POULOS AND O'NEILL SPRING TO THE FRONT
BY GEORGE BANKER
GREENBELT, MD--"I had the pressure on me. I'm a member of the Prince George's Running Club and I train out here and I won last year. I know the hills and I was trying to be competitive. I still go out too fast. I felt confident that I could take the hills," said Ellen O'Neill, of College Park, MD, after her successful defense. O'Neill finished the 15th Springburst 8K in 33:48. The race was held March 24, 2001 in Greenbelt National Park, a two-loop course with rolling hills; something challenging.
A group of about 125 registered runners stepped out into the cool morning breeze. The race was sponsored by the Prince George's Running Club. The start was on a downhill to send the runners off. A small pack of three led the way down: Rob Walker, of Silver Spring, MD, and the third place finisher last year (27:40), along with Ted Poulos of McLean, VA. In 1995, Poulos finished in fourth place (29:02). In third, Doug Kuderna, of Odenton, was the leading Masters. In 1999 Kuderna was fourth in 29:47. Also in the pack was Brian Markley, age 16, of Lovettsville, VA.
After the first loop, it was Poulos and Walker almost shoulder to shoulder and Kuderna had faded back slightly. O'Neill was in sole control of the women's race with no visible competition.
Going into the last mile, Poulos threw in a decisive surge which Walker could not respond to, and he faded back. Poulos did not hesitate and seized the moment to speed off for a first place win in 28:02.
"I knew the course well enough that you had to be patient. At 4½ miles Rob started to breathe heavy. I opened a gap and it stayed the same way. That was not part of the game plan, but it was the right time to start; he started coughing," said Poulos.
"I knew that Rob had an advantage on the uphills, but the opportunity struck and I said, 'Why not?' The third guy was with us for three miles. It was good to have the people cheering us on. There was so much work to do on this course. I had to save some for the end," added Poulos.
"Today was a pleasure to run. I was planning for all possibilities. You can only race within yourself. You can have a death march on this course for the last mile. Today, I could count on my kick," said Poulos.
Walker held on to second place in 28:06 and Kuderna was third and first Masters in 28:25. Brian Markley, of Lovettsville, VA, was fourth in 30:41.
"I ran here 15 years ago and I said I would never do it again. I need to race more. The body forgets how to race. For my age I was being competitive. I'm not satisfied with my time. I did the Marine Corps Marathon last year in 3:36 and I started to feel bad at mile 13 and I even walked some," said Bob Oberti, age 53, of Hughesville, finishing in 32:18 (8th place).
"I train up here and I know the course. It's tough. They are not killer hills. The uphills slow you down more than the downhills speed you up. You lose a little bit every year and I just feel off," added Oberti.
Tracy Nichols-Busch, of College Park, MD, was second in 35:24 and Jennifer Lazio, of Alexandria, VA, was third with 36:05. The first Masters and fourth woman was Win Persina, of Washington, in 36:31.
"My strategy was to find an internal pace and stay with it. I never ran this course and I did know the hills were out there. I felt a lot slower on the hills. After the first loop, I was breathing hard. I didn't have anyone around me. I do respond to competition, I had to find it inside today. I kept a sustained pace today and that's how you do it," said Tracy.
The Club has Saturday runs at Greenbelt National Park and longer runs every other Sunday in other locations around the area. For information visit the Web site http://www.pgrc.freeservers.com or call (301) 486-0041 or (301) 474-6961.
1. Ted Poulos 28:02
1. Doug Kuderna 28:25
1. Ellen O'Neill 33:48
1. Win Persina 36:31