Sunday, January 8, 2017

2016 GRC Team Awards

The team gathered last night for our annual meeting and team awards. See below for commentary on each recipient. Thanks for all of your support in 2016!

Women’s MVP—Stephanie Reich

Steph established herself as a national-class runner in 2016, recording numerous impressive victories, and running a seemingly endless string of huge PRs.  Among the notable races Steph won were the Penn Relays Olympic Development 10,000 meters, the Army 10 Mile (by over two minutes), and the USATF East Region Cross Country championship.  On the track, Steph ran PRs of 4:31.1 for 1500, 9:49 for 3000, 16:32 for 5000, and 34:12 for 10,000, and each of those performances is second on the GRC all-time list.  On the roads, Steph ran PRs of 4:56 for the mile, 16:42 for 5k, 56:29 for 10 miles, and 1:15:45 for the half marathon (on a hilly course, with no race-specific workouts, 36 hours after running a hard 1500 on the track).  Her 5k and 10 mile times are club records, her mile time is second on the all-time list, and her half marathon is third on the all-time list.  Steph capped off her year with a stellar performance at Clubs XC, where she placed 26th, the second best result in GRC history, and she led the team to a superb 6th place finish.  Steph is only getting better, and we’re going to see many more impressive victories and club records from her in the months and years to come.
Stephanie Reich
Men’s MVP—Stewart Reich

Stewart started 2016 looking to establish himself as a GRC A-team runner.  After a series of breakthrough performances at wide range of distances, Stewart finished 2016 as a threat to break numerous GRC club records in 2017.  On the track, Stewart ran PRs of 3:57.2 for 1500, and 14:39.5 for 5000.  On the roads, he ran PRs of 4:13.9 in the mile, 14:45 for 5k, 31:40 for 10k (less than an hour after running his road 5k PR), and 51:15 in his 10 mile debut.  Stewart’s performance at Clubs, where he ran a 10k PR of 31:15, is emblematic of his amazing improvement in a very short time.  At the start of the year his 5k PR, run on the track, was 15:04.  At Clubs, he went through 5k on a fairly challenging xc course in 14:56, and kept right on rolling.  The Navy Mile was one of the few races all year where Stewart did not run a PR, but he showed his potential for greatness when he went toe-to-toe with a national-class field, beat several four-minute milers, and finished 2 seconds behind a 2016 US Olympian.  Stewart is just beginning to scratch the surface of his talent, and his future is bright indeed.
Stewart Reich

Women’s Newcomer of the Year—Elena Barham

After graduating from Northwestern in the spring as an Academic All-American, Elena had an outstanding fall season for GRC.  Elena made an auspicious GRC debut, winning the Pacers Clarendon Day 10k in 36:16.  Elena capped off her the road portion of her season with a strong half marathon debut in Philadelphia, where she ran 1:21:14 on an unexpectedly difficult course.  Elena truly shined in cross country, placing 3rd in the USATF East Regional, and capping off her season with an excellent 76th place finish at Clubs, which ties her for 9th on the GRC all-time list.  Elena will be focused on the track this spring, and we’re sure to see a series of huge PRs from her.
Elena Barham

Men’s Newcomer of the Year—David McKay

David was an excellent cross country runner in college (as a senior at Luther College in 2008, he was 8th at D-III nationals), and in recent years his focus shifted to the marathon (in 2014 he ran a PR of 2:27:28), trail running, and ultras.  While David has not totally shaken the trail/ultra bug, as demonstrated by his crushing the course record at the Patapsco Valley 50k in October, he made a highly successful return to cross country this fall.  After getting his xc legs back under him at two early season meets, David had a major breakthrough at the USATF East Regional, placing 4th.  Even though the course in Tallahassee was far too flat for his liking, David finished an outstanding 100th place at Clubs.  With David’s excellent range and renewed affinity for shorter races, we’ll be seeing many great performances from him in the future.
David McKay

Nina Brekelmans Award—Mary Grace Pellegrini

Ever since Nina’s tragic death, Mary Grace has been singularly focused on honoring Nina’s memory, and she had gone to extraordinary lengths to make it possible to continue Nina’s mission of empowering women athletes in the Middle East.  Among Mary Grace’s many endeavors to further that incredibly noble objective are establishing the Nina Brekelmans Memorial Foundation, serving as Race Director for the Nina Brekelmans Memorial Scholarship 5k, and travelling to Jordan to participate in the Nina Brekelmans Running Camp and Race for Girls.  While doing all of that to honor Nina, on top of working a demanding job, Mary Grace managed to find time in 2016 to train for her first marathon, and coming off a serious knee injury that greatly hampered her fitness, she ran an impressive 3:20 in her debut.  Mary Grace will look to improve on her marathon PR when she runs Boston this spring, and she hopes to ramp up her training when she heads off to business school at Michigan in the fall.  Mary Grace’s dedication to Nina, her dear friend and teammate, has been truly exemplary, and she has been an inspiration to all of GRC.
Mary Grace Pellegrini

Lauren Woodall Roady Award—Sam Luff

Sam has made an extraordinary impact during his GRC career, both as an athlete and as a team leader.  Sam was the men’s MVP in 2011, when he ran club records on the track in the 5000 (14:15) and 10,000 (30:13), and in 2012, when he shattered his own club record in the 10,000 by running the outstanding time of 29:37.  Despite taking a nasty spill mid-race, Sam was the 5th man on our team that placed 9th at Clubs XC in 2013, which was a major breakthrough for our program.  Sam persisted through a series of injury-plagued seasons, and made an excellent marathon debut in 2016, running 2:28:03 in very challenging conditions at Grandmas, establishing himself as a legitimate contender for the 2020 Olympic Trials.  In addition to his prowess on the track and the roads, as a long-serving GRC board member and three-term team president, Sam has been directly involved in the phenomenal success of the team.  Among his many administrative accomplishments, Sam assisted with the incorporation of the team as a non-profit, and was an integral part of the negotiations with Pacers that resulted in our affiliation with our generous sponsor.  While Sam is headed to San Francisco to seek fame and fortune, his influence on the team will endure long after his departure.
Sam Luff


Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Coach Jerry: "Train to Celebrate the Wins"

Our rockstar coach, Jerry Alexander, wrote a Pacers Running blogpost chronicling our women's team's outstanding 6th place performance at the 2016 USATF Club Cross Country National Championships. Coach Jerry's blogpost gives the women's team well-earned press for their great accomplishment.

Monday, December 26, 2016

SCOOPED: LetsRun breaks news of Charlie Soprano's birth

While this blog was promised exclusive access to news pertaining to the birth of Steve Soprano's firstborn child, the BroJos of LRC seem to have beaten us to the punch.

Congratulations to Steve and CJ!

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

KLIMGAGED!

Brreuters Wire Services - Washington, D.C.

Following a whirlwind courtship, former GRC President Jake Klim was able to outfox his lovely girlfriend, Katie Mischenko, by convincing her to marry him. Sources report that Klim was able to take time away from an intense Marine Corps Marathon training regimen to pick out a beautiful ring, seen below.

Stay tuned to this blog for all the juicy details of the "Klimchenko" wedding.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Clubs analysis: Historic women's team finish, men turn in solid performance, and Wertz shines



Post-clubs commentary by Coach Jerry


We had a truly phenomenal day at Clubs, with excellent performances across the board.  

The headline was the amazing 6th place finish of the women's team, which was the best result for men or women in GRC history.  

When I analyzed the entries last week, I was confident that despite a very strong field, which included the entire top 10 from 2015 as well as some strong squads that did not compete last year, if we ran well a top 10 finish was a realistic goal.  Being the eternal optimist, I felt that if everything went perfectly, we might be able to place as high as 7th.  To finish 6th in such a competitive field was beyond my most ambitious hopes, and I could not be more proud of that result.  

The team result was the product of excellent individual performances, led by Steph's outstanding 26th place, in 20:37, which is the second best placing ever at Clubs by a GRC athlete.  Steph has proven this fall that she is a national caliber runner, and her dramatic improvement will continue in 2017.  

Emily made a stellar GRC debut, finishing 29th in 20:41, which is the third best placing in GRC history.  Emily is a truly superb talent, and we're going to see great things from her in the future.  

Frances was 57th in 21:18, the 5th best finish in GRC history, and that was a significant improvement over her outstanding run last year.  Maura ran the best race of her career, finishing an excellent 60th, in 21:21.  

Maura does not want to admit that she is an outstanding xc runner, but she proved the point conclusively on Saturday.  

In her first xc race in 11 years, Kerry was 70th, in 21:34, to cap off an excellent late season foray into shorter races, which is going to make her a better marathoner going forward.  

Elena ran a very strong race to close out her outstanding rookie season with GRC, placing 76th in 21:43.  

Liz was our 7th finisher, placing 98th place in 22:12, which was a major breakthrough for her. 

Elyssa was 119th in 22:42, followed closely by Hannah in 22:44, and they both fought hard for their teammates.  Alyson and Lindsay B ran strong races, finishing in 23:55 and 24:34, respectively, and they are relieved to know that they won't have to run that far again until Clubs 2017.  

This was truly a fantastic performance from the entire team, and every one of our athletes played a part in our great result.  

To put into context how much depth we had, prior to Saturday the 5th best all time GRC women's performance at Clubs was 76th place.  In Tallahassee, our 6th finisher was 76th place.  To further illustrate the point regarding our depth, if Steph had been disqualified for throwing one of her competitors to the ground with a horse collar tackle (which is something she is known to do now and again), and we had scored our 2d-6th finishers, we would have placed 9th.  Considering that our previous best women's finish was 10th, that is impressive indeed.  

I am beyond proud of our women, who came together when it counted, and ran as a team to achieve an incredible result.  The women have made amazing progress since 2011 when our first team at Clubs competed with 5 athletes, one of whom could have run in the masters race, and we're just getting started.  

Next year, we're going for the podium!

The men also ran extremely well, placing 12th in a talented field, which is the second best men's result in GRC history.  

Luke led the way, placing 78th in 31:13.  This was Luke's 4th appearance at Clubs for GRC, and it was his most impressive performance so far considering the myriad health issues he has been dealing with.  Luke is now back close to full fitness, and I'm excited to see continued progress from him.  

Stewart was 80th in 31:15, which is a 10k PR, and he did it the hard way, getting out way too aggressively and hanging on in the second half of the race.  Stewart learned a valuable lesson in tactics, and he will be better for it as he continues to develop into a true A level runner.  

Phil ran a very strong, consistent race, finishing in 87th in 31:28.  

David M ran his best race in a GRC jersey, finishing an excellent 100th place in 31:42.  Cabell ran a big 10k PR of 31:47, placing 105th, as he continues to work his way back into shape after injury.  

Michael made an impressive 10k debut in 32:12, and despite being in uncharted waters at the 10k distance, he fought hard all the way to the tape.  Balmer rounded out our A team with a very strong 32:29, which is the kind of reliable race he delivers every year at Clubs.  

I was very pleased with the men's performance up and down the line.  Our top 3 of Stewart, Phil, and Luke came through, and David and Cabell provided outstanding support.  Indeed, the spread from our 1st to 5th man was a mere 34 seconds, which is far and away the tightest pack we've ever had at Clubs.  Even without two of our superstars who were unable to make the trip, the men beat several formidable teams that have consistently beaten us in the past, and when we're at full strength next year, we'll be gunning for a return to the top 10.

Ryan, our final A team athlete, was unable to finish after being assaulted mid-race by a less than sportsman-like competitor.  Despite the testimony of an athlete from another team who witnessed the incident, the wise folks at USATF did not feel that a deliberate foul that resulted in a painful fall for Ryan (though thankfully it wasn't anything that a few frescas couldn't cure) warranted a disqualification for the perpetrator.  Ryan was running hard and would have been in the mix for our top 5, and while his race came to a premature end, I was pleased with his effort, and I'm looking forward to strong performances from him on the track this spring.

The men's B team placed 24th, the best performance ever for a GRC B team, which was good enough to beat all other B teams, and many A teams.  

Steve led the way in a strong 32:47, which is an impressive performance as he returns to fitness after a nagging injury.  

Evan ran 33:22 in his first xc race since college, and he ran a smart, consistent race, and moved forward with authority in the second half.  

Kyle was close behind in 33:28, and although Kyle paid the price for an aggressive start, he is in great shape, and will be ready for some PRs on the track.  

Sean ran a steady 33:35, which was the best he could hope for given a nagging injury that continues to limit him.  

Greg ran a solid 33:59, followed by Tex Paul in 34:07, Matt in 34:42, Chris in 34:52, and Breezy in 37:51.  I was really pleased to have Tex on the starting line, and it is a measure of his love for GRC that no matter how hectic his travel schedule, and how undertrained he is due to his severe time constraints, he makes it to Clubs every year.  

Breezy ran his final clubs as an open athlete, and next year as a newly-minted master he will be able to compete on a level playing field, and make some noise.

Speaking of the masters race, Dave Wertz turned in the best performance of his storied career, placing 10th in a loaded field.  

Dave's masters debut in 2015 did not go well, to say the least, as he and I grossly underestimated the level of competition, which resulted in an overly ambitious first 5k and a painfully slow second 5k.  With an important tactical lesson learned, Dave executed his race plan to perfection, as he got out conservatively and settled in with a large chase pack.  Dave bided his time in the middle of that pack for most of the race, and then made a strong move with less than 2k to go.  Dave battled to the tape with several athletes, and the finish was so tight that Dave was only 5 seconds out of 5th place.  

I've been working with Dave for over 10 years, and to see his transformation from beginner to national caliber master has been truly inspiring.  Well done, young fella!


We put a whole lot of time and trouble into preparing for this weekend (after all, those van lists didn't write themselves), and our success was months in the making.  It's fair to say that a very small percentage of our athletes view xc as their primary season, but we make Clubs a priority by, among things, allocating a significant portion of our budget to the meet, because it provides us with the one opportunity all year to race as a team in a meaningful competition.  



The joy in the room as we celebrated our accomplishments on Saturday night made it clear that our priorities are in order, and I'm already looking forward to even better results next year.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

FLASH: Women 6th, Men 12th, Wertz 10th Men's Master at Clubs, Clubs, Clubs

Pacers//GRC-New Balance women placed 6th as a team this morning in Tallahassee at the USATF Cross Country Championships this morning. The women ran a strong team race led by Steph and Emily finishing 26th and 29th respectively.

The men also had a strong team effort finishing 12th as a team behind Luke and Stewart finishing 78th and 80th respectively.

Dave Wertz had an outstanding day, finishing 10th overall in the men's masters race. Wertz finished 25 places heigher than last year.

The men's "B" team showed off Pacers//GRC-New Balance's depth finishing 24th overall led by Steve Soprano. And the women's "B" team,  while not having enough to score, had solid performances from Liz, Lindsay and Alyson.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Clubs Preview: Pacers//GRC-New Balance Sends Talent, Depth to Florida for Clubs, Clubs, Clubs

If it’s December, it’s Clubs.

The Pacers//GRC-New Balance team will head to Tallahassee this weekend for the USATF Cross Country Championships to once again compete against the best club teams in the country. It's the eighth straight year GRC has sent a men's team and the third straight trip, and fifth overall, for the women's team.

“We take clubs very seriously,” said Coach Jerry Alexander. “This year our preparation has been outstanding.”

Every year “Clubs” is an important race for the team. As the focal team race of the year, it’s the premier chance for the team to go toe-to-toe with the best clubs across the country, showing off both the team’s individual talent and depth.

The emphasis on the Club Cross Country Championships starts in late summer. Due to the emphasis on the race and opportunity the race presents the team to compete on the national level, the race is not just referred to as “clubs,” by the team, but rather “Clubs, Clubs,Clubs,” providing the extra emphasis.

Clubs, Clubs, Clubs is a team goal and a topic of conversation all year, and this year is no exception. The team is as ready as it’s ever been to show the over-paid professional and club athletes how a team built on dedication, comraderie and talent competes.

The women’s team looks for its best performance yet at the Cross Country Championships. The team is talented and deep, and will be staring down a top-10 finish. They finished 10th in 2014.

Steph at the USATF East Regional where
 she took home the win.
The women’s “A” team looks to be led by Steph and Emily D, making a strong one-two punch. Steph has dominated her fall season winning the Army Ten-Miler by two-minutes, setting the team road 5k record, and cruising to victory in the USATF East Regional meet.

Emily D will be making her debut for the team. The former Princeton standout brings strong cross country credentials to the team placing second in the NCAA East Regional last year.

Frances hopes to make this not just a one-two punch, but a one-two-three punch as she’ll look to better her strong 70th place finish at the Cross country Championships last year. “She’s in PR shape and ready to improve on (last year's) 70th place finish,” Jerry said.

The women's team pre-race at the
USATF East Regional. 
Veterans Maura, Kerry and Hannah will add invaluable depth. Maura is in “the best shape of her life,” according to Alexander. Kerry is an inevitably strong runner and looks to dominate on her home turf of Florida, a state in which she once defeated Jenny Barringer for a state track championship. And Hannah is back in great shape and should have a strong showing at Clubs, Clubs, Clubs. 

Newcomers Elena and Elyssa round out the woman’s “A” team, running their first Clubs, Clubs, Clubs. Both looking strong, they’ll contribute to the team's pursuit of a top-10 finish.

The women will also field a “B” team which is strong in its own right. Liz, Alyson, Chelsea, Maggie and Lindsay B know how to compete and will add depth to the woman’s contingent.

On the men’s side, the team will brings firepower and a deep roster seeking to not just place its “A” team highly, matching or exceeding its ninth place finish in 2013, but to also show off its depth and strength of character by performing well with a B team .

Stewart has been nothing but dominant all fall, obliterating the competition every time he races. He cruised to victory in the USATF East Regional Championship in November and looks for another excellent race at Clubs, Clubs, Clubs during what has been nothing short of a breakout season.

Luke (right) and Phil (left) get rolling at the
USATF East Regional.
Phil, our top returning man from last year’s meet, looks to dominate in his own right. “He’s in better shape this year and will be ready to roll,” Alexander said.

Luke lives for cross country and is the healthiest he’s been in two years. He’s a perennial top runner and looks to show that he’s back and better than ever.

Rounding out the men’s “A” team is David M, Michael, Cabell, Witty and Paul "Chilly/Chili" Balmer.

David M is a strong cross country runner who produced well at regionals. The speedy Michael looks to extend his range at the 10k cross country distance.  Cabell is no stranger to running fast at cross country and is getting back into racing form. Ryan is one of the most talented on the team and knows how to put together a strong race. And Paul Balmer, who has contributed in previous clubs, is someone you always want on your “A” team because he knows how to compete and leave it all on the line.

The men’s “B” team looks to be right on the heels of the “A” team. Texas Paul, Blur, Greg, Kyle Wagener, Steve Soprano, Chris Van Es, Matt (Fridge), Brian (Breezy) and Evan Jurkovich have had a strong fall of workouts and will likely keep a tight pack throughout the race.

It’s also reported that the “B” team has been holding a series of secret strategy sessions on how it might leapfrog the “A” squad. This report has not been confirmed, however, by the time of this publication.

Last, but closer to first than last, is Dave Wertz running the Clubs Masters race. Last year was Wertz’s masters debut, placing 35th. This year, Wertz knows what the competition will bring and he’s had a strong fall of sharpening to improve on that.

With one of its strongest and deepest teams yet, GRC hopes to leave its mark at the 2016 USATF Club Cross Country Championships this weekend.

Monday, December 5, 2016

12/3 weekend results - holiday races and the opening of track season

We had some very nice performances this weekend as we tune up for Clubs.

Frances and Liz got a jump on track season, with Frances winning the 5000 at the Navy Lid Lifter in 17:18, and Liz winning the 3000 at the F & M Diplomat Open in 10:22. Frances led from the gun and ran it as progression, closing in 37 for the last 200. Liz's performance was not only a huge PR, it was arguably the best race of her life, and she felt like she had some gas left in the tank, so that bodes extremely well for a good run at Clubs, and an excellent track season.

On the roads, the women dominated the Pacers Jingle All the Way 5k, with Amy getting the win in 17:26, followed by Kerry in second in 17:38, a 20 second PR, and Elena in third in 17:53. The course may well have been 9 or 10 seconds long, but whatever the actual distance, Kerry and Elena showed that they are ready to get after it at Clubs. Jesse made her GRC debut in 19:58, and while 5k is well outside of her comfort zone, there is no doubt that Jesse is going to be kicking butt and taking names when she gets on the track.

On the men's side, Dickson was 5th in 15:56, and Chris was 10th in 16:08.

In the inaugural Jingle 15k, Kieran decided a couple of days ahead of time to jump in for what we expected would be a solo tempo, but due to the presence of a professional Ethiopian, Kieran had some company on his way to second place in the very solid time of 47:55. Charlie was 4th in a strong 50:27.

Last but surely not least, those irrepressible Reichs won the Frederick Candy Cane Dash 5k, with Stewart running a solo 15:23, and Steph following him across the line in 17:14. They both ran the race as a progression, and Steph's 5:18 final mile is a sure sign that she is ready to do something special in Tallahassee.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Turkey Trot Results!

As tradition holds, GRC athletes fanned out across the country this morning to compete in local Turkey Trots. Julie Tarallo netted the best prize of the year - her weight in turkey - by winning the Easton Turkey Chase five miler with a time of 30:02.



Although the prize was less desirable, Stephanie Reich set a club record at the Way Station 5k with an unbelievable 16:42. Husband Stewart didn't do so bad himself with his 15:02, good for the W.  And Stew wasn't the only winner. Maura, who has been on a tear on distances from the 5k to the HM, topped  the podium at the PNC YMCA Turkey Trot in Pittsburgh (17:54). Although nothing edible ensued, the race sponsors are mailing her a turkey trophy.  

In the Midwest, Kyle and Evan grabbed pumpkin pies (seen below) after finishing third (15:35) and eighth (15:53), respectively, in the Minneapolis Turkey Trot.  



The results of the Alexandria Turkey Trot are also in:

4. Luke 24:48
6. Steve S 25:49
8. Dangerous Dave 26:00
9. Charlie 26:04
11. Tom 26:30
13 Chris V 26:40
19. Tex Paul 27:20
25. Amy 28:17
27. Kerry "the banana" Allen 28:46
124. Lindsay B 33:40

Fulfilling a long-standing quest, Dickson "the Nazarene" Mercer broke the tape at the Nazareth, PA Run for the Pie with a formidable 16:19 on a fair course.  Meanwhile, in Fairfax, Dave O put in a 17:17 with Laura pushing the stroller in in under 22.  

Out west, David McKay gobbled up several local high schoolers to break the tape at the Missoula, Montana Turkey Trot 8k (26:16). His efforts were met with a gorgeous apple pie.  
 

Matt Hassett received a well-earned "Top-100" finisher ceramic coffee mug for his efforts of 26:25 at the Ashenfelter 8k in New Jersey.

This author had a forgettable performance in the Southborough, MA Gobble Wobble, but his wife set a "pregnancy PR" for the 5k.  Our efforts returned no prizes after some rapscallion absconded with the Dunkin' Doughnuts cache reserved for rewards shortly after the gun went off.   

We are awaiting the results for Jake Klim's Thanksgiving athletic activities. Patrick Murphy has also been known to hit the roads on Turkey Day, but no results for him have surfaced.  

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Sunday, November 20, 2016

FLASH: KEELY OBLITERATES SUB 3 IN PHILLY

Keely Eckberg smashed her sub-3 goal this morning at the Philadelphia Marathon running 2:56:18, a 5 minute PR. Keely executed a strong, smart race nailing even splits en route to a 16th place finish among women. Keely's run is all the more impressive considering conditions were less than ideal with strong winds, and she's battled a cranky Achille's the last few weeks. Keely revealed her secret to success to be chowing down on eight servings of rice on marathon eve, but this blogger thinks Keely's immense dedication and unfailingly positive attitude were strong contributing factors as well.

Keely en route to big PR in Philly

On Saturday, Elena Barham made a very strong half marathon debut in Philadelphia, placing 11th in 1:21:14. This was Elena's first race over 10k and only her third road race. Look for Elena to continue to roll at clubsclubsclubs and on the roads for years to come.

Baby Wiggy!

Six years ago to the day, Jake Klim predicted that GRC ex-pat Joe Wiegner would "meet a babe" whom he would "make love to," which would result in the birth of a "beautiful baby wiggy."


Well, folks, it happened Friday when Wiggy and his wife brought a wonderful Baby Wiggy into the world. Congratulations Joe and family!