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Darley, Deninno the best in the Westby Dave Camire
Amherst, MA -- The small Western Massachusetts town of Amherst was the setting for the first race in this year's USATF-NE Grand Prix Championship (for information on the New England Grand Prix, see the USATF-NE website). The 1000-plus runner field was greeted with hail, rain and a few slippery spots along the challenging 10-mile course. This was somewhat ironic considering last year's 10 mile championship was held in ninety degree weather on a flat course along the ocean in Newburyport, MA. The weather nor change in venue seemed to matter to this star packed field.
Moments before the starting gun was fired, I asked former winner Dave Dunham for his assessment of the race. "Well, the weather might make it a tactical race." Dunham's words could not have been more prophetic as this would turn out to be a duel between a large group of outstanding runners.
Once the race was under way, it didn't take long before a group of about ten runners broke away from the pack. Through the hills and the slippery stretches on the dirt road section the group stayed together matching each other stride for stride. It appeared each was waiting for the other to make the first move.
That first move wouldn't come until about eight miles when New Canaan, CT. resident Andy Spaulding made the first break from the pack. The break, however, did not last long as the pack quickly caught back up to Spaulding. They would stay together until the nine mile mark. It was at this point that Spaulding's Greater Lowell teammate, Chris Teague, who placed second at this year's Walt Disney World Marathon, made his surge to take the lead and gain about ten yards on the rest of the field.
This too was short lived as Teague described, "With about a half mile to go they caught me on the hill. I just couldn't hang in there." Teague was caught by Somerville's Jesse Darley. You may remember him from being the winner of last year's Eastern States 20 Mile. Darley was followed by Chris Magill who was only one second behind. Amazingly a mere three seconds separated Darley, Magill and Teague.
The women's race turned into a time trial for Winchester's Lynn Deninno as she took the lead from the start and never looked back. "I don't like hills," confessed a happy Deninno following the race. She came to the race as a tune-up for the National 15K Championship in Jacksonville, FL next Saturday and entered the race on the suggestion of her boyfriend Mike Cronin.
Deninno had lots of praise for the race organization. "The traffic control was really good. There weren't any cars on the course." At about six miles into the race she quickened her pace to 5:30/mile. "I was hoping to maybe break the course record, but I didn't realize it was so hilly. The tenth mile was even hilly." Her time was about a minute off of Nancy Conz's 1986 course record of 57:05. "All in all I was happy with my effort," she added.
Another outstanding performance came from newly turned master Craig Fram of Hampstead, NH. Fram led his Whirlaway Racing team to the masters' title ahead of the powerhouse Central Mass, Greater Lowell and Tri-Valley teams. "I went out pretty hard," said Fram. So hard in fact, that he was with the overall lead group most of the way finishing just 24 second behind the leader. "I didn't see any of the other masters for the whole race." The closest master to Fram was Vermont's Jim Miller who finished over two minutes behind him. Look for Fram to dominate the men's masters division in this year's Grand Prix.
The team competition was as ferocious as the individual competition. The Boston Athletic Association placed first in both the male and female open divisions. The BAA men's victory marks one of the rare occasions that CMS has been beaten. CMS has not lost the overall team title in the men's open division in the last fourteen years. It should be interesting to see if the BAA can challenge the reigning champions. The male masters division was won by Whirlaway who bested perennial champs CMS and GLRR. CMS captured the female masters over Greater Lowell. The male and female seniors were captured by NMC and CSU respectively while NMC captured the male veteran's division. NMC and BAA were the only repeat team champions on the day.
Kudos to the Sugarloaf Mountain Athletic Club who did a superb job organizing this event. They have set a high standard for the rest of the series' races to emulate.