Stars shine bright on Chambersburg streets

August 10, 2003|by ANDREW MASON

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Kenya, Morocco, Ethiopia, Romania, Lithuania, South Africa, Russia, United States.

Listening to where the prize-money winners at Saturday's 16th annual Tom Ausherman Memorial 5-Mile Run hailed from was like hearing roll call at a United Nations assembly.

The awards ceremony, emceed by Hagerstown's Mike Spinnler, also served as a quick "who's who" on the elite international running scene.

Twenty-year-old Kenyan Henry Kipchirchir, one of his country's many rising super-talents, led the star-studded field to the finish line in a winning time of 23 minutes, 3 seconds. On the women's side, Lithuanian Zivile Balciunaite, 24, who placed third at the Los Angeles Marathon in March, won in a course-record 26:04.


The list of accomplishments of those close behind them was equally mind-blowing, much like the efforts turned in on the streets of Chambersburg in pursuit of more than $10,000 in cash and merchandise awards.

Eleven men, including two Olympians, shattered the 25-minute barrier, with seven dipping under 24, while 11 women, including one Olympian, went sub-30.

"We were pushing together," Kipchirchir said, "working together strong."

More than 300 runners completed the race.

'Spence ain't done yet'

Make no bones about it, Steve Spence is still a stud. At 41 years of age, the 1992 Olympic marathoner from Shippensburg, Pa., is an absolute freak of nature.

Spence - the head men's and women's track and cross country coach at Shippensburg University and a father of four - was Saturday's top men's master and second overall American, finishing sixth overall in 23:47. His time was a masters course record, just two seconds off the U.S. masters record and the fastest time turned in by an American master this year for 5 miles.

Not bad for a guy who retired from the pro racing circuit nearly 10 years ago due to injuries and fatigue, who couldn't even find any time to run this spring with all his coaching duties, whose summer racing schedule has pretty much been limited to area fun runs.

"I've been completely out of the road-racing scene," Spence said. "Two months ago I was totally out of shape, barely able to run because of the stresses of track season and all that goes on with being a coach of two track teams."

Obviously, he's been able to whip himself into shape pretty quickly. Holy bajesus ... he was staring down an American record on just two months of training.

"I knew I was running under 24-minute pace, and then I heard my 4-mile split at 19:01 and realized I had a shot at the American record, 23:45," Spence said. "At that point ... I worked hard, and coming down the home stretch I knew it was going to be close.

"I could see the clock and I was looking at my watch and I was saying, 'I might get it.' But I came up a little short."

Coming up just that short, though, you would think Spence might consider taking another stab on the road-racing circuit. He was also just 7 seconds behind fifth-place finisher and top American Peter Sherry, 34, a 2004 Olympic marathon hopeful.

"My goal is just to have fun and get out there and do what I can," he said, before reluctantly adding, "(The U.S. Olympic Trials) are always on the back of my mind. And if things continue to go well, maybe, just maybe I would give it a shot. We'll see how it goes."

"We had the fastest male over 40 in the nation, just the best there is," Spinnler told the crowd before handing Spence his award. "Everyone thought Steve Spence was done. But Steve Spence ain't done yet, ladies and gentlemen."

Elite roundup

Chasing Kipchirchir to the line on the men's side were Mohammed Ar-Ar, 32, of Morocco (23:25); Araya Haregot, 22, of Ethiopia (23:26) and Sammy Ng'eno, 29, of Kenya (23:35). After Sherry and Spence, Olteanu Ovigu, 33, of Romania - a 1996 Olympic 1,500-meter runner - rounded out the men's open money winners in seventh (23:54).

Tim Schuler, 40, of Chambersburg (26:23), was the second master, while Tim Marshall, 40, of Winchester, Va. (27:17), was third.

The women's open money winners after Balciunaite were Theresa Dutoit, 30, of South Africa (26:47); Denisa Costesa, 27, of Romania (27:11); Tatyana Maslova, 36, of Russia (27:50); Kate Fonshell, 33 (27:57), the top American and a 1996 Olympic 10,000 runner; Elena Paramonova, 41, of Russia (28:12) and Vicki Cauller, 30, of York, Pa. (28:23).

Hagerstown's Maria Spinnler, 41, was the second women's master and 10th overall (29:28).

Honoring a legend

It was truly fitting that rising Chambersburg High School seniors Kylee Schuler and Brian Sabri took home the first Tim Cook Memorial awards, presented to the top male and female high school finishers.

Both were coached by Cook, the highly successful Chambersburg track and cross country coach and the race's first winner in 1988, who was killed in an automobile accident in December.

Sabri finished 26th overall (27:33), while Schuler was the 11th female (29:32).

Andy Mason is a staff writer for The Herald-Mail. His running column appears every other Sunday. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2334, or by e-mail at

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