RUNNERS SCRAMBLE FOR POSITION AS THEY HEAD FOR THE
TRAILS IN FRICK PARK.
DALE DIX PHOTO
Influx of Runners Raises Competitive
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.

 

ANDY HERR (LEFT) AND JERRY PULLINS REMAIN
NECK-AND-NECK AS THEY APPROACH THE
FINISH LINE.
DALE DIX PHOTO
Jerry moved in mid-July to Pittsburgh, and the former Georgetown/Kansas distance ace--despite a heavy racing schedule--has yet to lose a Pittsburgh race.

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.

Finish Line

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.

 

THREE GENERATIONS OF HARWICKS COMPLETED THE
CHALLENGE. FROM LEFT: JOHN HARWICK (70-74),
GRANDSON MIKE HARWICK (14-15), AND
SON BOB HARWICK (45-49).
Neither of the 8K winners threatened the meet records. Marrisa Umbel's 31:32 fell 36 seconds short of the 30:56 record set last year by West Penn's Christine Taranto (now running at the Naval Academy). And Jerry Pullins' 26:49 fell 50 seconds short of the 25:59 record set in 2001 by Ricky Moore of Wheeling Jesuit University. Ricky--on the same day as the Challenge--won the silver medal in the NCAA Division II East Region XC Championships.

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.