'Birthday boy' wins Hare and Tortoise 8K

Special to the Gazette

Three of the four men’s and women’s competitions in last Saturday’s ninth annual “The Hare and Tortoise New Quarter Park Run/Walk” were complete runaways, but one race, the men’s 8K, had back-and forth competition between Greg Dawson of Williamsburg and Jack Lovett of Yorktown, before the runner celebrating his birthday that day prevailed.

Dawson, who was celebrating his 52nd birthday on race day, won in 30:42 (6:11 pace per mile), with Lovett, 47, 16 seconds behind in 30:58. Third-place Mathew Cheruiyot, 38, of Williamsburg, was more than five minutes back in a time of 36:02. Dawson’s mile splits were 6:07, 6:19, 6:18, 6:17 and 6:01.

The Karene O’Hare Ovarian Cancer Memorial event was organized by race director John O’Hare, in partnership with the Williamsburg Community Foundation, with timing by Jim Elder and Colonial Sports. All proceeds from the New Quarter Park event support the fight against ovarian cancer.

This year, a new event was added, the 5K run. A one-mile fun run started things off at 8:30 a.m., with the 5K at 9 a.m., and the more competitive and traditional 8K at 9:10 a.m. There were 125 finishers in the 5K run/walk, and an additional 64 finishers in the 8K run/walk. In the 5K run, Wayne Parfitt, 52, of Newport News won by more than 90 seconds in 18:33 (5:59 per mile), with second place overall to Hunter Muench, 15, of Williamsburg (20:08) and third place to Coady Walk, 9, of Williamsburg (24:02).

For the women, Betsy Edinger, 24, of Williamsburg won the 5K by 2.5 minutes in 23:16, followed by Mary Kueser, 15, of Williamsburg (25:45) and Jill Hunt, 10, of Williamsburg (26:17).

Pat Eden, 86, of Williamsburg, was the oldest runner, placing third of six in the 70-and-over category, in 52:25. Rick Webb, 59, of Yorktown was the fastest 5K race walker, in 40:33.

In the 8K women’s division, Rose Crist, 62, of Lanexa, was first for the women (and fourth overall, men and women combined), in 37:14, winning by 2 minutes, 20 seconds (perhaps the oldest woman ever to win a Peninsula area road race) over runner-up Connie Cassidy, 35, of Williamsburg (39:34), and the final runner to break the under 40-minute barrier. Christine McCann, 41, of Poquoson was the third woman (41:17).

The fastest 8K race walker was Maureen Ventrice, 52, of Virginia Beach, timed in 57:50. Judy Stewart, 78, of Williamsburg, was the oldest 8K finisher, timed in 1:00:49 to win the 70-and-over division.

That left the men’s 8K as the one race with close competition, between Dawson and Lovett, who have each prevailed in recent years.

Dawson chose not to wear his Garmin watch Saturday morning, feeling that has helped him race better recently, including a year’s-best-equaling 5K of 18:32 at the York River State Park 5K Aug. 26, and a second-place age group finish at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Virginia Beach Half Marathon Sept. 3.

“I ran by feel,” said Dawson about running without the watch. “At Hare and Tortoise, Jack and I ran shoulder to shoulder for the first mile, and then he pulled away until about the 3-mile mark, opening up a big lead. I was feeling a little panic about losing contact, but I felt that I was running strong and well, and I wanted to trust my pace instinct (‘Use the force, Luke!’) instead of being sucked into a pace that would hurt me in the later stages of the race.

“From about the three-mile mark until the bottom of the fire road, we maintained a roughly constant distance. Once we turned into the field at the bottom of the hill, I started increasing my effort; partly because the grass felt much better on my feet, and partly because I knew that we had less than a mile to go, and I had a large gap to close. He seemed to slow on the first hill, and I caught him at the top, I pressed hard on the flat before the second hill, and then I opened a comfortable lead on him on the second hill. From that point, I just ran as hard as I could to the finish.”

Besides his rivalry with Lovett, Dawson is now developing a friendly rivalry with Alex Taylor, 27, of Williamsburg, a new addition to the Williamsburg running scene, who ran his first local race at August’s Lake Matoaka Trail Challenge 4.3 Miler, beating Dawson by 28 seconds, 29:25 to 29:53.

Taylor was the fastest local runner at the Sept. 3 Rock ‘n’ Roll. In an email with the subject head, “Greg goes down AGAIN!” Taylor wrote, “Greg and I both ran the Rock n Roll Half Marathon in Virginia Beach. Somehow, he snuck into the first corral. We exchanged friendly handshakes. After the first four miles I created a little separation and that was the last I saw of him. Granted he finished only 60 seconds behind me, but I got him again.”

Taylor was 31st overall and fourth in the men’s 25-29 age group in 1:27:28, Dawson (37th overall) was second in the 50-54 age group in 1:28:18, and David Lockhard , 48, of Hampton (38th overall), was third for men 45-49, in 1:28:26. Will Christian, 34, of Norfolk was the fastest Hampton Roads runner, second overall in 1:09:23. The race was won by Jeffrey Eggleston, 32, of Boulder, Colorado, in 1:05:54.

Other top local runners were Alexandre Deur, 44, of Yorktown (1:30:28), Matthew Kopfer, 16, of Williamsburg (1:34:02), Ryan Wheelock, 29, of Newport News (1:38:56), Alan Van Zandt, 56, of Newport News (1:40:13), Randy Bartel, 47, of Yorktown (1:41:53), Corey Hayes, 32, of Williamsburg (1:43:42) and Jason Todd, 36, of Newport News (1:44:50).

For the women at Rock ‘n ‘ Roll, in a race won by Mao Ichiyama, 20, of Japan in 1:13:49, the top local runner was Kelsey Wheelock, 30, of Newport News in 1:28:27, seventh overall woman. Other fast local women were Eda Kininger, 38, of Williamsburg (1:51:01), Melody Glass, 40, of Williamsburg (1:51:42) and Kim Ratcliffe, 49, of Yorktown (1:52:27). There were a total of 8,887 finishers in Sunday’s Rock ‘n ‘ Roll half marathon and Saturday’s 5K, with 57 from Williamsburg, 55 from Yorktown, 123 from Newport News and three from Toano.

Platt is president of Colonial Road Runners.

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