On The Run - Graham-Gray, Spence continue friendly rivalry

February 06, 2005|by ANDY MASON

SHIPPENSBURG, Pa. - Susan Graham-Gray and Neely Spence have separated themselves as the area's leading ladies on the racing circuit.

Graham-Gray, 36, of Greencastle, Pa., was the No. 1 female in the "On the Run" 2004 Tri-State rankings. Spence, 14, of Shippensburg, was No. 2.

For about 4,850 meters Saturday morning, their separation from each other never was more than two feet at the Tri-State's 2005 kickoff race - the 22nd annual Memorial 5K at Shippensburg University.

"We got to talking and really worked off each other," said Graham-Gray, who set course records at the Frederick Marathon and Chambersburg Half Marathon last year.


Spence, the daughter of 1992 Olympic marathoner Steve Spence, finally pulled away on the 150-meter straightaway before the finish line, defending her title in 18 minutes, 5 seconds. Graham-Gray was second in 18:10. It was nearly a carbon copy of their Memorial 5K duel last February, when Spence edged Graham-Gray by three seconds, winning in 18:58.

"If I'm going to beat her, I'd have to do it in the second mile," Graham-Gray said. "I can't beat her at the end."

There's no shame in losing to Spence, Pennsylvania's top finisher at the Foot Locker Northeast High School Cross County Championships in November.

"It was my first race in four months," said Graham-Gray, who is preparing to defend her titles at Chambersburg in March and Frederick in May. "It was a good tempo run. I felt strong."

Spence left the race shortly after finishing and was unavailable for comments.

"She said she was pleased," Graham-Gray said.

Eighteen-year-old Zach Hoopes clearly was pleased. He seems to be right on target with his training for his final outdoor track season at Waynesboro High School.

His coach, Doug Crist, also should be able to attest to that.

Hoopes led the field of 79 competitors from start to finish Saturday, winning the men's title in 17:37. Crist was second in 17:45.

"It was kind of strange because in high school races I'm usually not in the lead. Maybe in dual meets but never something this big," Hoopes said. "I've never had a horde of people behind me like that.

"It's a nice boost. This race is a good gauge to see where you are with your winter training. Track season is only about a month away, kind of creeping up on you."

Andy Mason is assistant sports editor of The Morning Herald. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2334, or by e-mail at

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