IUP Class of '86 Cleans Up at Avon 5K
BY JOHN HARWICK
PITTSBURGH, PA--Two story lines emerged from the Avon 5K on October 14 at East Liberty:
1. Three former Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP) teammates swept the first three places.
2. Runners from the host Western Pennsylvania Track Club dominated the Masters (40+) competition.
Mary Alico (18:32), Chris Simpson (19:03), and Gina McGee (19:12) made it 1-2-3 for the 1986 IUP graduates.
West Penn's Cindy Sanchas (22:23) finished first among the Masters and led her club to the 40+ team title.
Susan Ely (26:09) and her daughter, Chelsea (22:30), repeated as the first place mother-daughter team.
Mary Alico, Gina McGee, and Chris Simpson ran on the IUP cross-country team which finished third in the 1985 NCAA Division 2 XC Championships at East Stroudsburg University. Each of them have competed in the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials.
Neither winner Mary Alico (18:32) or 40+ winner Cindy Sanchas (22:23) could better the 1999 performances on a flatter Mt. Lebanon course by winner Cheryl Collins-Gatons (17:19) or 40+ winner Debi Page (22:17).
Finishers ranged in age from seven to 71.
Cyclist Dick Firsching, Pennsylvania schoolboy 220-yard dash champion in 1945 and former Pitt track star, led the runners over the course.
Marlene Harewicz, RRCA Runner-of-the-Year in 1975, served as the honorary chair for the race.
Race chair Mary Harwick reported that the 1999 and 2000 races raised more than $2,000 for Lydia's Place for its work with the female inmates at the Allegheny County Jail.
West Penn's Margretta Lutz, 71, ranked as the race's oldest finisher. Each year Margretta makes the 40+ rankings compiled by Running Times.
Many runners posted negative splits as the keyhole course started with an uphill mile, switched to a rolling mile around the Highland Park Reservoir, and finished with a downhill mile.
Versatile Cindy Sanchas won the 40+ in the hilly Groundhog Fall 50K just five weeks before the Avon 5K.
Chris Simpson--third in 1999--moved up to the runner-up spot.
West Penn repeated as the 40+ team champions and won four of the seven 40+ age groups contested.