JFK favorites change, depending on entries

November 03, 2000

JFK favorites change, depending on entries

By DAN KAUFFMAN / Staff Writer

It's been just over 11 months since Courtney Campbell and Sue Johnston became the king and queen of the John F. Kennedy 50-mile ultramarathon.

The 1999 men's and women's champion return to defend their crowns today in the 38th running of the JFK, and both will face stiff competition.

"You're always the king until someone knocks you off," race director Mike Spinnler said.

Campbell, from Berryville, Va., won one of the closest men's races in JFK history last year in 6 hours, 5 minutes and 4 seconds. His four toughest challengers - Canada's Clark Zealand (second), North Carolina's Mitch Craib (third), Nevada's Ian Torrence (fourth) and Ohio's Mark Godale (fifth) all return for another crack at Campbell and the men's championship.

However, Campbell's reign may be threatened most by newcomer Kevin Stetnes, a Wisconsin runner with four United States National 100-Kilometer championships on his resume.


"If you're looking for someone who's a rookie on this course that's gonna be tough to beat, that's gonna be him," Spinnler said.

In addition to Stetnes, two Moroccan marathon runners - Hassan Elboudairi and Abdellatif Echeraa - may make the trans-Atlantic journey to compete.

"If these guys show up, I'm prepared to open our aid stations 15 minutes to an hour early," Spinnler said. "That's how good these guys are. They are the elite."

On the women's side, Johnston, last year's winner in 7:48:14, will be challenged by two Washington County runners.

Laura Nelson, a graduate of South Hagerstown and Hagerstown Community College who holds the third fastest women's time in JFK history, returns for the first time since winning the event in 1991 and 1992.

"If I would have to say who will probably win, she's going to be very tough to beat," Spinnler said.

Clear Spring graduate and HCC All-American Jennifer Hartnett, who recently graduated from West Virginia Wesleyan, may also compete.

"She's really banging out some big miles, and word just came down to me she's planning on coming home and running," Spinnler said.

Meanwhile, Williamsport's Paul French and Boonsboro's Frank Lum will resume their rivalry over the Washington County men's championship which French, running for the Army National Guard team out of Hagerstown, won last year.

"They're still mixing it up," Spinnler said. "It's kind of like the race inside the race."

Spicing things up a little is Williamsport's Scott Draper, who beat out Lum for second in the county standings last year as a JFK rookie.

Spinnler expects between 850 and 900 runners to compete this year, slightly down from last year's numbers.

"We're still gonna be the biggest ultramarathon in the country by quite a bit, and the numbers will be a little more manageable this year," Spinnler said.

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