 80-89% age grade for those not in the know!). 

Let’s look back at his 2021 running exploits. 

As we headed into 2021, a return to in person racing still seemed like a distant dream, so our winner decided he would, for a bit of training motivation, set himself a little challenge. His goal, to run a sub 5 minute mile outdoors every week for the entire year. Week one, a 4.51 mile, Week two, 4.53, and it continued through January, battling the cold and often windy conditions and on into February, only to be thwarted by extremely tough conditions in the first week of March, bailing twice before running a 5.00.94 mile. Challenge over, but undeterred, training continued into the Spring and at last races began to appear on the race calendar. 

Our winner’s first outing was the Loudoun Street Mile on May 31st, where he came away with, I quote a “good rust buster” time of 4.40.3 for 2nd Master and an 84.8% age grade performance. Anyone else like to run a “rusty” 4.40 mile? Into June, and outings in the Steeps Decathlon series – a 10 minutes 42 seconds for the 2 miles, 9 minutes 46 seconds in the 3k and a 4 minute 30 seconds 1500m. But the highlight was a super speedy 4 minute 33.6 seconds in the Saucony mile up in Pottstown PA, on June 18th for 4th overall and 1st master – that’s a whopping 88.1% age grade by the way!

July, the Autism Speaks 5k – 16.42 for 3rd overall.  2 minutes 04.9 seconds in the Decathlon 800m (86.6% age grade) and more swift times in the Decathlon 1000m and 200m events.

Into August, finishing up the Decathlon Series on August 4th with a 1 minute 30 seconds in the 600m (86.2% age grade), followed up 3 days later with 3rd overall in the Going Green 1 mile down in Gaithersburg in 4 minutes 35 seconds – 86.9% age grade.

Our winner’s fine performances continued into Fall, firstly with a well judged race in the Frederick Market Street Mile to finish 2nd overall (1st master) in a time of 4 minutes 37 seconds for a 87.4% age grade. Then, 1st overall at the Headless Horseman 5k in 16.57. In November, he rounded out his year with his two fastest 5ks of the year – 16 minutes 38 seconds for 1st overall at the Dewey Beach Coastal Delaware 5k and 16 minutes 19 seconds, an 85.2% age grade, for 9th overall (3rd master) at the Frederick Turkey Trot.

I’m excited to see what 2022 has in store for our Masters Male Runner of the Year and if his 1st place win in 4.32.04 at the Winfield Mile on New Year’s Day is any indication, it’s going to be fast! I’m honored to present this award to my racing team comrade, the speedy Scott Wallace!

Runner of the Year Women – Ruth Taylor

Everyone in the room is familiar with this year’s Runner of the Year. She has been on the podium at most Steeplechaser races for many years now. This year she won not only the Steeplechasers Grand Prix, but also took 1st overall in the MD/DC Grand Prix put on by the Maryland RRCA. In the past decade this runner has been in the Top 3 of the Equalizer every single year, this year placing 2nd. I think we can all agree that her consistency and dedication puts her in a league of her own.

She started off 2021, with an overall win at the Get Pumped for Pets 15K. Throughout the year she showed her speed in varied distances, from the 800 in the Decathlon where she placed 2nd to the NCR Marathon where she ran sub 4 and placed 2nd in her division. She won her division in the Harpers Ferry Half Marathon, Summer Solstice 8K, and Spook Hill 4 Miler to just name a few. She ran a 6:23 at the Market Street Mile to win her division with an 81.2% age grade score. This member of the racing team also placed 1st in her division at the Frederick Turkey Trot with a 22:23, and an age grade of 76.3%. She also manages to fit several trail races a year into her schedule, including Catoctin, this year opting for the 25K.

In addition to being an amazing runner, she is one of the most encouraging runners in the club. She takes time to cheer on and congratulate runners of all abilities. She is active in the club and has been on various committees over the years.  This year’s Runner of the Year is a true example of one of what makes our club great! Congratulations to Ruth Taylor, 2021 Frederick Steeplechasers Runner of the Year.

Runner of the Year Men – Pete Wergin

Our male runner of the year is proof that even runners over 50 can still PR! Our Male Runner of the Year had an amazing year! Although qualifying as a master’s runner, he consistently beat runners less than ½ his age with his amazing speed! He easily won both the equalizer and decathlon series and placed 3rd OA in the Grand Prix series. He demonstrated depth of speed in multiple distances from the track and up to 10 miles with many age grades above 80% placing him in the national ranks for his race times!

Racing highlights include:
Summer Solstice 8K- 29:56 at 83.4% age grade
Indy 5000- 17:54 (a 5K PR for him!) at an incredible 85.7% age grade
Summer Decathlon 800 M- 2:25 at 82% age grade
Market Street Mile- 5:17 at 83.6% age grade
Spook Hill Cider Run 4 miler at 77.5% age grade and with 1st OA win!
MCRRC Turkey – 10 miler- 1:04:28 at 79.81% age grade

Pete Wergin truly deserves to be Male Runner of the year!

Waxter Award – Crystal Tressler

This year’s Waxter award winner wears many hats and is truly one of the key members of the club who keeps things running smoothly behind the scenes. Even if you have never met her, she has been involved in every aspect of the club’s operations including training groups, social events, member surveys, and finances. Her volunteer accomplishments have included but not been limited to her roles as running coach, designing and administering training program surveys, selecting gifts for volunteers, and her own creation in these pandemic years- organizing the hilly but always scenic and beautiful running field trips! And if being the club treasurer was not enough work for two people, Crystal also took over the position of volunteer coordinator. She is known affectionately as the queen of spreadsheets and is always willing to help with a smile on her face! In her spare time this fall, she also managed to fit in running and training for Rick’s Run ultra challenge and the NCR trail marathon! For all these reasons and more, Crystal Tressler is our well-deserving Waxter Award winner!

President’s Award – John Godinet

Since becoming President in 2021, I have been thinking about who to recognize for the President’s Award. The more I reflected on the purpose of the award, the more it became apparent who I wanted to select to receive this distinguished award.

I am honored to be recognizing John Godinet for this year’s President’s Award and wish that I could have presented this to him while he was still with us. Peter Dare, John’s husband and life partner, will be accepting the award on his behalf.

The FSRC President’s Award was established in 2010 as an award “Given to a person whose contribution to running may have transcended the boundaries of the club by having made an exceptional contribution through the years to the running community at large. As you hear stories of John’s life from his friends and family, you will learn how deserving John is of this award.

I recall hearing John speak at a trail running education event hosted by the Steeplechasers in 2016. I was just getting into trail running and here were all these trail running legends on the panel ready to share their experiences with us. What stood out to me the most about John’s stories was his passion for running, positive attitude, and great sense of humor. In addition to sharing how he got into trail running, he shared a story about a trail run where he went off into the woods and proceeded to remove his thong underwear and threw them into the woods. I thought to myself, “What am I getting myself into?” When I was talking to one of John’s long-time friends and running buddies, Regina Clark, I learned that this took place at JFK 50, a race he ran 17 times. During my conversation with Peter, I learned that the first race he ran with a thong was a DNF.

John Godient was born on December 11, 1956, in the U.S. Territory of American Samoa. He joined the United States Army after high school and college. During this time, he traveled to Alaska, Panama, and Fort Ord, California, where he met Peter. They lived in California before moving to Washington, DC, and finally to Myersville, MD, where Peter currently resides. 

John was active in the community and was a member of the Myersville Lions Club for 30 years. During this time, he was voted Vice President the first year he joined. He was also a Fire Police volunteer with the Myersville Volunteer Fire Company. He received several awards, including the Melvin Jones Fellowship lifetime achievement award from the Lions Club, as well as Volunteer of the Year awards from the town of Myersville for his community and fundraising activities. He also received awards from the Frederick Steeplechasers Running Club. In 2010, he received the Ironman award and in 2016, he received the Inspiration Award. Both awards are fitting, as John not only led by example with his joy for running but inspired many runners along the way.

John taught aerobics and other fitness classes at local gyms which is where he met several of his running buddies. He discovered long distance running, which became his greatest passion. He started off running in the Catoctin Mountains with his dogs and would run by time, rather than tracking mileage. He always encouraged his running friends and other runners to run for enjoyment and not worry about time. Several of John’s friends shared these words from John. “Run your own race, whether in the rat race we call life or at a running event. Be true to yourself, have fun, and remember, we ALL get the same medal at the finish, so stop stressing. Oh, and more important, it is NOT how fast you run, but how good you look doing it!”

As Bill Susa shared with me, John had a way of getting people to realize that they were capable of more than they thought. John would often encourage people to “Meet me on Saturday, and we’ll hike for a few hours”. Many of these people hadn’t run more than 8 to 10 miles, however, after hours on the trail John would say, “We just did a marathon, See, you could do it.” Not only did John help them to break the internal barriers that they weren’t athletic or couldn’t complete a certain distance, he transformed long distance running from something only a select few could accomplish into something that everyday people could do. All they needed was to believe in themselves.

John inspired many runners over the years, however, one of John’s closest friends, Jenifer Williams, credits John for her starting to run 19 years ago. She first saw John at Body Works gym, where he was teaching step classes. Jennifer had recently joined the gym and felt uncomfortable with the setting. She saw John teaching classes and her immediate thought was, “I want to be that guy’s friend.” John gave out boxes of Godiva chocolates to every student on Valentine’s Day. He came out of the classroom and gave Jennifer a box, even though she had never taken a class. John’s kindness and generosity touched Jennifer, and she soon started taking his step classes and was hooked. As she got to know John, he invited her to come running with him and his “running ladies”. Her immediate response was, “I hate running”. However, saying no to John wasn’t something she could do then or during the rest of her years with him. She started running with him in April 2003, and during this time she completed 10 marathons and countless other races. John stuck with Jennifer on her runs and encouraged her to keep going. As Jennifer shared, “He took me under his angel wings and lifted me up so that I could keep running and laughing.” Jennifer has met her best friends through running and these individuals have supported her through tragedy and shared many happy milestones with her. While running kept Jennifer physically fit, the mental health benefits have been life-changing. 

John’s Ultrasignup list is quite impressive, with 66 races from 1994 to 2017. In 2011, he ran two 50ks, two 50 milers, and two 100 milers within a 12 week period. While this is definitely an amazing accomplishment and goes to show what a strong runner John was, this is also the same man who would dress up in costume to be the sweeper at races, John’s encouragement has helped many runners complete races and training runs. Thanks to John’s encouragement and kindness, he was able to help Donna Lalli complete her first ultra at the inaugural Rick’s Run, which was John’s favorite race. He cared more about how you were doing than talking about himself. 

As many of his friends shared, John had a wonderful sense of humor. He used this to encourage and perhaps distract fellow runners when things got tough. When I reached out to his friends for stories, many said that they were too inappropriate to share, but that’s just how John was. Effie Nomicos shared a story that I am sure many of us have experienced. On a trip to DC for the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler, John’s infamous Jeep started smoking. Everyone hopped out and Effie looked under the hood to discover that it wasn’t a fire, but steam from the loss of his lower radiator hose. Everyone was panicking until John asked, “Well, what do you wanna do?” They all looked at each other and at the same time said, “Run the race and call AAA later!” After the race, they were towed all the way to Myersville.

Bill Susa shared numerous stories of John and here are a few snippets to show John’s great sense of humor.

  • Jumping into Mary Zielenski’s arms on a night run on the C&O when he heard a loud noise from a train. That’s right, he didn’t try to hide behind her or save her from whatever the nose might have been, he literally leapt into her arms. 
  • Panicking when he would “smell cucumber”, which is a term used on the trail because copperheads are supposed to smell like cucumbers. 
  • Coming into an aid station at Burning River 100 looking for lube to soothe the chafing “down there”. After slathering his “sweaty man-bits”, he goes to hand the lube back. Needless to say, they didn’t take it back.
  • Another Burning River story where he came into an aid station looking for ibuperfume. It took some time, but Paul, Mary Zielenski’s husband, figured out that he wanted ibuprofen.
  • Running through the grassy field at Bolivar Heights and being told to check for ticks. John grabs his…ya know…and proudly announces that it is still there.

As Peter shared with me, John loved running in the rain, as it reminded him of Samoa. During a cold, rainy, and icy run with Regina and her husband, Regina suggests calling Peter to come and get them. John says no and suggests they go get trash bags. They knocked on a door and the only trash bags the person had were scented ones. Peter still remembers picking up the soaked runners in their scented trash bags. 

In 2017, John was diagnosed with ALS, however, he had been feeling muscular loss before that. The first couple of years weren’t that bad as he could still move, however, he eventually wasn’t able to run on his own. At the 2017 Frederick Half Marathon, his friends gave him a running buggy, which he used on many occasions. His running buddies who pushed him were referred to as “John’s Angels”. John remained at home until late April of 2021, then went to Camp Hill. He was visited by family and friends who helped him peacefully and joyfully enjoy his last moments on Earth. Even during the last week of his life, he was encouraging the staff at Camp Hill to start running. On May 7, 2021, John went to take his place among the angels in heaven.

As many shared, John was truly an angel here on Earth. While he accomplished many things, he had his faults just like the rest of us. However, what makes John different is how he handled these challenging times. As Billy Clem shared with me, “John radiated love and life throughout the most challenging times in his life all because he genuinely cared about people and relationships.” During the last few years of his life, John reflected on the times on the trails with friends. From suffering to funny stories, the time with his friends was what was most important to him. I think that Bill Susa sums up John best in these words, “He always approached life with the zeal of a 4-year old wearing a Superman cape with an eye toward the sunny side of a situation.”

Since John’s passing, the term “Live Like John” has come to fruition. It was the theme for Rick’s Run last year and has been used on t-shirts to raise money for ALS. Many of us might be thinking that “Living Like John” is out of our reach, but as Billy Clem so eloquently put it, “Living our lives like John is easy and anyone can do it. We don’t need John’s sense of humor or charm, we just need to prioritize empathy, kindness, and compassion in our lives.” 

So, as we all continue with our running journeys, I encourage you to try to find joy in each and every run, even if they aren’t the best. As I often tell myself, I might not want to run, but I am fortunate enough to be able to run. That isn’t the case for many people.