Strong Winds Wreak Havok on
Shanksville Runners' Concentration

BY GEORGE A. HANCOCK

SHANKSVILLE, PA--Mother Nature crouched behind a barren hedgerow. She peered towards a local playground. Laughter and mirth resounded across the field. Children were swinging and climbing on the playground equipment. A nearby basketball game was in high gear. Runners and walkers toured the park roads in shorts and tees. The sun was bright and warm. The sky was clear. A gentle breeze ruffled the children's hair. Mother Nature smiled and whispered softly, "Sorry children, but it's too soon. Winter has several more miles to run. But, do not despair, Spring is lacing her shoes."

The 23rd Annual Shanksville 10K and 5K road races were held Sunday, March 10, 2002. The Shanksville event is Somerset County's oldest road race.

Dave Mapes is the Race Director for this outstanding running event. Traditionally, the Shanksville-Stonycreek Sophomore class helps Dave with all the race-day chores. The Class of 2004 manned the registration tables, the water stops, served refreshments, helped with the finish line details and did all the clean-up chores. This lively group helped produce another superb Shanksville road race.

The National Weather Service issued a high wind warning for Sunday, March 10, 2002. Wind gusts were expected to exceed 50 mph. Just days before the daytime temperature was a balmy 65 degrees. Dirt, leaves, and debris swirled around the Shanksville school complex. At times, the swirling debris resembled miniature twisters.

Seventy-one athletes completed the 2002 Shanksville road races. Forty runners finished the 10K course. Twenty-four runners completed the 5K run. Seven walkers finished the 5K walk.

Tom Deakins won the 2002 10K edition in 38:46. The 35-year Meyersdale, PA, resident braved the gusty winds and ran a strong race. The first female finisher was 39-year-old Cynthia Pool in 43:09.

Daryl St. Clair won the 5K run in 19:15. Melanie Zack, 13, was the first female finisher in 21:43.

Steve Bence, from Penn Hills, PA, won the 5K walk. Bence, a frequent walk competitor in Somerset County, stated the swirling crosswinds created a few balance and concentration problems. Bence stated it was difficult concentrating on the event while being buffeted by the gusty winds.

Gwen Baer, 43, was the overall top female walk finisher in 38:48.

The 5K runners and walkers experienced nasty, swirling crosswinds. The 5K course is run out-and-back from the school towards the Flight 93 crash site.

The 10K course loops around Lake Stonycreek. The 10K route passes many farms. Unfortunately, this means the area is very open. The 10K runners were beat, pummeled, and abused by the savage winds. One veteran running writer collided with a fellow veteran runner, Ken Johnson, after a tremendous wind gust blew across the road. The winds were brutal on the backside of the 10K road course.

But, dreams of apple pies kept the runners/walkers moving along the course. Dave Mapes awards apple pies instead of age-group trophies to the top finishers. This delightful treat places smiles on the road athletes' faces. This year every finisher received an apple pie.

The weary, wind-blown racers were presented with a delicious postrace food and beverage spread. Water, soda, sport drinks, cookies, pizza, pastries, chips, and pretzels awaited the road warriors. Homemade chicken noodle soup proved a delicious postrace favorite among the finishers.

Despite the unruly savage winds, the 23rd Annual Shanksville 5K & 10K races were a tremendous success.