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Wardian sets his pace, races to Brown Memorial title

August 26, 2007|By ANDREW MASON

WILLIAMSPORT - Michael Wardian made 5:04-per-mile pace look easy Saturday morning at the 26th annual Gary Brown Memorial 5-Mile Run on the C&O Canal towpath.

The trick for him now is figuring out how to hold that pace for an additional 21.2 miles.

Wardian, 33, of Arlington, Va., who won Saturday's race by nearly a minute in 25:22, is set to compete in the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials this November in New York.

"It's crunch time now - time to buckle down," said Wardian, whose personal-best marathon time is 2 hours, 21 minutes. "I don't know how realistic it is, but my goal is to make the Olympic team.

"I think I'll need to run about a 2:12, and I was just thinking that that's about as fast I was running today the whole way. That's pretty fast."

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It was fast enough to drop Jaron Hawkins, Wardian's only real challenger Saturday, after one mile on the out-and-back course.

"I was within 10 seconds of him halfway, but coming back he just had another gear to tap and I didn't have anything," said Hawkins, 24, of Frostburg, Md., who finished second in 26:15. "It's a little disappointing. I came here today thinking I could win. I thought I could run in the low 25s, but things didn't work out so well."

Steve Spence, 45, of Shippensburg, Pa., was third and the Masters (40-and-older) champ in 26:35. Spence, the 1992 Olympic marathoner, won the Gary Brown race three straight years from 2003-05 and still owns the course record (25:08 in 2003).

In 2005, in Wardian's only other appearance at the race, he was passed by Spence in the final half-mile.

"I was scared the whole time today that he was going to catch up to me again," Wardian said.

Spence's 17-year-old daughter, Neely, a national prep star, was the overall female champion Saturday in 31:40. Angie Rhoderick-McKinley, 25, of Funkstown, was the runner-up in 32:39, and Sarah Boward, 28, of Fayetteville, Pa., took third in 33:14.

Karen Abbamonte, 48, of Boonsboro, was fourth and the Masters winner in 36:17.

"I was just trying to get a good workout because I haven't done any speedwork at all this summer, nothing anaerobic," said Neely Spence, whose focus clearly is on December.

Last year, Neely won the Foot Locker Cross Country Northeast regional title and then placed eighth at nationals.

"Last year, I was kind of aiming for the regional meet," she said. "This year, the ultimate goal is nationals."

Williamsport junior Michael Lilley was the boys high school champ Saturday, finishing fourth overall in 27:14.

"Hopefully I can make something happen this year in cross country," said Lilley, who won a Maryland Class 1A state track title in the 1,600-meter run last spring. "I'm setting some high goals this season. Winning the state title is the biggest goal."

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