Santa Cruz Cross Country Challenge Recap

The results are already posted on the PA website. The preliminary indications are that the Super Seniors finished in a tie for second with Buffalo Chips and the Seniors team took sixth.

The day started ominously enough. It was overcast and drizzly as we headed up the hill on highway 17 to Santa Cruz. Traffic slowed to a crawl near Santa Cruz as we encountered an overturned vehicle. It was hard to tell what happened, but it appears that multiple vehicles were involved and that ex-Spartan Jeff Hongo’s vehicle was one of those disabled by the accident. Thankfully, Jeff was unhurt. However, he didn’t make it to the race.

It’s a good thing they separated the Men’s Open and Master’s race, because it was a really big turnout. So big, that all the parking lots were full. The women’s race got started while we were still looking for parking space. Newly minted 50 years Linda Somers Smith won the four mile race in a time of 23:04. Her central coast colleague, Nicole Hagobian finished 2nd in 23:18. Most of the top finishers were youngsters from Impala and New Balance Silicon Valley teams. However, it was impressive to see some of older women runners taking the youngsters to school. Christine Kennedy (age 56) ran 25:40 and Sara Freitas (age 53) ran 26:10. That’s how fast you had to run to finish in the top 3 for women’s seniors. Former Spartan, Clare Saxton ran 25:44 to finish 13th overall.

We had seven Spartans toeing the line when the verbal command (which took some of us by surprise) came to start the race. It was the usual narrow start, but not as congested as usual, since the open and master’s races were divided. Ex-Spartan Jose Pina, who may have been the unlikely beneficiary of Jeff Hongo’s accident, won the masters race in 22:35. Rebel Rousers followed closely behind in second and third. Don Stewart, another newly minted 50 year old won the senior’s division in 23:21. Don Porteous, was the first super senior in 27:30 and the ageless Hans Schmid was first in the Veteran’s with a 28:22. The race went well for most of the Spartans. We’re not as fast as we once were or now want to be. In most cases, being able to toe the line is victory. Steve Radigan, who has trouble running faster than nine minute miles in training, ran sub 7:40 pace and was nearly two minutes faster than last year. Nick Butterfield, whose been dabbling in myofascial release to combat injuries, was also nearly two minutes faster than last year. Sal Martinez, was there to defend his home course and he also ran faster than last year. I didn’t run Santa Cruz last year, but was only five seconds slower than my time from two years ago. Toeing the line was definitely a victory for Kurt considering that he missed all of 2010 with knee problems. Hopefully, there are no ill effects for Kurt’s knee afterwards. Our last two finishers made important contributions for both our teams. Cisco, was our fourth super-senior. Although he didn’t score for our team, he beat the third runner from Buffalo Chips. That bumped the Chips score up by one more point and allowed us to tie them for second place. As the fifth Super Senior, Leroy as available to backfill our seniors team. If we had not had him, we would finished 8th, behind two other teams (Pamakids and Golden Valley Harriers) who had three person teams that placed higher than our first three runners.

Thanks to Carol George (Kurt’s girlfriend) for snapping pictures of us in the homestretch. It was great to look at ourselves running in full stride towards the finish line (as opposed to our tortured strides in the middle of the race). Finally, a fond farewell to Sam Hirybayashi. Most of you probably know that he succumbed to cancer (at the age of 84) during the offseason. It just wasn’t the same, not being able to see his smiling face at the end of the masters race. What an inspiration he was.

The day of racing concluded with the open men’s race. Strawberry Canyon Track and Adidas Transport appeared to dominate the team competition. There was scintillating stretch sprint between Kevin Pool of the Rebels and Daniel Tapia of Transports for the individual title. It was awesome to watch how fast they were running. Pool prevailed in a time slightly over 20 minutes. Lenin Zapata (son of former West Valley great Darryl Zapata) finished third. The festivities concluded with the award’s presentation. Thanks to Santa Cruz Track Club for putting on a first class race. They do a good job year in and year out.

This entry was posted in News. Bookmark the permalink.