On the Road Meeting the Challenge
By BRUCE OAKLEY
White River Roadrunners President-elect
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The Challenge Series is down to the nitty gritty as 11 of our 14 races are history. The standings are a mix of domination and knockdown, drag-out, toe to toe (heel to toe?) battles.
The expanded series has kept more men in contention, with only one division clinched. A few women's divisions are not settled, but the leaders are in strong positions.
Both Overall competitions are especially tight. Tyler Webb leads Bruce Oakley by 1 point in Men's Overall, with Matt Walker close behind having two races still available to score. In Women's Overall, Kristen Treadway leads Jennifer Liles-Dorris by 2 points with Ashley Beller in striking distance should the leaders falter or miss the remaining races. Webb and Treadway are each short one race of maximum and would clinch with one more third place or better, but for Webb the next two races fall during his high school cross-country season.
Other tight divisions include M40-49, where Shawn Patterson Sr. holds a 2-point edge over Todd Coleman, who nevertheless can win the division with a first place in any of the last three races. Clan Weatherford is undefeated in the group, but missed both of the 18-point Step Up races and can't score enough points to catch up.
In M30-39, undefeated Matt Walker has moved a point ahead of Brian Yeager and still has two races left to score.
Kyle Haun is undefeated in M20-29 with three races available to score, but Tyler Bishop, Anthony Coles, and Shane Tucker all can still win the group if Haun should miss a race or two. Bishop is the only contender who has already finished the five races required to be eligible for an award. Tyler Webb leads M10-19 as well as the Overall, but if he misses the final three races, Shawn Patterson Jr. has a chance to pass. Patterson, too, will be caught up in high school cross-country season for the next two Challenge races.
Joel Cannady has six second places and one first for a good lead over Rusty Hinges in M60-69, but Dennis Anderson has four firsts and a third and could claim the division with two more victories.
The battle among the women is in W30-39, where Liles-Dorris leads Ashley Beller 79-71, but Beller can clinch at least a tie for the title with one victory in the last three races. Liles-Dorris then would have to win the other two to tie. The situation is similar in W50-59, with Debra Haun holding the edge on undefeated Betsy Tucker, who has one race yet to score. Tucker clinches the title with a third place in one of the remaining races.
Shut That Barn Door
A few groups are left wrangling for second and third places, because too few points remain to catch the leaders.
Oakley is undefeated to clinch M50-59 with Tim Oster a steady second. Linda Dale is undefeated to clinch W60-69, Treadway the same in W20-29. Dana Dowell has clinched W40-49 with two firsts and five seconds.
Coulda Been a Contender
The younger groups may not have anyone finish the required five races to receive an award. No boy has run more than once in M0-9, so there will be no awards in that group. Kady Tosh can win the W10-19 with two more finishes, and Clara Nikkel can do the same in W0-9. Several women in W20-29 and W40-49 can claim second or third by finishing two or all three remaining races to get to the needed five scores. Only two runners have completed five races in M10-19, so third is open there.
The Big Picture
It's been a busy year. We have included 291 runners so far in 2013, about 10 percent more than all of last year. The Overall divisions have had six different winners each, and every age group has had at least three different winners, except W60-69. There, Kaye Jackson won the Penguin 5K, no one ran the High Rock 10-Mile, and Linda Dale has run and won the other nine.
Dale joins Brandie Merrill, Dana Dowell, and Joel Cannady as the only ones to have run the maximum nine races (Penguin and High Rock have two distances). Several runners have finished seven or eight races and can still earn Iron Roadrunner status by finishing 10.
We have new faces atop the age groups as well. Dale is the only assured repeat winner from 2012, though Betsy Tucker, Todd Coleman and Shawn Patterson Jr. are in second with solid chances to defend. Last year's Overall champs, Shannon Box and Crystal Cossey, missed the Step Up races and can finish no better than third this year.
Always Next Year
We should begin thinking about next year's series and any scoring or scheduling changes. Do we have too many/too few races? Not enough Step Up races? Race directors may want to weigh in on being added to or dropped from the series, and those needing an extra bump for their cause may request to be highlighted in 2014 as we rotate our Step Up status.
And when we get all done crunching numbers and reading charts, remember that's not really how we measure our success. We do best when we run for fun! Beep beep!