Level of Pittsylvania XC Challenge
BY JOHN HARWICK
PITTSBURGH, PA--Participation climbed and records fell in the fifth annual Pittsylvania XC Challenge on a clear and cool November 8 at hilly Frick Park.
Participation hit 158 to easily top the 99 in 1999, 78 in 2000, 97 in 2002, and 90 last year. And it pushed the five-year total to 521 for a three-digit average.
Fifteen of 34 age-group records (44%) fell thanks to the large increase in finishers: nine of 23 in the 8K, three of four in the 4K, and three of seven in the 2K.
Record breakers ranged in age from 5-year-old Mary Humphrey of Pittsburgh (5-and-under) to aging West Penners Joyce Geroux (60-64) and John Harwick (70-74).
Two of the area's top distance runners--Indiana High's Marrisa Umbel and Jerry Pullins of the Pharaoh Hounds--won the featured 8K races over a demanding course.
Marrisa had capped her junior XC season a week earlier with a silver-medal performance in the PIAAs. That nine-second loss snapped her unbeaten fall streak.
Marrisa (31:32) claimed an 11-second win over Maureen McGranaghan of the Pharaoh Hounds. Jerry (26:49) edged St. Vincent's men's XC coach Andy Herr by two seconds.
Runners ranged in age from 5-year-old twins David and Mary Humphrey of Pittsburgh to West Penn's 78-year-old Marvin Kaufman.
West Penners own 18 of the 35 age-group records with eight of the 13 men's records and eight of the 10 women's records.
Dick Firsching, Mt. Lebanon's 1945 PIAA 220y gold medalist, started the 2K and 4K races. Mark Schwartz, long-time USATF National officer, started the 8K.
Smethport High's Ben Hahn, fourth highest finishing freshmen in the PIAAs, won the 4K in a record 14:08. And Indiana High's Rachel Umbel--another standout freshmen--won the 4K in a record 16:39.
Runners from three states competed: Arizona, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. Tucson's Ramesh Jagasia traveled the farthest.
St. Vincent's women and the Pharaoh Hounds' men claimed the Open (20-29) team titles, but the host West Penn crew took the women's 30-39 and 40-49 and the men's 30-39, 40-49, and 50-plus titles.