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Mason reaches goal, finishes ninth overall

November 18, 2007|By CHRIS CARTER / Staff Correspondent

WILLIAMSPORT ? Ever since witnessing his first JFK 50 Mile ultramarathon, Andrew Mason has had one goal ? to finish in the top 10 of the event.

Each year as Mason has grown older, the competition has grown tougher. So each year as the event grew older, Mason grew tougher.

Mason, 35, of Hagerstown, brought his ambition to fruition Saturday at the 45th annual JFK, covering the 50.2-mile course in 6 hours, 39 minutes, 9 seconds for a ninth-place finish ? the best among Washington County runners.

"For five years, ever since I first covered it, a goal of mine has been to finish in the top 10," said Mason, assistant sports editor for The Herald-Mail. "This is my number one, greatest running accomplishment."

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Mason covered the race in 2002 and ran it for the first time in 2003, finishing 67th in 8:19:02. In 2005, he improved to 17th in 6:51:56 and did not participate in the event last year because of an injury.

To improve on this year's personal-best performance, perhaps a goal of a top 5 finish will be more appropriate.

"I can't think about next year. I'm hurting right now," Mason said. "I dug deeper in this race than I have in any other race."

In his third JFK, Mason preserved his energy on the demanding Appalachian Trail, which covers the first 15.5 miles. He was in 42nd place going onto the 26.3-mile C&O Canal towpath and was in 18th by Mile 30. When he left the towpath, he was in 10th place and simply had to maintain the pace to reach his preset goal.

Instead, he went a step further when he passed Greg Crowther for ninth about 200 yards into the final 8.4-mile segment of the course. Crowther, 34, of Seattle, is a long-distance specialist and placed 11th at the 100K World Cup in the Netherlands in September.

"People have some bad days. I happened to have a good day," Mason said. "If I ran against Crowther 100 times, I might beat him once. This just happened to be that one time."

"I told (Mason) that people will be Googling his name, trying to find out who this guy is that beat them," said race director Mike Spinnler, who also coaches Mason at the Cumberland Valley Athletic Club. "To see his name above some of these other runners is remarkable. This is one of the best Washington County running performances in the last 25 years."

Mason was one of only two Tri-State runners to place in the top 40. Mark Cucuzzella, 41, of Shepherdstown, W.Va., was 16th in 6:57:54. Cucuzzella redeemed himself after last year's DNF, when he was in second place before dropping out at Mile 38.

Former Hagerstown resident Matt McDonald, 37, now of Culpepper, Va., finished 32nd in 7:23:42. McDonald won the PIAA Class AA Cross Country Championship in 1987 as a senior for Greencastle-Antrim.

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