BY ELEANOR BAILEY
MT. LEBANON, PA--The first-ever Road Runners Club of America Women's 5K Series, sponsored by Avon, held on October 16, had an Olympic flare.
The top three finishers in the 3.1-mile run had ties to the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials.
Cheryl Collins-Gatons coasted to victory in 17 minutes, 19 seconds.
Seven seasons ago, the Greensburg resident surprised the running world by qualifying for the Olympic Trials after having only competed in a handful of local races and training for six weeks. She is qualified to compete in the 2000 Olympic Marathon Trials in Columbia, SC.
Qualified too is Mindy Sawtelle. The 26-year-old runner from Indiana finished second to Collins-Gatons with a 17:33 time.
In third place was Christine Simpson. The 37-year-old Pittsburgh native competed in the 1988 Olympic Trials. Her top time was 19:13.
Runners ranging in ages 6 to 67 competed in the event to benefit Lydia's Place, which works with female offenders at the Allegheny County Jail during their incarceration as well as after their release.
Natalie Boerio was the youngest competitor; Toni Farah, the oldest. She was the top finisher in her age group.
Other age-group winners included: Allie McGonigle, Katie Grimm, Joy Saluga, Brandi Napenas, Tricia Snyder, Sawtelle, Collins-Gatons, Simpson, Jennifer Black, Debi Page, Leslie Evans, and Jane Donnelly.
The West Penn Track Club dominated the Open as well as the Masters divisions.
Teams included Tricia Snyder, Janet Overman, and Kim Edvardsson; Page, Cathe DeVito, and Carla Kruel. The top mother-daughter team was Susan and Chelsea Ely.
"We were pleased with how well our first event went," said race director John Harwick. "We had great cooperation, particularly with the track clubs. We hope for this to become an annual event."
Reprinted with permission of The Almanac.
Jane Donnelly, mother of former Pittsburgh Marathon winner Tammy Slusser, won the 60-64 division. Jane, 60, belongs to the Greater Pittsburgh Road Runners Club...Entries ranged in age from 6 to 67 and came from Maryland, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia...Marlene Harewicz, RRCA Runner-of-the-Year in 1975, served as the honorary chair for the race...Race director John Harwick of the host Western Pennsylvania Track Club used kilometer splits for the race. Harwick--after three years as a visiting professor in South Africa--claims the kilometer splits work well in races at kilometer distances because they (a) provide quicker feedback on pace, (b) make it easier to compute splits, and (c) add up faster for a positive boost at the 5K and 10K distances...Connie Hoon, vice president of the Greater Pittsburgh Road Runners Club, finished first in the mile fitness walk...Race referee Laura Latus, athletic director at the Jefferson Middle School in Mt. Lebanon, competed in track at the University of Tennessee....
1. Cheryl Collins-Gatons 17:19
7 and Under
1. Natalie Boerio 36:54
1. Allie McGonigle 31:51
1. Katie Grimm 22:28
1. Joy Saluga 22:31
1. Brandi Napenas 24:47
1. Tricia Snyder 19:20
1. Mindy Sawtelle 17:33
1. Cheryl Collins-Gatons 17:19
1. Christina Simpson 19:13
1. Jennifer Black 22:23
1. Debi Page 22:17
1. Leslie Evans 25:25
1. Jane Donnelly 30:26
1. Toni Farah 40:15
1. West Penn Track Club "A" 57 pts.
1. West Penn Track Club "A" 64 pts.
1. Susan and Chelsea Ely 57 pts.