By Rick Platt
The first half of the 2011 Colonial Road Runners Grand Prix season concluded Saturday morning with the eighth annual Warhill 5K Run/Walk, starting and finishing at WISC, and including a loop course of the Warhill Sports Complex. Appropriate for a race organized by and benefiting the Virginia Legacy Soccer Club Scholarship program, the 3.1-mile event started with a loop of the soccer field complex, then had an out-and-back along the park’s bike path to Longhill Road, then concluded with a refreshingly scenic and shaded final mile on the Warhill nature trail.
The Warhill race was the eighth of 17 CRR Grand Prix events, with the club now taking a seven-week break during the hottest summer months before resuming with the popular The Vineyards of Williamsburg 5K Saturday evening, Aug. 13, then continuing with the York River State Park Recovery Rocks 5K Run (Aug. 27), the Salute to the Military “Red, White and Blue 5K” at the U.S. Coast Guard Training Center Yorktown (Sept. 10) and the Hare & Tortoise New Quarter Park 8K Run (Sept. 17), to end the summer.
In recent years the CRR Grand Prix has been dominated by six-time champion Jennifer Quarles and multiple runner-up Connie Glueck, but this year four runners have separated themselves from the pack with impressive point totals. While Quarles was on a cruise trip to the Bahamas with her extended family, the other three contenders were closing the Grand Prix standings with their top three finishes at Warhill. Karen Terry, 22, of Hampton, won the race in 20:13, followed by Elizabeth Ransom, 38, of Toano (20:36) and Glueck, 47, of Williamsburg (21:22). After Warhill, the women’s Grand Prix standings have Quarles leading with 57 points, followed by Terry (54), and a tie for third at 47 points with Ransom and Glueck, then a huge gap back to Jami Brayton, with just 18 points in two races (seconds at the Yorktown Victory Run 8 Miler and the Icelandic Seafood Fest 8K). It was that Icelandic 8K that has been the difference in the GP this year, as Quarles won, and Terry was just fourth.
With 139 finishers in the Warhill 5K (an increase from the 120 finishers in 2010), the men’s top finishers were Jonathan Griffin, 22, of Virginia Beach (17:27), Lafayette High distance star Kurtis Steck, 16 (17:34), Daniel Shaye, 42, of Williamsburg (17:44), Greg Dawson, 45, of Williamsburg (17:49), Kevin Griffith of Charlotte, NC (17:59), Patrick Cunningham, 19, of Williamsburg (18:09) and defending champion Todd Kessler, 28, of Newport News (18:21), with the times slowed by a warm, humid morning, and the challenging course. The men’s Grand Prix standings has Kessler leading with 46 points, followed by Shaye (33), Stephen Chantry (28) and 2010 runner-up Dawson (27).
Griffin comes with impressive credentials as an 800-meter runner at Norfolk State, who ran a 15:50 in his only 5,000-meter race, and whose father, Cletus Griffin, was a long-time star for the Tidewater Striders and once ran a 2:18 marathon. Steck was coming off his Lafayette spring track season, and Cunningham is now training 90 miles per week to prepare for his sophomore year with the Christopher Newport University cross country team.
There were five age-group records broken at Warhill, four by women in the older age categories, and one in the race walk. Rose Crist, 56, of Lanexa smashed the Warhill women’s 55-59 mark by almost two minutes with her 23:32. The top three award winners in the 65-and-over category all broke five-year age marks—Ann Hirn, 65, of Portsmouth (27:25 for the 65-69 division), Ann Manciagli, 75, of Williamsburg (38:10 for women 75-79), and racewalker Pat Eden, 80, of Williamsburg (52:43 for women 80-and-over). Eden turned 80 in late April, and will be setting new CRR marks every time she races (two so far in 2011), while Manciagli turned 75 in February, and is breaking every one of Eden’s previous 75-79 marks.
The race walk was a family affair, as Aleiza Higgins, 18, of Williamsburg not only broken the women’s race walk record by over 2 ½ minutes with her 33:04, she also finished nine seconds ahead of her father and coach, Rich Higgins, 57, of Williamsburg, who won the men’s walk category in 33:13. Jeff Fry was just behind Higgins for the men (33:21), while Sylvia Garcia was runner-up in the women’s walk (39:38). Higgins coaches cross country and track at Walsingham Academy, and his two female distance stars, Joanna Morelli, 16, of Williamsburg (22:19) and Christine McBeath, 13, of Barhamsville (23:45) went 1-2 for women 19-and-under.
A fast age-group time was turned in by Robert Wright, 70, of Hampton, who won the 65-and-over category in 24:34, less than a minute from the Warhill 70-74 record of 23:38 by Tom Ray of Kitty Hawk, NC in 2004. The CRR lost one of its most popular runners when Ray died of cancer on June 10th, less than two months after running a 2:05 half marathon at the Flying Pirate Half down in the Outer Banks. Ray was inducted into the Virginia Peninsula Road Racing Hall of Fame in 2007, and still holds countless CRR (and Peninsula Track Club) age-group records.
An expanded version of this Warhill 5K race writeup will be included in the next edition of the Running Dog Journal, the newsletter of the Colonial Road Runners.