Young runners dominate Christmas Town Dash 8k

Special to the Gazette

With one notable exception, the eighth annual Christmas Town Dash 8K Run, held Sunday morning at Busch Gardens, was dominated by young runners with local ties, either with the College of William and Mary, or high school runners just finishing their cross country season. There were 2,499 official finishers in the 8K run/walk, a Colonial Road Runners Grand Prix event, almost the same total as in 2016 when there were 2,502 finishers.

The top three men overall were Andrew Osborne, 23, of Yorktown (26:44), Ryan Thompson, 21, of Bristow (26:58) and John Mackey, 18, of Alexandria (27:02). Osborne, a York High grad, who graduated from Lynchburg University this past May, had already easily won two area races this fall, the World Class Freedom Run 8K on Oct. 21 at Freedom Park, his 26:15 an all-time Colonial Road Runners record for men 20-24, and on Nov. 4 at the Yorktown Battlefield 10 Miler, with a time of 53:45. In both those races, Roger Hopper was runner-up, but well back. At Christmas Town, Hopper was much closer, placing fourth overall in 27:18. Hopper had already clinched his third consecutive CRR Grand Prix men’s championship.

The two W&M runners, Thompson and Mackey, gave Osborne some welcome competition. He commented, “It was a first for me. Running through the park was difficult with all of the sharp turns, also while trying to go three wide with the two William and Mary athletes. From the gun, I took it out at 5:20 pace and was hoping for competition. On the first turn, these two slender guys were right there. I was excitedly surprised. Throughout the race, we were neck and neck, three-wide. As a kid, I went to Busch Gardens hundreds of times and saw the park, but running through the park and popping in and out of the England parking lot was a new experience and perspective on the park I never thought I would have.”

The trio stayed together through four miles when Osborne picked up the pace to break open the race. His mile splits were 5:19, 5:25, 5:31, 5:17 and 5:08, his slower middle miles while running in the park. Thompson is a W&M senior from Osbourn Park High who was all CAA in cross country in 2015, taking ninth in the conference championship meet, then placing 16th in 2016. He was fourth in the CAA outdoor 10,000 meters in 2016, after placing sixth in 2015, and was fifth in the CAA 5,000 meters in 2015. His PRs are 8:39.43 for 3,000 meters, 15:00.24 for 5,000 meters and 31:37.67 for 10,000 meters.

Mackey is a W&M freshman from TC Williams High in Alexandria, who redshirted this past cross country season. He was sixth in the Virginia state championships in cross country his high school senior year and was third in the state indoor 3,200 meters. His high school PRs were 4:23.23 in the 1,600 meters and 9:29 in the indoor 3,200 meters. Mackey was one of six CTD 8K record breakers, his 27:02 was 12 seconds faster than the previous men’s 15-19 mark.

An impressive 10 of the top 20 overall men were all teenagers. After Mackey, that group included Zachary Sturm, 15, of Yorktown (8th, 29:42, Grafton High), Johnny Babyak, 15, of Smithfield (9th, 29:48, Smithfield High), Logan Jackson, 15, of Yorktown (11th, 30:00, Tabb High), Cameron Stearns, 14, of Hudgins (12th, 30:01, Mathews High), Ryan Miller, 15, of Yorktown (13th, 30:19, Grafton High), Ben Madrigal, 14, of Yorktown (15th, 30:32, an eighth grader at Grafton), Paul Glass, 16, of Williamsburg (17th, 30:45, Jamestown High), Jacob Lohr, 15, of Williamsburg (19th, 31:31, Bruton High), and Michael Laskey, 17, of Suffolk (20th, 31:38, Isle of Wight Academy). Stearns broke by eight seconds the previous CTD men’s 14-and-under record of 30:09.

The first runner over age 30 was Forest Braden, 34, of Williamsburg (5th overall in 28:52), the new W&M head men’s cross country coach, who won the CAA Coach of the Year award in his first year, after coming to Williamsburg in August, previously coaching at UCLA for eight years. Braden was a three-time All-American runner at Boise State, graduating in 2007, then ran professionally for a year, earning five top-10 finishes on the USATF road circuit.

The W&M connection continued in the women’s race, as Abigail Motley, a graduate transfer from Virginia Tech with indoor and outdoor track eligibility, easily won the women’s CTD title with a time of 30:08. Motley’s time was a CTD record for the women’s 20-24 age group, the previous record of 31:51 by Rachel Rabbitt, who graduated from Grafton High in 2013 and from W&M in 2017. Rabbitt still holds the CTD record for women 15-19, a 31:33 in 2012, her senior year at Grafton. At Virginia Tech, Motley was third in the ACC 10,000 meters in 2017, her senior year. Her track PRs are 34:48.30 for 10,000 meters, 16:41.33 for the indoor 5,000 meters and 9:38.76 for the indoor 3,000 meters. She graduated from Kellam High in Virginia Beach, where she won the Virginia state outdoor 3,200-meter title in 2013. She is the younger sister of W&M head women’s coach Natalie Hall, who ran a then record 29:43 to win the CTD in 2014. That mark was broken in 2016 by Greta Sieve, 29, of Williamsburg, the fiance of then men’s assistant distance coach Mike Henderson. To complete the W&M domination of the CTD record books is the men’s course record, a 25:14 in 2014 by the former W&M men’s distance coach Chris Solinsky.

After Motley for the women came Octavia Rinehardt, 27, of Virginia Beach (30:57), Jackie Hoffman, 24, of Newport News (32:23) Jamestown High senior Thorin Jean, 17, of Williamsburg (32:31) and Holly Bugin, 38, of New Kent (33:17). Other local high school runners in the women’s top 15 were Sorenna Jean, 15, of Williamsburg (7th, 34:36, Jamestown High), Taylor Stutt, 16, of Williamsburg (14th, 36:23, Jamestown High) and Nina Parziale, 15, of Williamsburg (15th, 36:33, Bruton High).

Besides Stearns, Mackey and Motley, CTD age group records were broken by John Piggott, 52, of Williamsburg and Barbara Biasi, 70, of Yorktown. Piggott, a Lafayette High assistant coach, who placed sixth overall for the men, was the notable exception to the domination of youthful runners in the race. Not only did he smash his previous men’s 50-54 record (30:16 last year, 29:36 this year), but he also had the highest age-graded score of the day, a national-class 82.15 percent. Following in the age-graded rankings were women’s winner Motley (79.73 percent), men’s winner Osborne (79.29 percent), men’s runner-up Thompson (78.60 percent), men’s third place Mackey (78.44 percent), men’s fourth place Hopper (77.65 percent), women’s runner-up Rinehardt (77.64 percent), Paul Pelletier, 52, of Williamsburg (32:02, 75.94 percent), Mary Jo Bailey, 56, of Williamsburg (38:23, 75.76 percent), women’s fourth place Thorin Jean (75.72 percent) and former Bruton High cross country and track coach Biasi (46:33, 75.60 percent). Biasi’s time smashed by 4.5 minutes the previous women’s 70-74 record of 51:09.

One other race record was broken, by the women’s race walk winner Maureen Ventrice, 52, of Virginia Beach, whose time of 56:23 was almost three minutes faster than the previous mark of 59:14 by Sylvia Garcia of Williamsburg.

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