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Helfrick wins a close one in C'burg

April 15, 2007|By ANDY MASON

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - In perhaps the tightest finish in the 28-year history of the Chambersburg Half Marathon - and certainly the closest in recent memory - Dan Helfrick edged Troy Harrison by 3 seconds for the victory Saturday.

Helfrick, 23, of Shippensburg, Pa., covered the hilly 13.1-mile course in 1 hour, 14 minutes, 14 seconds. Harrison, 31, of Hustontown, Pa., was second in 1:14:17, and Bret Mower, 36, of Greencastle, Pa., took third in 1:17:28.

Despite it being his debut race at the distance, Helfrick, who starred at James Buchanan High School and Shippensburg University, was a heavy prerace favorite.

"It was closer than what I expected, but (Harrison) ran a heck of a race," Helfrick said. "He ran tough the whole time and never backed off.

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"Being new to the distance, I'm happy with it."

The women's race was anything but close, as Susan Graham-Gray, 38, of Greencastle, Pa., won by more than 12 minutes in a course-record 1:21:54. She set the previous mark of 1:22:40 in 2005.

Former Chambersburg High runners Kelly Baker and Sarah Boward were second and third. Baker, 24, of Beltsville, Md., crossed the line in 1:34:33, while Boward, 28, of Woodbridge, Va., came across in 1:35:42.

Helfrick and Harrison dueled the entire way with neither being able to shake the other.

"At 10 miles, I put a 50-, 60-meter gap on him going up the big hill and then going back down," Helfrick said. "I figured the race was over at that point. But apparently he kept his eyes on me, and he ran me back down by the 12-, 12 1/2-mile mark."

With roughly a quarter-mile left, Harrison pulled ahead - and the kick was on.

"Just being younger, I guess I just had a little more leg speed," Helfrick said.

The Masters (40-and-over) champions were Greg Sellers, 51, of Boonsboro, in 1:23:28 and Karen Spicer, 52, of Waynesboro, Pa., in 1:48:47.

The Chambersburg Half Marathon was to be held March 17, but severe winter weather postponed it to Saturday. Roughly 400 runners were expected to compete on the originally scheduled date, but only about 150 participated Saturday.

Jaron Hawkins, 24, of Frostburg, Md., was unable to defend his men's title because he's running the 111th Boston Marathon on Monday.

Heavy rains, strong winds and near-freezing temperatures are in the forecast for Boston on Monday.

Braving the elements will be a handful of local entrants - Laurie Dymond, 41, of Chambersburg; Benjamin Herrmann, 32, of Greencastle; Rebecca West, 27, of Chambersburg; Diane Wilson, 41, of Waynesboro; and Mark Cucuzzella, 40, of Shepherdstown, W.Va.

Cucuzzella could be in the hunt for a top Masters prize. He placed 55th overall last year in 2:31:42, which, had he been a few months older, would have made him the second Master and $5,000.

Chambersburg High graduate Ed Schlichter, 24, of Charlotte, N.C., also should be near the front of race. His ultimate goal is to run under 2:22:00 to qualify for the Olympic Trials. He ran a pair of 1:10 half-marathons earlier this year as tuneups.

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

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