Without the usual international representation of Kenyan and Ethiopian runners, Sunday's 37th annual Sentara Colonial Half Marathon was an All-American affair with the two race favorites, Will Christian of Norfolk and Renee High of Virginia Beach, winning by comfortable margins.
Two Williamsburg men, Adam Otstot and Roger Hopper, placed in the top five overall amid a patriotic atmosphere throughout the contest with the Fife and Drum Corps leading the runners from William and Mary Hall to the Jamestown Road race start a half-mile away, musketeers shooting Colonial-era guns to start both the 5K and half marathon races, and two men carrying American flags the entire 13.1-mile half marathon distance.
As always the race was organized by the William and Mary men's and women's track programs, with head coach Steve Walsh serving as the race director, the Tribe athletes manning the registration and T-shirt tables, water stops, and course marshaling, and with additional assistance by Raquel Babb and the W&M Special Events Department, the W&M training-room staff, and the W&M Sports Information Office. Chip timing was by Colonial Sports.
In contrast to last year's icy conditions that canceled the half marathon portion of the race, this year's weather was delightful, with sunny skies, light winds, warm temperatures and a high of 66.
Fortunately the runners toned down their competitive expectations. There was a more casual atmosphere than usual from the start, and although the medical staff was prepared for expected heat problems, that did not happen.
There were a total of 991 finishers in the three races, 717 in the half marathon, 229 in the on-campus 5K, and 45 in the around-W&M Hall 1K walk.
With $2,000 in prize money ($500-300-200 to the top three men and women overall), the top five men were Will Christian, 32 (1:11:46), Adam Otstot, 33 (1:12:55), Luke Rodina, 34, of Fort Meade, MD (1:16:23), Ryan Foster, 33, of Virginia Beach (1:17:00), and Roger Hopper, 25 (1:20:43).
For the women, the top five were Renee High, 34 (1:23:30), Ann Mazur, 30, of Charlottesville (1:26:34), Octavia Rinehardt, 26, of Virginia Beach (1:26:52), Jennifer Fox, 34, of Chesterfield (1:31:14) and Angela Grdina, 34, of San Diego, Calif. (1:32:11).
The top three Masters award winners were Steven Smith, 47, of Hampton (1:24:03), five-time Colonial Half Masters champion John Piggott, 50, of Williamsburg (1:25:12), and Greg Dawson, 50, of Williamsburg (1:28:10).
For the women, the top three were Debbie Hetherington, 50, of Henrico (1:33:22), Sharon Adams, 40, of Reston (1:34:07), and Debbie McLaughlin, 50, of Williamsburg (1:39:38).
Other Williamsburg or Yorktown men in the top 50 were David Piggott, 27 (1:29:57), Quinn Monette, 20 (1:30:30), Carter Ficklen, 41 (1:30:49), Marcus Holmes, 35 (1:31:09), Austin Morgan, 20 (1:32:42), Paul Pelletier, 50 (1:33:05) and Eric Haselby, 35 (1:34:05). Other local women under 1:45 were Jessica Riggs, 38 (6th female overall, 1:32:38), Lisa Osterhoudt, 33 (10th female overall,1:35:00), Katie Paulson-Smith, 24 (1:40:45), Jessica Armstrong, 20 (1:41:15), and Sarah O'Brien, 33 (1:44:32).
Men's winner Christian, who has a personal records of 1:05:10 from the 2011 Grandma's Half Marathon (Duluth, Minn.) said, "I believe the race went out conservative due to the weather. It was Ryan Foster, Adam, and I who led in the beginning. Ryan dropped back around mile 4. Adam and I stayed together until Mile 6.
"I threw in a surge to 5:15 and was able to put a little distance between us. The hilly course and the heat was definitely responsible for some slower than expected times. William and Mary is a beautiful campus and the trails were awesome. There was plenty of shade on the back part of the course."
Runner-up Otstot said, "Time-wise, I was a bit disappointed, because I felt that with a great race I could at least come close to challenging my 1:10:33 PR from this course (the 2012 Colonial). The race just didn't set up well for making a run at it, and with the hotter than average conditions, the pace was even harder to keep on top of.
"Place-wise, I am thrilled, though. I finally cracked the top three after several years of placing fourth. So from that perspective, I was quite pleased. The course is always tough, no matter the weather conditions. The hills make for a challenging run that rewards patience."
Fifth-place Hopper, the 2015 Colonial Road Runners Grand Prix champion running just his second half marathon, said he enjoyed the scenery.
"I think you'd be hard-pressed to find one better," he said. "I feel right at home in the woods since I do most of my training in similar settings like the Matoaka Woods."
Women's winner High said, "The course was awesome. It's a challenging course and if a runner goes out too quickly they will pay for it during the second half of the course."
Women's runner-up Ann Mazur, originally from Pittsburgh, Pa., was All-Big East cross country for Notre Dame (2007 undergraduate, and '09 Masters), with track PRs of 17:11 for 5,000 meters and 35:43 for 10,000 meters. She entered the ice-canceled 2015 Colonial Half, so was happy to return under better conditions.
Although she has a 1:22:06 half marathon PR (to go with a 2:57 marathon), Mazur was content to run 1:26:34 Sunday at Colonial, earning $300.
"I love racing," she said. "That's the fun part for me."
Besides being a lecturer in English for the University of Virginia (where she got her doctorate in 2014), she teaches online yoga, and runs a low-mileage 30 miles per week.
The two CRR members who carried an American flag throughout the half marathon were Bob Curtin, 63 of Hampton (2:50:08) and Craig Logsdon, 38, of Newport News (2:45:22).
Logsdon, who served 20 years in the Navy, and is now a civilian contractor with Lockheed Martin in Norfolk, said, "Running with Old Glory has become a meaningful thing for me because my patriotism for the non-profit organization that I'm a part of has made an impact in my life.
"During the run with Old Glory, it's amazing the people that approached me and thanked me for carrying the flag. It's that appreciation that keeps me running with the flag. I got a lot of cheers and salutes along the course on Sunday and made me more proud to carry the symbol of our great country."