Nelson at home in JFK

November 04, 2000

Nelson at home in JFK

By DAN KAUFFMAN / Staff Writer

WILLIAMSPORT - Eight years after her last John F. Kennedy 50-mile appearance, South Hagerstown and Hagerstown Community College graduate Laura Nelson returned in style Saturday.


The 1991 and 1992 JFK women's champion added the 2000 crown to her resume by clocking the third-fastest women's time in event history - 6 hours, 59 minutes, 13 seconds.

"I wanted to break seven hours, and I knew I had to pick it up (in the closing mile)," Nelson said. "I knew it was going to be close."

The seven-hour mark was the only challenge for the 35-year-old Nelson in the end. She ran cautiously on the Appalachian Trail, then opened up a significant lead on the C&O Canal towpath and finished 16 minutes ahead of her nearest challenger.


"If you're not patient, you'll pay for it later," Nelson said. "If I start fast, I'm through. ... I like this course, it grows on me."

Anne Riddle of Asheville, N.C., finished second in 7:16:02 - still good for the sixth-fastest women's time ever. Defending champion Sue Johnston, from Waterford, Vt., finished third in 7:22:14.

"I was 24 minutes faster (than last year), so I'm a lot happier with my time this year," Johnston said.

Shortly after winning the JFK in 1992, Nelson moved to Oregon. But earlier this year, Nelson moved back east to Harrisonburg, Va., giving her the chance to renew her JFK career.

"I'm just happy to be back," Nelson said.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> In the men's race, Mitchell Craib relied on his experience from two other JFK appearances - including a third-place finish last year - and was the only man to break six hours, crossing the finish in 5:59.27.

"It builds up confidence, knowing what you've done before," Craib said. "(This year) I came off the mountain six minutes faster. ... I knew I could hang at a seven-minute mile pace through the race."

Craib, 39, from Boone, N.C., overtook Charl Mattheus, 35, from South Africa, on the towpath en route to the ninth-fastest time in JFK history. Mattheus finished second in 6:15.29.

"It's very interesting, beautiful, but it's some of the roughest footing I've ever had to deal with," Mattheus said of the course. "I went out too aggressively, too ambitious, and I paid the price for that."

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> In the race for Washington County honors, Williamsport's Paul French, 40, once again prevailed, finishing 31st overall in 7:28.36.

"It was really warm," French said. "It was nice at the start and it made you want to go a little faster. Then it got hot on you."

Scott Draper, 29, of Williamsport, finished second to French and 34th overall in 7:33:27.

"I was shooting for Paul French," Draper said. "He got me by 13 (minutes) last year, got me by five this year. I'm gonna get him next year."

Frank Lum, 35, of Boonsboro, finished third in the county and 39th overall in 7:37:44.

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