Well, for the first time in many years (since 1991 maybe), I wasn't at the Big Sky State Games. And, for the first time since 2001, I wasn't going to be around to announce the Montana Mile. Just too much travel to and from Billings this spring and early summer (it's an 850 mile round trip from Plains); and, I have to travel there in a bit over a week from now. So, I had to tell Karen Gall (and it pained me to do so) that I couldn't make it over this year.
But, I was at least comforted by the fact that my old friend Jeff Thomas was willing to take up the task. And, with the work he's done at events such as the Spring Meadow Triathlon and the Wulfman CDT 14K (plus with Dave Coppock managing the technical components of the race), I know things would be fine.
Turns out that this wasn't necessarily the year to miss out on the event. With temps dropping to the high 70's, negligible winds and loaded fields, the stage was set for big happenings. How about a couple of new records - is that big enough.
The women were after Nicole Hunt's record of 4:59.8 from 2001. The one and only time to date under 5:00. Well, after years of chasing it, Lois Ricardi (now Lois Ricardi Keller) finally got the sub-5:00 time and the record. Her 4:59.5 took the measure of a solid field. An Idaho State grad, Lois had won the last 2 editions of the race, including a 5:04.8 time from last year.
She was followed by:
Sara Graves - 5:06.2 (Boston Marathon elite runner to Montana Mile - what a range)
Bridgette Hoenke - 5:11.5
Chloe Palakovich - 5:20.4
Alexa Aragon - 5:21.3 (the older of the Aragon sisters)
Dani Aragon - 5:21.7
Nicole Rietz - 5:22.5
Brook Rogers - 5:26.7
Not a bad day with all the women under 5:30.
The men hit the track with a bit of a "rivalry" going on at the front. In 2007, John Ricardi won the race in 4:19 over Patric Casey's 4:27 (having just completed his junior year in HS). In 2008, Casey took the win 4:17 to 4:19. So, 2009 was a bit of a rubber match. With John wrapping up his time as a collegion (Idaho State) and Patrick just getting going in his (sophomore to be at Montana State) it was two young studs in their prime going head to head. And, toss in Air Force Acadamey's senior to be Zach Nordhal (3rd in 2008 in 4:21) and you have the makings of a great run.
But, Patrick decided to make it into a time trial. Going out hard and fast, he was alone by 500 meters. Ricardie and Nordhal were both running at a pace in the 4:15 to 4:18 range, thinking that Patrick would come back. Patrick had other ideas. Looking to set a new PR (much like he did in winning in 2008), he kept the burners on and crushed not only his old PR; but, the old record (Chuck Sloan - 4:12.2 in 2001) and the 4:10 barrier as well with his 4:09.6.
A stunning run. Sub-4:10 in the off-season. Could this be our next Montanan to go sub-4:00 at the mile? Who knows.
Following Patrick were:
John Ricardi - 4:18.6
Zac Nordahl - 4:20.4
Forrest Lewton - 4:22.0
Zach Barrett - 4:22.7
Lynn Reynolds - 4:24.1
Thomas Jodoin - 4:24.5
Mike Fisher - 4:25.0
Dan Jackson - 4:26.0
Matt Winter - 4:27.1
Mike Asay - 4:34.8
Chase Robinson - 4:45.3
Wow, big night, big fun. Sorry to have missed it.
To see a video clip of the finishes, check out: http://billingsgazette.com/sports/vmix_6fd8005a-735a-11de-8ba2-001cc4c002e0.html
The Muddy Buzzard