BY JOHN HARWICK
PITTSBURGH, PA--History repeated itself in the fourth annual Pittsylvania XC Challenge on November 9 at Frick Park.
Lauren Shaffer of West Allegheny High--back in 1999--followed up her Pennsylvania State win by taking the Challenge in 32:13.
Christine Taranto of West Allegheny used the same script this year by following up her state win with a Challenge victory.
Christine's quick 30:56 shaved 1:17 off Lauren's course record and would have given her a tenth in the men's race.
Former Pitt start Jim Hamilton, honorary chair for this year's Challenge, coached Lauren and now coaches Christine.
Three West Virginia runners staged a wire-to-wire battle in the men's race with former West Virginia University ace Jeff Gorman winning.
Next came defending 16-19 champion Justin Simpson and twin brother Josh of Oak Glen High, WV.
Justin and Josh repeated their blanket finish from the West Virginia State meet that saw them finish 1-2.
West Penn Track Club runners swept the 40-plus titles thanks to Sandy Onofray (2nd overall) and Carl Hubel (4th overall).
Nine runners--five men and four women--broke age-group records. And three runners established records.
8-9: Jeff Turner of Pittsburgh ran 9:39 to break the 9:57 record set by Chris Nabors of Mt. Lebanon in 2001.
10-11: Kevin May of the West Penn Track Club ran 7:48 to break the 9:17 record set by teammate Mike Harwick in 1999.
5-and-under: Katie Harwick of the West Penn Track Club ran 12:29 to establish a record.
8-9: Deirdre Love of Pittsburgh ran 9:55 to break the 10:26 record set by Mary Harwick of the West Penn Track Club in 1999.
14-15: Annie Leckenby of the West Penn Track Club ran 18:53 to break the 19:39 record se by teammate Jenn Moore in 1999.
45-49: Carl Hubel of the West Penn Track Club ran 28:24 to break the 29:29 record he set in 2001.
50-54: Dave Sobal of the West Penn Track Club ran 31:49 to break the 34:27 record set by teammate Dave Bowser in 2000.
60-64: Grant Anderson of Pittsburgh ran 49:25 to establish a record.
70-74: Elmer Gasper of the West Penn Track Club ran 57:24 to break the 1:13:36 record set by Marvin Kaufman of the Washington County Road Runners Club in 1999.
16-19: Christine Taranto of the West Penn Track Club ran 30:56 to break the 32:13 record set by teammate Lauren Shaffer in 1999.
20-24: Deborah Glosser of the West Penn Track Club ran 39:28 to break the 41:14 record set by teammate Betsy Schauer in 2000.
60-64: Keiko MacDonald of the West Penn Track Club ran 54:26 to establish a record.
Runners ranged in age from 5-year-olds Morgan Ansell of Hunker and Katie Harwick of West Penn to 70-year-old Elmer Gasper of West Penn.
Stable describes the number of finishers in the Challenge: 99 in 1999, 78 in 2000, 97 in 2001, and 90 this year.
Starter Dick Firsching won the Pennsylvania 220y title in 1945 for Mt. Lebanon High.
Bob Harwick--along with children Katie, Mark, and Mike--had the largest contingent of finishers from one family.
Last year Ricky Moore--then a Wheeling Jesuit University red-shirt--ran 25:59 to set the 8K course record. This year Ricky's quick 25:13 win in the West Virginia Conference 5-Mile Championships led the Cardinals to the team title. Then the two-time West Virginia high school state XC champ took third in 32:45 in the NCAA Division 2 Regional 10K and 108th in 33:44.3 in the NCAA Division 2 National 10K.
Referee Mark Schwartz--the long-time USATF national official--did his usual excellent job of running the finish line.
Three Challenge runners finished in the top ten in the Mid-East XC Meet on November 16 at Kettering, OH. Justin Simpson took third in 15:39.18, Josh Simpson fourth in 15:39.92, and Christine Taranto seventh in 18:45.77. And all three ran in Foot Locker Regionals. Justin took seventh in 15:06.9 and Josh took 10th in 15:15.14 on November 30 at Charlotte, NC. Christine took 18th in 18:57.69 on November 30 at New York City. Justin--by finishing in the top eight--qualified for the Foot Locker Nationals on December 15 in San Diego, CA.
Runners from the host West Penn team own 22 of the 34 age-group records (65%).