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Second to one

Wardian posts second-best time ever to comfortably win 45th JFK crown

Wardian posts second-best time ever to comfortably win 45th JFK crown

November 18, 2007|By CHRIS CARTER

By CHRIS CARTER

Staff Correspondent

WILLIAMSPORT ? Over the years, Michael Wardian has made a name for himself as an elite marathon runner.

On Saturday, the 33-year-old from Arlington, Va., placed his name in the ranks of America's top ultramarathoners.

Wardian dusted the field on the C&O Canal towpath to pull away and win the 45th annual JFK 50 Mile ultramarathon in a stunning 5 hours, 50 minutes, 34 seconds ? the second fastest time in event history. It is Wardian's first ultramarathon victory.

"People were telling me I was going to win when I was coming off the C&O Canal portion," said Wardian, who timed many of his mile splits at under six minutes while on the 26.3-mile towpath. "(Race director) Mike Spinnler was there talking to me, telling me to keep moving. It was a little scary because he was telling me not to run faster than six minutes (per mile). I was still a little nervous that I was going to bonk."

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Wardian continued his impressive pace and separated himself from the field for the lone sub-6 hour time ? the 13th in race history. Zach Miller, 31, of Ann Arbor, Mich., finished second in 6:02:02, and Matthew Lavine, 33, of Crystal Lake, Ill., placed third in 6:06:07. Defending champion Pete Breckinridge, 37, of Norfolk, Va., was seventh in 6:22:56.

Wardian, who has won four marathons this year, bested the 50.2-mile course in his third try.

"I was told that I always had the potential to win an ultramarathon," Wardian said. "I felt like I never realized it until today. I handled my nutrition well, stuck to water and power gels, and just kept hammering."

Wardian quickly recovered from a win in the Outer Banks Marathon last weekend, which followed the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials two weeks ago.

"I've done 13 marathons this year, so I'm used to doing them pretty regularly," he said. "I just take it pretty easy, drink a lot and get as much sleep as I can."

Wardian passed Breckinridge at about mile 24. His lead grew to three minutes by the 30th mile. From there, it continued to grow.

"Within five or six miles, the distance was too big," Breckinridge said. "(Wardian) took off pretty good when he passed me and he steadily increased his lead. I was running at a faster pace this year than last year, then my legs fell apart."

Breckinridge was passed by five others and finished 18 minutes slower than his winning time in 2006. Mark Lundblad, 38, of Swannanoa, N.C., was fourth (6:09:17), followed by Eric Grossman, 39, of Emory, Va. (5th, 6:18:31), and Blake Benke, 31, of New York City (6:20:50).

Lundblad's wife, Anne Lundblad, 41, of Swannanoa, N.C., was the women's winner in 6:42:50 in the third-best time in JFK history. Anne Lundblad won the event in 2005 in a course-record 6:29:42. Lundblad is the only woman in the history of the JFK to post sub-7 hour times twice.

"I was a bit disappointed with my time, but just thrilled with the victory and just grateful to be out there," Anne Lundblad said. "I don't think I really appreciated how fast my time was in 2005 until I tried to beat it today."

Annette Bednosky, 40, of Jefferson, N.C., finished second in 7:10:29, followed by Francesca Conte, 35, of Charlottesville, Va. (3rd, 7:24:29), Jennifer Davis, 37, of Princeton, N.J. (4th, 7:41:35), and Susan Hutchinson, 35, of Ancaster, Ont. (5th, 7:45:59).

Bednosky led early on the Appalachian Trail, which covers 15.5 miles, before Lundblad recovered and took the lead for good.

"I led for the first bit, and then (Bednosky) passed me on the trail, then I passed her back," Lundblad said. "It was significant for me to come off the trail with the lead because I suspected I would have to make up that time on the towpath."

Andrew Mason, 35, of Hagerstown, finished ninth in 6:39:09 as the top Washington County finisher. Mark Cucuzzella, 41, of Shepherdstown, W.Va. was 16th in 6:57:54, and former Hagerstown resident Matt McDonald, 37, now of Culpepper, Va., was 32nd in 7:23:42.

Grossman, Sean Meissner, 34, of Sisters, Ore., and Byron Powell, 29, of Arlington, Va., were on the men's winning Montrail team, which combined for a time of 20:03:29. Lenore Studt, 42, and Melissa Simmens, 43, both of Columbia, Md., and Margie Hughes, 45, of Wilmington, Del. ? the Dawgettes ? won the women's team title in 26:21:27.

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