By Rick Platt
Rivalries, along with the pursuit of records and fast times, are one of the things that makes area road racing satisfying and interesting. At last Saturday’s third annual FURever Homes 8K and 5K at Jamestown High School, three two-person rivalries defined the race.
Many records were set as well as two all-time Colonial Road Runners 8K age group records, a men’s overall race record, and nine age group race records were broken on the Greensprings Trail course.
The race, under the leadership of race director Dave Berger, was a benefit for the Heritage Humane Society. Dogs were aplenty at the event, which started with a one mile fun run/pet run with 72 finishers for the out-and-back course that entered the Greensprings Trail for a half mile, before returning to the school parking lot staging area.
The main event, the 8K, was next, and was a Colonial Road Runners Grand Prix event. The 8K was a mostly flat, scenic and shaded course on a combination of the Greensprings Trail, the Powhatan Creek Trail, and the Capital Trail, with about two miles asphalt roads or paved recreational paths, and less than three miles on the crushed stone Greensprings Trail.
The 5K, more a fun run, was next, starting 20 minutes after the 8K, and following the same course as the 8K for 2.5 miles, before coming up the bike path paralleling Route 5, then merging with the 8K participants to a common finish line. All told, there were 171 finishers in the combined 8K and 5K, and a total of 243 finishers for all three races.
The first of the three rivalries is one that has been going on all year long, and is between the CRR’s two premier runners, Roger Hopper and Adam Otstot. The first time they met, at March’s Jamestown High School Swamp Run 5K, Otstot prevailed by 28 seconds, but it has been all Hopper since then.
Hopper’s victory on Saturday was his seventh straight after recording the top times at the Victory at Yorktown 10K, the DOG Street 5K, the Virginia Fire Chiefs 5K, the First Colony 5K, the Run for Mental Strength 5K and the Kingswood Klam 5K.
Seven-time CRR Grand Prix champion Hopper, 31, of Chesapeake, won the race in a course record 25:39, 12 seconds faster than his previous record from last year’s FURever race.
Otstot, 40, of Williamsburg was a close second in 25:48, but that was most noteworthy as an all-time CRR 8K record, smashing the previous men’s 40-44 record of 27:21 by Travis Boltjes, 40, of Washington, D.C. in 2019 on the same Greensprings 8K course.
Otstot had already broken the all-time CRR men’s 40-44 record for the 5K distance at the First Colony 5K in early May with a 15:44, 11 seconds faster than the previous record by William & Mary chemistry professor Rob Hinkle. The all-time CRR 10K mark for men 40-44 is next, most likely at the Aug. 27 Democracy Dash 10K at Jamestown Island. Third overall for the men was Jason Miller, 44, of Williamsburg, in 30:20.
Otstot emailed, “My only time goal for this race was to try to get under the all-time 40-44 CRR 8K record (27:21). I figured I was more than capable of running in the mid 26′s, but my goal has been to race hard, try to stay at the front for as long as I can, and then if I fall off that pace (which I have been doing for the past two months), buckle down to run as fast as possible and age grade as high as I can. I did not expect to be able to run under 26 minutes on that course, so that was a pleasant surprise. We’ve got a good thing going—I’m working to gain the fitness to stay up with Roger, and he’s working to be able to keep pulling away from me. We both keep doing what we’re doing, and we’ll both run some great races this year. It’s exciting stuff.”
“Weather got a little toasty by the time the race started, but for June, it wasn’t unexpected. The shady trail sections helped for sure. Dave [Berger] and his team put on a fantastic event. Roger and I ran together pretty much for the first two miles. He created a gap during the third mile and then really stretched it out over the fourth mile. I came back on him a few seconds over the last half mile, but it was far too late at that point, the damage was done.”
Hopper emailed, “I had built a lead of a few seconds by the time we got to the 3 mile marker, and I continued to gradually add to this as we crossed the bridge through the swamp and traversed the long final portion on the Greensprings Trail. I had about a 10-12 second lead with a quarter mile to go—Adam cut into this with a strong kick, but he wasn’t going to catch me at that point. I was pressing as hard as I could the whole way to break 25:40 [he did by one second] and lower my old course record of 25:51.”
The next rivalry came in the women’s 8K, as four-time CRR Grand Prix champion Emily Honeycutt, 31, of Newport News came from behind, with the help of 66-year-old standout Pete Gibson of Murfreesboro, N.C., to catch former Jamestown High distance star Thorin Jean (a 2018 graduate), 21, of Williamsburg.
Honeycutt finished in 33:14, 16 seconds ahead of Jean. Jean still holds the course record of 32:11 from her JHS senior year in 2017 as a 17-year-old. Both Honeycutt (women 30-34) and Jean (women 20-24) broke race age group records, and each also holds the next younger age group record (the 32:11 for Jean in the 15-19 age group) and 34:46 by Honeycutt in the 25-29 age group (also in 2017).
Third overall for the women was Svetlana Goncharova, 24, of Williamburg, in 35:45, who warmed up for the 8K by winning the one-mile fun run/pet run, along with her dog Nesmi. Goncharova previously held the women’s 20-24 record (36:07 from last year) that Jean broke. Jean just graduated from West Point, and will start her military career in mid-July, first in Missouri, but should have one final CRR race, the July 16 Night Owl 9K at Freedom Park, before leaving.
Honeycutt emailed, “I got out a little ahead of Thorin, but she passed me as we entered Greensprings Trail. I was behind her after that and worked to close the gap. I was finally able to catch and pass her at the 4 mile mark. Running with Pete Gibson proved to be extremely helpful as it gave me someone to push with, and he was pointing out the safest spots to step on the trail and the best ways to run the tangents. He passed Thorin before I did, and once I passed her, having him in front of me once again, gave me someone to focus on for the end of the race. This was the first time I have beaten Thorin in years, she is typically well in front of me (I believe the last time I was able to beat her, she was a sophomore at Jamestown and still young into her career of competitive running. As an avid animal lover, I was happy to support Dave Berger and the Heritage Humane Society.”
Gibson broke the other all-time CRR record for men 65-69. His time of 33:04 (10 seconds ahead of Honeycutt) was 27 seconds better than the previous all-time CRR mark for men 65-69, the 33:31 run by Jim Thornton, 65, of Toano at the 2019 Freedom Run 8K. Although setting an all-time CRR mark, it was not Gibson’s best effort, as he ran in the 31s for 8K earlier this year. Besides having an awful night of sleep, he had to get up quite early for the 1.5 hour drive from Murfreesboro to Williamsburg.
The third rivalry was between Honeycutt’s long-time boyfriend, Todd Kessler, and Ryan Doupe, who both have moved from the Peninsula to the Southwest. Kessler won the men’s overall title for the CRR Grand Prix in both 2011 and ‘13 (Hopper started his streak in 2015), was third in 2012 and second in 2014. Of note is that Gibson, then age 53, was second overall in the CRR Grand Prix in 2009. Doupe had several third-place CRR Grand Prix finishes while living in Newport News.
Although Kessler was the dominant runner when they both lived on the Peninsula, it was Doupe who won bragging rights last Saturday. The two placed fourth and fifth overall for the men. Doupe, 36, of Edmond, Okla. was timed in 31:18, with Kessler, 39, of Dallas 18 seconds behind. Kessler emailed, “I honestly was not planning on racing the 8K until I saw that Ryan was signed up so I figured it would be fun to have a little Red River Shootout [akin to the Texas-Oklahoma football rivalry] with him since we’re in the same age group and he now lives in OK while I’m in TX. Unfortunately it was not much of a shootout as his lead mostly grew from start to finish. It’s always fun returning to the area in the summer for a CRR [event] and running with people that I spent years racing against. For 4 years now, I have been teaching History and coaching Speech & Debate at The Episcopal School of Dallas, traveling with my team to tournaments throughout Texas and across the country.”
Doupe emailed, “I was in front of Todd the whole way and didn’t see him, despite him finishing just 18 seconds behind me. My last two miles were a bit slower, and I’m surprised that Todd did not catch me. I must have run more than 50 races with Todd over the past decade, and this may have been the first time I have beaten him (we have also raced a bunch of Peninsula Track Club races together). I actually haven’t been doing much running or training…I’ve only averaged 17 miles per week this year, and I’ve only done 5 races this year. In comparison I averaged 31 races per year between 2011 and 2019—most of them CRR or PTC races. I did run a 1:26 half marathon at the OKC Memorial race in April. I left the Peninsula in May 2019 to take on a new job with a new employer [he worked for Ferguson while on the Peninsula]. I do come back 2-3 times a year to visit family. My wife’s (Hazel) parents and siblings live in the Hampton Roads area, and they sure do like it when my 4-year-old daughter (Annalyn) visits!”
Doupe broke the Greensprings race record for men 35-39, Hopper got the men’s 30-34 record, Otstot the men’s 40-44 record, and Gibson the men’s 65-69 record. The other men’s record that fell was by race walker Alexey Popov, 39, of Newport News (49:25).
For the women, race records were broken by Jean (20-24), Honeycutt (30-34), along with Keeley Maddux, 14, of Richmond (women 14-and-under, 38:03), Marjorie Friedrichs, 55, of Williamsburg (women 55-59, 37:57) and Laura Liechti, 60, of Williamsburg (race walk, 1:05:03).
On an age-graded basis, as compiled by CRR statistician Jim Gullo, three runners were above the national-class 80% level, and six more were above the regional-class level of 70%. Otstot led the way with his 84.69%, followed by Gibson (82.51%), Hopper (81.74%), Paul Pelletier, 56, of Williamsburg (32:37, 76.34%), Steve Menzies, 58, of Williamsburg (33:37, 75.36%), Friedrichs (74.66%), Miller (74.29%), Honeycutt (71.46%) and Jean (70.75%).
Rick Platt is president of Colonial Road Runners.