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Greensburg Salem grad runs away with Great Race

Tribune-Review
| Sunday, September 30, 2018 4:27 p.m
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Runners begin the opening leg of the 2018 Great Race on Sunday, Sept. 30, 2018.
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Runners begin the opening leg of the 2018 Great Race on Sunday, Sept. 30, 2018.
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Jim Spisak, left, and Samantha Bower won the men’s and women’s Great Race events on Sunday, Sept. 30, 2018.

Greensburg native Samantha Bower was 7 years old when she ran her first Great Race. She ran it with her godmother. One of her fondest memories was when she hit the 5-mile mark.

“I remember looking at my godmother and saying, ‘I feel dizzy,’ ” said Bower, 28, a 2008 Greensburg Salem grad. “She looked at me and said, ‘We have no way to get back.’ ”

Bower had a clear head and was on track for a personal best when she hit the 5-mile mark this year as the former Golden Lions track and cross country standout breezed through the finish line unchallenged to win the 41st Richard S. Caliguiri City of Pittsburgh Great Race on Sunday in the Women’s 10K open division.

“I’ve always enjoyed this race, and this is where my (personal record) was before,” Bower said. “I demolished it today.”

For runners who have been training in the heat and humidity throughout the summer, Sunday morning’s conditions were ideal for the 6.2-mile course that begins in Squirrel Hill’s Frick Park and travels slightly downhill, ending near the overpass at Point State Park.

Bower’s winning time and personal record was 35 minutes, 31 seconds. The former Bucknell runner had a feeling it might be her day when she caught up with defending two-time 10K women’s champion Jennifer Bigham at the 3-mile mark and still had plenty left in the tank.

From there, it was all downhill for Bower. “I ran in second behind Jen (Bingham) through the 5K,” Bower said. “I passed her right around there, then ran with a bunch of guys from there on out.”

Bigham, 37 of Pittsburgh, finished sixth with a time of 37:09, a little more than 2 minutes off last year’s winning time. Maura Carroll of Arlington, Va., finished second (35:53). Kate Kokal (36:06), Sunday Davis (36:58) and Lauren LaRoche (36:58) rounded out the 10K women’s top-five finishers. With runners hailing from 34 states and five countries, another Pittsburgh resident crossed the finish line first in the men’s 10K open division. Jim Spisak, 27, blew away the men’s field. The three-time champion and Point Park cross country and track coach built a 3-minute lead over the second-place finisher, coming in at 28:16.

“I wasn’t married to running to some certain time. I just wanted to run hard,” said Spisak, a Johnstown native. “ I felt smooth, and the weather was about as good as weather that you could hope for.”

Spisak’s win ruined any hopes for a dramatic finish until 3 minutes later, when Max Petrosky started his final kick by entering Point Park and sprinted past a number of runners to take second at 31:29. Petrosky, 27, of Bradford Woods, eclipsed Alex Archer and Travis Dean with about 50 meters remaining. Archer and Dean turned in times of 31:43. Travis Myers-Arrigoni of Gove City finished close behind at 31:44.

“This is a good course to run fast on because there’s so much downhill that you kind of break it up into different segments mentally,” Spisak said. “It was a good day.”

The men’s 5K winner went to another local runner in Kenny Goodfellow, 27, of Oakmont. Goodfellow (15:17) beat defending champion and second-place finisher Clayton Burnette (15:28) of Chagrin Falls, Ohio.

Burnette’s wife, Lisa, took the women’s 5K open division with a time of 17:19. McKeesport’s Erica Suhy (17:53) and Susan Barrett (17:59) of Pittsburgh rounded out the top three.

“This is our seventh year in row,” said Clayton Burnette, who is a cross country and track coach at Chagrin Falls High School. “I think we’ve placed almost every year. The course is incredible, and the support and event that Pittsburgh puts on, we love it.”

The 10K hand-cycle winner went to another local athlete in Kaden Herchenroether, 13, of Allison Park. She finished at 32:31. Loc O, 41, of Willamsburg, Pa., finished first (33:29) in the men’s 10K masters (40 and over) division. Jessica Gangjee, 40, of Allison Park came in first (38:30) in the women’s 10K masters division.

“This is one of the best races,” Bower said. “I have two very vivid memories doing this: when I was really, really young and the year that I (finished) seventh place, when I was in college.”

William Whalen is a freelance writer.

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