Sunday, August 26, 2012

2012 USATF Southern California Road Mile Championships

Andrew (AJ) Acosta runs a sub-4:00 mile, finishing in 3:58!

The 3rd time proved to be the charm at the 2012 USATF Southern California Road Mile Championships when AJ Acosta (M-26) rocketed across the finish line in 3:58.98, delivering a blistering finish to the excitement and applause of runners and spectators who hoped to witness the phenomenon of a sub 4:00 mile. Second place finisher Jon Rankin (M-30) nearly missed the sub 4:00 mark, running 4:00.43. Despite the strong competition and record turnout in other divisions, Acosta was the only runner to set a new course record at the Championships, held on Sunday, August 26, at the El Toro Airfield. In fact, both Acosta and Rankin’s time would beat the previous open men’s course record of 4:01.24 run by Brandon Bethke (M-24) in 2011.

3rd place - Brosnan, 2nd place - Rankin, and winner AJ Acosta

Events kicked off at 7:00 am, start of the combined race walk competition, with Janelle Zamora (F-10) winning the 12 and younger division with a time of 10:47.76, and Patsy Hurley (F-17) winning the 13-18 bracket with a time of 7:59.70. This was one of several “three-peat” performances for Road Mile veterans, with Zamora and Hurley winning in 2010 and 2011 as well.
In the boy’s division Andrew Paez (M-12) walked 9:39.20. After a strong record as a youth competitor, Julia Townsend (F-19) took the open competition in a time of 8:29.49. The 40-54 men’s competition was won by Joseph Nierosku (M-50) with a time of 7:42.85, and Carol Alexander (F-52) won with a time of 9:18.52. The final division was for walkers 55+, with Rick Campbell (M-66) 8:58.44 and Donna Cunningham (F-65) 9:20.76 besting the sizeable field of age 55+ race walkers, the largest single division of race walkers at the 2012 Road Mile Championships.

For the youth runners, each USTAF youth age division competed in their own race, making for an hour of exciting youth competition. The sub-bantam division was won by Melina Gonzalez (F-7) 6:56.81 and Noah Lindo (M-8) 6:07.76. Bantam division winners were Brianna Valles (F-10) 5:46.81 and Coney Jackson (M-10) 5:35.24. Gonzalez and Valles were among a number of USATF members representing the McFarland Track Club who made the long trip to Irvine to compete and show the depth of talent in the Central California Association.

In the midget division first-place gold medals were awarded to: Chloe Arriaga (F-11) 5:22.17 and Raymon Ornelas (M-11) 5:13.10. In the youth division: Bianca Alonzo (F-14) 5:08.02 and Hugo Nova (M-13) running 4:43.36. Intermediate division: Laura Guidolin (F-15) 5:00.97 and Anthony Palazzo (M-15) 4:37.82. Wrapping up the hour of youth competition was the Young division, with top awards going to Sara Kebede (F-17) 5:25.03 and Michael Pincchini (M-17) 4:28.43.

Youth participation expanded in 2012, with The Equalizers posting 4342 points in the youth club competition, besting the South Orange County Wildcats with 4141 and the Chino Hills Flash with 3999.

The spectators were truly impressed with the outstanding performances of the youth athletes, so the adults, parents and coaches in the open competition had quite a high bar to meet. Leading the way for the general open competition was Vanessa Lordi (F-35) with a mile time of 5:23.73. Luis Palacios (M-32) squeezed out a victorious 4:30.95 mile, but only in the final 50 meters of the race was he able to pull around the remarkable Brian Duff (M-35) who finished just behind Palacios with a time of 4:32.23. Duff ran a few seconds slower than his 2011 finish of 4:30.46, but this year he was pushing his daughter Marly Duff in a baby stroller!

Luis Palacios edges out Brian (and Marly, in the stroller) Duff.

In the masters division Kathleen Cushing-Murray (F-47), of the famed Cushing-Murray running dynasty, took first place with a time of 5:35.03, and Bill McQuown (M-55) won in 5:22.35. Taking home the title of most “experienced” runner was Gunnar Linde (M-84) running a strong 8:01.09

As with previous years, when the elite USATF runners stationed themselves at the starting line the cloud cover cleared, and conditions on the course heated up. Runners at the Road Mile Championships stare down one solid mile of orange cones marking the way to the finishing line, punctuated every ¼ mile by electronic timing clocks.

The elite women started in one wave, hoping to best the overall open course record of Brenda Martinez (F-23), 4:38.43, set in 2011. First across the finish line was Tanya Zeferjahn (F-28) in 4:47.72 winning the women’s open division, with Genevieve Graff-Ermeling (F-41) running 5:09.50 for the women’s 40-49 win, and Debbie Lee (F-55) running 5:40.70 for the 50+ age-group title. Lee’s finish put her in the top slot for age-graded Grand Prix points in the women’s division on Sunday, scoring 937.

Tanya Zeferjahn (F-28) finishers in 4:47.72.

The men’s race was divided into two starts, with men 40 to 49, and 50+ racing as one group. Repeating their 1-2 top performance in their age division from 2011 was Ray Knerr (M-52) with a time of 4:37.69 and Rich Burns (M-57) in 4:42.53. Like Lee, Burns distinguished himself as the overall leader in age-graded Grand Prix points, scoring 951 points, contributing to the victory of the Cal Coast Track Club in club scoring at the Road Mile Championships. Jon Megeff (M-49) raced 4:40.38, right behind Knerr, taking the 40-49 division. Megeff’s excellent finished contributed to the scoring of his club, Club Ed Running, taking second place to the members of Cal Coast.

Masters: Ray Knerr (4:37), Jon Megeff (4:40) and Rich Burns (4:42).

The Road Mile Championships are starting to feel like a new Southern California institution, marking the end of summer, before runners embark on a season of fall cross country racing. Look for the Road Mile in 2013, when runners can again challenge themselves to run “their best mile” at the El Toro Airfield.