A perfect weather day at Saturday’s eighth annual Ice-aholics World Class Gymnastics 8K led to two course records, two all-time Colonial Road Runners 8K age group or race walk records, and a slew of remarkably fast times and high age grades.
The 8K, along with an accompanying 5K and one-mile fun run, started and finished at Lois Hornsby Middle School, and went to the adjacent Freedom Park, and back. There were 115 finishers in the combined 8K and 5K, and 45 finishers in the one mile.
The race weather was in the “Goldilocks Zone”, just right. Up until this past weekend, all the summer CRR Grand Prix races were usually too hot, too humid or with the threat of thunderstorms. Last Saturday started with temperatures in the lower 50s, rising to the upper 50s during race time, and into the 60s while waiting for the race awards and numerous door prizes, along with a gymnastics demonstration by the World Class Gymnastics team.
This weekend has seen the worst from the weather gods, with Hurricane Ian and its remnants canceling the Occasion for the Arts in Williamsburg, as well as the Crawlin’ Crab Half Marathon and 5K in Hampton, and the Arc 5K at Williamsburg Landing (that final event now postponed to Nov. 5).
Taking advantage of those ideal conditions were race winners Roger Hopper and Emily Honeycutt, both multiple CRR Grand Prix champions on their way to additional titles in 2022. Hopper had two goals, to break the course record (25:18 by former New Kent High standout Andrew Carlin, 21, of Quinton in 2019), and to better his personal record (PR) of 25:21 (done twice, first at the 2020 Toano Icy 8K, and again in winning the 2021 Freedom Run 8K).
He succeeded with a time of 25:12. In CRR race history, only the all-time CRR 8K record of 23:58 by former William & Mary All-American Ed Moran, 30, of Williamsburg, at the 2011 Icelandic Seafood Fest 8K in Lee Hall, is faster.
Hopper, 31, of Chesapeake, emailed, “Mile splits were about 4:58, 5:08 [including a steep uphill stretch], 5:03, 5:07, and 4:56 for the last .97 [mile]. Weather was close to perfect, high 50s and almost no wind, can’t ask for better PR conditions. The course record of 25:18 was my goal, with a reach goal of breaking 25. The hills took more out of me than I thought, and sub-25 wasn’t in the cards at my current fitness, but maybe on a faster flatter course I can get there.”
Chasing Hopper early, as he has all year, was Isaac Lamprecht of New Kent (his 16th birthday was six days before the 8K), whose runner-up time of 26:46 bettered by 39 seconds the previous Freedom Run 8K race men’s 15-19 record of 27:25 by Luke Henkel, 18, of Virginia Beach last year.
Henkel, after redshirting at W&M last year with a number of CRR road races in the fall, is now one of the leading W&M cross country runners, placing fifth for the team in the recent CNU Cross Country Invitational at Lee Hall, and with an 8K time of 25:27. Lamprecht, a junior, has goals at New Kent High to break the school distance records currently held by Carlin, class of 2016 for New Kent, who then competed for George Mason University.
The only CRR 8K performance for men 15-19 faster than Lamprecht’s 26:46 is the all-time CRR 15-19 record of 25:29, set by former Jamestown High superstar Bryce Ruiz, 19, of Williamsburg at the 2002 Ford’s Colony 8K.
The next five across the finish line were Jonathan Torres, 32, of Newport News (29:40, close to his PR of 26:26 from last fall), Pete Gibson, 66, of Murfreesboro, N.C. (31:14), Kyle Aulenbach, 45, of Yorktown (32:04), Jason Miller, 45, of Williamsburg (33:51, pushing his son Bryce in a racing stroller) and Steve Menzies, 58, of Williamsburg (33:59).
Gibson had the performance of the day, breaking by almost two minutes his own previous all-time CRR 8K record for men 65-69 with a time of 31:14. The previous age group mark, set at June’s FURever Homes 8K on the Greensprings Trail, was 33:04. Although the Freedom Run 8K course is not USATF certified (it is an accurate 8K, though), therefore not eligible for Virginia state records, Gibson’s time was only seven seconds shy of the current Virginia state 8K road record for men 65-69, 31:07 by John Hosner of Blacksburg back in 1990.
In the previous month, Gibson broke state 10K records for men 65-69 at both the Democracy Dash 10K on Jamestown Island (40:26), then a week later at the Elizabeth River Run 10K (40:13). There’s a good chance Gibson will capture that state 8K record at a CRR race in the next year, but he’ll probably not approach Steve Chantry’s men’s 65-69 state 5K record of 18:46, set at the 2021 Run the DOG Street 5K.
Gibson had by far the highest age grade of the day, at 87.35%, with Hopper next at 83.20%. The only age grade better all year at CRR races was Adam Otstot’s 87.42%, from April’s Run the DOG Street 5K, with a time of 15:22 at age 39. Since then, Otstot has broken all-time CRR records for men 40-44 at 5K, 8K and 10K.
For the year, Gibson and Otstot should battle it out for the first-place age graded award plaque, based on the top 10 CRR age graded races for the year. In age grading, 80% is considered national class and 90% is world class.
For the women, like Hopper, Emily Honeycutt broke both the course record, and also her own PR. Her time of 31:17 (just three seconds behind Gibson), was more than a minute faster than the previous course record of 32:34 by 2018 Jamestown High grad Thorin Jean, 17, of Williamsburg in 2017.
Tabb High cross country coach Honeycutt emailed, “My goal was to break 32 minutes (I had run 32:11 at the 2021 Memorial Day 8K in Yorktown), but I wasn’t sure if the hilly Freedom Park course would be conducive for this. I went out hard. Pete caught up to me just before the mile marker. We ran together, trading the lead a few times. At the turnaround [on the Freedom Park entrance road], he encouraged me to move up with him. I was able to go with him on the trail. Pete had great finishing speed as we exited the trail and headed back to the school. He finished a few seconds ahead of me, and it was a great race for both of us. I was so excited to break 32 minutes with a 54-second PR that I forgot about the course record until the awards, so that was a nice surprise to cap off a good day of racing!”
After Honeycutt, the next seven women were Rachel Tischler, 25, of Richmond (34:10), Sidney Sindt, 18, of Virginia Beach (34:51), Christine Fernandez, 46, of Virginia Beach (34:51), Marjorie Friedrichs, 55, of Williamsburg (35:24), Svetlana Goncharova, 24, of Williamsburg (35:32), Karen Grabowski, 38, of Toano (36:00) and Deelyn Robinson, 57, of Williamsburg (37:14).
Last year’s CRR phenoms were Robinson, who went from mid-60s to above 80% age graded, in part due to coaching from Otstot, then later 8-year-old Isabella Strumke of Toano. This year’s phenoms, coming out of nowhere, have been Friedrichs, and also Marie Shay. In what was then considered an upset, Friedrichs beat Robinson by 13 seconds at the Democracy Dash 10K, but Robinson prevailed the next two races at both the Elizabeth River Run 10K and the All Shades 5K at Jamestown (that race by just five seconds). Friedrichs showed the Democracy Dash win was no fluke, with a breakthrough race at Freedom Park, smashing Robinson’s women’s 55-59 race age group record of 39:03 by more than 3 1/2 minutes with her 35:24. Robinson was also well below the previous mark with her 37:14.
Friedrichs was the third runner above 80% age graded with an 80.04% rating. She emailed, “I only learned about age grading this spring after joining the CRR, and immediately started hoping to reach 80%, so I was thrilled to reach that goal last weekend. After lots of long runs in the summer heat, this race in the cooler weather felt great, despite all the hills (which I’m definitely not accustomed to here in Williamsburg!).” Her time only trails Mercedes Castillo-D’Amico on the all-time CRR 8K list for women 55-59 (Castillo-D’Amico still holds Virginia state records at 5K and 10K for that age group).
The other newcomer to elite CRR racing is Marie Shay, 66, of Williamsburg, whose impressive time of 41:11 was 6 1/2 minutes faster than the previous women’s 65-69 race record of 47:46 by Patricia Travis in 2018. It is also second on the all-time CRR 8K list for women 65-69.
Shay hadn’t run any CRR races since May, spending her summer in New Hampshire, and running the Mount Washington Road Race for the seventh time. She emailed, “We went back to New Hampshire in May, so I could train there. I lived 14 miles from the mountain.” She placed second in her age group, despite power walking (instead of running) the race, and qualifying for next year’s race (there is a lottery for the public). “It’s all worth it when you look down at Tuckerman’s Ravine and scan the Presidential range.” The mother of five has also run 10 Boston Marathons, and five other marathons in different states. Back in Williamsburg, she has now signed up for all the CRR races (five total) through November.
After Gibson (87.35%), Hopper (83.20%) and Friedrichs (80.04%), four runners bettered 75% age graded—Lamprecht (79.89%), Shay (79.04%), Robinson (77.93%) and Honeycutt (75.92%).
Above 70% were Menzies (74.55%), Fernandez (73.65%), Carol Hansen-Vessa, 68, of Williamsburg (46:19, 72.22%), Tony Perez, 60, of Newport News (35:47, 72.10%), Dale Abrahamson, 73, of Yorktown (40:58, 71.85%), Aulenbach (70.84%), Torres (70.73%) and Chris Abelt, 66, of Williamsburg (38:49, 70.19%).
Freedom Run age-group record breakers were Lamprecht (men 15-19) Hopper (30-34), Gibson (65-69), John Munday, 82, of Chesapeake (80-and-over, 1:07:05), Alexey Popov, 39, of Newport News (race walk, 46:56), Honeycutt (women 30-34), Jessica Anderson, 40, of Williamsburg (40-44, 38:10), Fernandez (45-49), Friedrichs (55-59) and Shay (65-69).
Popov broke the all-time CRR record for men in the 8K race walk, the previous mark 48:16 by Tom Gerhardt, 61, of Chesapeake at the 2012 Christmas Town Dash 8K.
Rick Platt is president of Colonial Road Runners.