So, being raised in Butte - one week after St. Paddy's day I'd normally still be seeing green as an after-effect of so much green beer from the "holiday" falling on a Saturday. But, being older and much, much, much wiser - that's not the case any longer. Rather, I'm still seeing the glorious green results of two consecutive weekends of early season road racing.
The weekend of March 10th brought about the kick off to the 2012 road racing season kicked off with events in Missoula, Anaconda and Polson. All had big turnouts with almost 700 in Missoula, 600+ in Anaconda and 200+ in Polson.
In Missoula - a new 7-Miler was added to the Run For The Luck Of It race ticket (in addition to the 5K that had been part of the 2010 and 2011 events); and, that brought out a couple of the Western MT big guns. Jimmy Grant (the 5K course record holder) cranked out a super fast 36:01 for a 3-minute win over Caleb Deitz. On the women's side, marathoner Trisha Miller dropped down in distance and showed that she hasn't lost a step since her big win at the PF Chang's Marathon (Phoenix) in January. Her 42:21 gave her a comfortable 2 minute + win over former UM runner Brooke Andrus. One of the more impressive performances in the 7-mile was from 51-year old Steve Brown who placed 5th overall and 1st master's at 45:02.
In the 5-K one of Montana's female master's stars took the women's title. That would be ageless speedster Mary Thane. With a new master's record and equalling the course record, Mary hit the line at 18:55 for a narrow 6-second win over Darr Tucknott. On the men's side, Mark Handleman (a newer Missoula resident) got a 30 second win at 16:22. But, most impressive was Jim Murphy (41) with a 3rd-place overall in an impressive 17:00 - a serious master's effort.
The March Meltdown in Polson had a good turnout (it was quite a nice day in NW Montana) for the Polson Running Club event; but, the race times weren't super fast or super deep (with a couple of exceptions). Matt Seely (who appears to now have joined the master's age brackets) was the overall 10K winner at 37:13. Winning the women's race and getting second overall was Jessica Johnson at 39:18. And,, how about 63 year old Larry Richards hitting 46:14 - 5th overall and 2nd masters.
But, the granddaddy of the first weekend was the AOH (Ancient Order of the Hibernians) St. Patty's race in Anaconda. Being the oldest race of the weekend (31st Annual), it has a long competitive history. (The Buzzard can remember racing in the 2nd annual event back in 1983) This year had a nice mix of "old" faces and new in the winner's columns. Winning the women's 6-mile was rising star Lisa Minnehan of Billings at 38:44. That gave her a 2 minute win over 50-year old (and master's champ) Mary Dean of Butte (Mary has been running and racing about as long as The Buzzard and is a great person - I'm so happy to see her still competing strongly after all these years. [In fact, she ran in that 1983 race with me!!]) The men's 6-mile went to resurgent master's ace Kyle Strode of Helena. His 32:03 gave him a solid 90 second win over Clint Choquette of Butte, with Rob Walker of Bozeman 3rd overall (and 2nd Master) at 34:12. It appears as though Kyle's time is the #2 masters performance all time at this event.
On the 3-mile side - confusion reigned at the start. Due to some problems with transportation logistics (which seems to happen just about every year in Anaconda), the start was just a bit of mayhem. For a good description, read Ray Hunt's account of the race here - http://www.buttespissandmoanrunners.com/Butte%20Races/AOH%20Run/Results/2012%20Results.pdf. But, the race did get off and underway and then it was all about race. And, how about the racing of Nicole Hunt!!!!! Coming back from delivering twins Roam and Ember last fall, she's back and she's still fast. How about 17:09 fast - #6 all time and new master's course record. That gave her a clear 1:00 win over high schooler Olivia Wood of Anaconda. And, another ageless wonder is Suzie Kaluza who placed 5th overall at 50 in 19:27. Wow - that's some smoking hot running on the women's side.
For the men - it was fast and it was tight. Matt Choquette of Butte led the parade with a super speedy 14:54. He just held off Butte High's Josh Panasuk's 14:55. And, they were just 16 seconds clear of Adraim Little. Then came the master's runners - Ray Hunt at 15:40 followed by Pat Judge of Helena in 16:08 followed by 50- year old Marvin Speece (Butte) in 16:37. I think that the pavement has now cooled enough to be safe for vehicular travel!!!!!
That then brings us to the true St. Patty's weekend (March 17th & 18th). And the weekend kicked off in grand style with the big and fast 5th Annual Run To The Pub 10K and 1/2-Marathon races in Bozeman. For the big - how aobut 1,424 finishers (with 1064 in the 10K and 360 in the Half)!!!! Bozeman knows how to bring in the masses for their local runniing scene.
And the fast - how about 29:45 10K fast. Yes - you read that right - 29:45. That was the time for MSU alum, Dillon native and current MSU assistant coach Lyle WeeseRaunig, Rothermel, Brist and Bishop.
Following Lyle was Kyle Strode (as first master) in 32:42. That's one week removed from his overall win at the AOH 6-mile and show that Strode at 48 still has some serious wheels. Then Clint Choquette (the AOH 3-mile winner) was in at 33:28. One notable master's performance was the return of Kirk Keller to racing - and, at 53 he was 7th overall and 2nd master at 37:02.
On the women's side, Lindsey Hintz of Bozeman was 5th overall with her 35:03 - a sub-36:00 by a women in MT is another rarity. Again - good to see some young wheels hitting the roads. Katherine Aune of Missoula was 2nd in 38:50 and Holly Waler of Bozeman was thrid in 39:32.
In the Half Marathon, Chad Wallin of Minot, ND took the win in a respectable 75:20. He was followed by Ethan Willhelm in 75:41 and in 3rd was Scott Sneddon of Billings in 76:24. Of note, Sneddon at 49 took the measure of fellow master Scott Creel (Creel 5th overall at 76:59). Now, the half marathon is outside of Creel's usual race range; but, still - it's unusual to see Creel get beaten by a fellow MT master.
For the women, Hilary Smith ran 86:42 for a 90-second win over Margaret Landberg. 8th overall and 1st master was Nikki Kimball in 93:27.
The Shamrock Run in Billings was held on Sunday the 18th and once again represented the Yellowstone Rim Runners annual membership kickoff event. As expected, Alan King led the field of 417 runners with his 16:43 5K. Next in was Zach Hunter at 16:59 and Joel Harris in 17:08. Ian Blair in 4th was the overall master's winner at 18:25.
For the women, Billings Senior's Dani Aragon took the win in 19:30. This was good preparation for her final high school track season. Then, she'll be taking her talents to Notre Dame to join sister Alexa as part of the Fighting Irish track and XC squads. She was followed by Nicole Lair in 19:42 and Jen Reiter at 20:17.
The Great Falls community had a small (< 100 runners) event on the 17th hosted by the UGF track and XC teams; but, no times seem to available for the event.
What a great couple of weekends. Now, everybody gets a few weeks to recover before we get into some of the spring racing like the Summit Classic (Kalispell), Ice Breaker (Great Falls) and River Bank Runs (Missoula).
See you on the roads, tracks and trails
The Muddy Buzzard.