Gleason Defends Title at 22nd
BY GEORGE A. HANCOCK
WINDBER, PA--Suddenly, a shot echoed along Graham Avenue. Then, a muffled shout resounded along the quaint borough Avenue followed by the pounding sound of hurried footsteps. What in the world is going on?
Were anxious citizens fleeing another raucous Windber Borough Council meeting? Was the local convenience store giving away free gas? Was an angry mob hot on Bernie Greene's trail?
Actually no, it was Saturday morning July 7, 2001 and the start of the 22nd Annual J. Irving & John Whalley Memorial 5-Mile Run. There were 123 runners, 62 walkers, one wheelchair participant, and over 50 children competed in the annual Whalley events.
Saturday morning dawned with superb weather conditions. The sky was clear and the humidity was very low. The starting line temperature was about 60 degrees. However, the warming sun proved troublesome for some road racers. The 5-mile road course offers little shade. The runners would duel the sun and the rolling roadways before reaching the Community Center finish line.
The 2-mile walkers began their event at 8:30 a.m. This course treks along both Graham and Somerset Avenues. A.J. Harbaugh, 48, from Berlin, PA, won the walk event in 17:56.
The top female walk finisher was 50-year-old Diane Rugh, from Johnstown, PA. Rugh completed the course in 19:58 and placed 4th overall.
The 5-mile run began at 9:00 a.m. The road race begins and ends at the Windber Community Building on Graham Avenue. The runners dash up Graham Avenue towards Bedford Street and Paint Borough. The runners then turn left at Main Street and proceed past the Scalp Level-Paint Fire Company and into the Laurel Ford complex then exit past Ferrell Gas onto Jefferson Avenue. Normally, the road racers fly along Jefferson, past the Bi-Lo plaza, until they reach Graham Avenue. However, roadside construction forced a detour behind the historic Arcadia building and the Windber Post Office. This minor detour proved inconsequential. The runners then run up Graham toward the high school and turn left on 23rd Street and then left again on Somerset Avenue. This is where the road race gets very interesting. The runners then climb Somerset Avenue and eventually reach flat ground just past the 9th Street traffic light. The runners head for 4th Street and another left turn back down onto Graham Avenue. Those runners with any speed or legs left pick up the pace and race down Graham towards the Community Center finish line.
Steve Gonzalez, 16, placed second in 27:10. Third place went to 15-year-old Dave Mock. Mock toured the course in 27:32.
These three young gentlemen are all Westmont High School running products. Westmont coach Mike Harchick has assembled a fleet running group. Westmont High School's running prowess was amply demonstrated in the 2001 Whalley road race. Mock stated after the race that Coach Harchick has a mix of good runners. Mock also stated Coach Harchick passes his own running knowledge on to his running pupils. Harchick is a veteran Cambria County roadrunner.
Elizabeth Pile was the top female runner completing the course in 33:02. The 21-year-old Davidsville, PA runner placed 13th overall in the 5-mile race. Leanna Nastase closed fast but still placed second in 33:15. Nastase, 16, from Beaverdale, PA, placed 15th overall in the race.
Windber, PA, resident Samatha Kormanik, 18, finished third in 36:13. Kormanik, a recent Windber High School graduate, placed 39th in the 5-mile run.
Perhaps the stellar Whalley performance was 16-year-old Michael Adams' athletic accomplishment. Adams, a Johnstown, PA, resident, is wheelchair bound. However, Adams completed the rolling Whalley course in a record smashing 26:34. Adams demolished Emil Branas' 1995 40:38 wheelchair time.
A larger then normal finish line crowd cheered the runners and walkers toward the Whalley finish line. Many local residents gathered along the race course offering encouragement and cool water.
The local fire companies and the fire police again provided outstanding traffic control. Traffic and the athletes both flowed in unison. Very few motorists were inconvenienced by the Whalley race.
Dave and Tim Mapes provided outstanding finish line service. A large volunteer contingent ensured that the runners and walkers had a safe, successful athletic event.
The only complaints dealt with the extended time spent in the awards ceremony. The Whalley Memorial Committee in both the walk and 5-mile run provides overall and deep age-group awards. Special awards are also issued in various categories. The awards ceremony is long but these awards from a small community are outstanding.
The postrace food and beverage spread is amazing. The Whalley Race Committee offers an array of foods, fruits, snacks, and assorted beverages for the Whalley participants. Postrace fellowship is clearly the goal of the Race Committee.
The Whalley Race Committee prefers the first July in Saturday for its annual road event. So, tentative plans are for July 5, 2003--the 23rd Whalley Memorial Road Race.